Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cubist Doodling

Every once in a while, and it seems more often recently, I give in to an irresistible creative urge. I doodle! Here I work over a couple of previous drawings, adding embellishments to turn observed figures into something more abstract, an artificial cubist design. Cubism, a style introduced a century ago by the painters Braque and Picasso, is based on the idea that an object can be shown as if viewed from a variety of vantage points, as if you'd walked around it and recorded several views. Perhaps partially overlapped, - sometimes broken apart and rearranged.  The background may be further divided in reflection of the fractured parts.

In artificial cubism, you start with a complete view or perhaps multiple objects then extend the natural lines of those objects out into the background, or repeat shapes and edges even through adjacent objects to break the surface up into interesting shapes.  Down playing the 3-d aspect of the subject and reordering the design you put more emphasis on the surface of the work, making your work much more abstract.

Here's a portion of tempera painting that started life as an ordinary drawn  waterscape.  The piece has been  changed from the original concept by superimposing a grid over the whole thing,  introducing some arbitrary color and some interesting pointalist texture.  It's a painted "doodle"!   It may be either unfinished or overworked at this point but in working over a mundane view there is the possibility of a new direction,  a work worth analyzing or perchance a bit of poetry.

"Do not copy nature too much. Art is an abstraction."   Paul Gauguin

"If you work with abstract painting for a period of time, you may come to think of it as a melody, a song, a piece of beautiful music."   Judi Betts

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Th Full Figure

Here we have two views of the same ample model. I love the full form, the generous curves of her soft body. In drawing her the result is almost iconic,  the nude often seen in old masters' paintings. Some times described as resembling a musical instrument, a cello rather than a flute!

Even though just sketches, these two drawings demonstrate what many artists like about working with the female figure. All those simple spherical shapes flowing lines moving together point up the power of unity. In a previous post I spoke of repetition and variation providing order in a composition. Here it is, naturally occurring in the subject itself, emphasized in the way it is drawn.

These figures are certainly not reflective of current fashion where elongation of the basic structure is the norm.  I think I'd find it unsatisfying to draw a high fashion model nude.  I appreciate the power of those ultra thin figures to show off designer fashions and I certainly endorse the medical world's recommendation of a strong spare figure as a step toward total health but still, when it comes to the production of art, many an artist will opt for these "ripe" figures rather than those  of sinew and bone.  I'd much rather have a full figured Gaston LaChaise bronze in my garden than one of Alberto Giacometti's super-attenuated stick figures.  More human, N'est Pas?  

"Whatever is not eternal is eternally out of date."   C. S. Lewis

"If Botticelli were alive today he'd be working for Vogue."   Peter Ustinov

Friday, May 18, 2012

Dr. Winter's trees

You do know I like drawing trees. This is the first "Dr Winter" tree, done while waiting for my wife's app't with her new pain-free dentist. Not long after that appointment the he moved from this urban location to nice new quarters in a suburban office park so I never had the pleasure of drawing this particular tree again. It was in tough shape with broken diseased limbs. I wonder how well or IF it has survived the last five years! 

I found an interesting tree at the new location and over time drew it several times. The second tree, done soon after the move, is drawn in much the same style as that urban tree. One problem here is the clogging of ink marks, - some areas overworked but I learned! With the traditional six month dentist appointment schedule, I adjusted and each successive drawing became cleaner.  You can see the progression !

I love looking at progressions, - witness my love of cartoons. There is something about repetition and variation that really appeals to my design sense. The old dictum says repetition is the heart of good design. Whether that is carried out in a literal sense, like wallpaper, or in the repetition of similar elements like color and shape or in the hand of the artist, pen strokes for example, is a personal choice. 

To me the visual artist is a person who brings  order to the blank paper, canvass, or even the stage. The character of that organization depends on individual preference but should be there in some form regardless of subject, medium, size, etc. There's a consistency to the work in the last two pieces I find lacking in the second. It is overworked!  I like the balance between open areas and inked sections in the last two but might decide number three works best because it is a bit more casual and has nice textural interest.  I can't decide. 

"Although order in a composition is important, order without variety and personal expression can be boring."   Britton Francis

"The profoundest order is revealed in what is most casual."  Fairfield Porter

"Creativity, making art should never bore the artist."  Cathy Johnson

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Waiting at the Car Wash

As I write, tomorrow is "Mother's Day" and we will likely go out for a nice breakfast to celebrate.  What a funny people we are!  To make the day more special the car has to be clean! I'd bet most people were there at the car wash doing exactly the same thing for just the same reason. (I asked!) One woman admitted that she usually washes her own car, but decided to have the whole thing done, interior too, just because she would be driving a mile or two with her mother to a local restaurant for "brunch", an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring an extravagantly wide menu. I like the idea but can't imagine my 93 lb. mother happy there. Not a good place for a sketchbook either.
I "always" take my sketch book to any place where I'll likely to have a wait.  I hate to waste the time watching the TV or staring out the window. Its much more interesting to study people and at the same time, get in some practice! Unfortunately I forgot the sketchbook today so here I've  added a few of the "waiting" drawings I've done in the past. Coincidently, the piece above was done in the same facility almost exactly five years ago to the day.  Hmn,  think about that.

As you can see, sometimes the subject sits quietly enough that I can do a reasonably finished drawing. That was the case with this gentleman in the hat who was waiting for his car to be repaired at our local Buick dealership a few years ago. The funny thing is I'm sure I have drawn him before. I think in an area Doctor's office. I'll have to look for that one!

You may draw quickly in an almost gestural way as you try to capture the whole figure or you might work methodically on a detailed portrait, planning to get down as much as possible before the person moves. Whatever your plan, you can't do it at all without your tools!  Make it good practice to keep a sketchbook and favorite pen in your car, your book-bag, - somewhere nearby so that you never miss an opportunity to draw.   As a serious artist, you must, - even on a happy holiday like Mother's Day.  And...  you'll be less likely to pursue some silly poll to post in a blog. Just draw!

"You learn to draw by drawing."   Mick Maslin

"An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached."  Irwin Greenberg

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak

Just a quick post to note the passing of a great illustrator.  Minutes ago I wrote on face book:
Maurice Sendak has been a hero of mine since his 1964 "Where the Wild Things Are" was published. His use of ink hatching with added color was an influence in much of my earliest work. His books figure prominently in my collection of illustrated books, several of them personally autographed when I saw him speak about his life as an artist.  This is a truly sad day for all those who value children's books in general and Sendak's ground breaking work in particular.  R.I.P. Mr. Sendak

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Two Blue Ladies

Yes, two on blue paper,  one in ink with added white hi-lights, the other, brown pencil with white, but that's not the end of the connections or problems.  At first the things that link these two for me are wild hair, strong facial features and hands.  The right hand of the young woman on the pillow is so-so, - just a hand, not very carefully drawn, but her left hand is quite personal and expressive. It looks as if it is in a position often taken, one very natural. In writing about this person, you would likely have more to say about that left hand than the other.  I'd be happier had I drawn both hands a bit larger but still with more emphasis on the left. 

This seated woman's right hand, resting lightly on the wooden chair arm pushes out toward us. Even tho' basically accurate, I think those fingers also could be a bit larger. BTW, take note of the light falling on those fingers, pointed up by the small dark shadows on her knuckles. See how this helps define the form.

In the end, it's perspective that unites these two drawings. Our point of view, high in the first, low in the second, is shown by perspective, - eye level high in one,  low in the other. In the seated figure that hand resting lightly on the chair-arm is just at our eye-level so the fingers and knuckles hide the rest of the hand. The nearest breast is higher than the other because they are above our eye level.  Likewise,  looking at the perspective in the body and legs of the reclining woman, - the feet look so small because of the (exaggerated?) distance.  I'd like to see the same "distortion" reversed in that near hand, larger because it is so much closer and more interesting.

I know, this is not the most exciting post in the world but linear perspective can be helpful, restricting or something to be pushed aside depending on your outlook and purpose.  Use it carefully, exaggerate it or ignore it entirely, it is part of your visual vocabulary.  As I often say, it's your work, your art, - just do it!

"What a delightful thing this perspective is!"   Paolo Uccello

"Perspective is a ghastly mistake which has taken four centuries to redress."   Georges Braque

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cats, Dogs , & SNAKES!

Every few weeks I find my self stuck in the house alone without a subject at hand to draw. Well, not quite alone, these days we have three cats with us and unlike the ladies of this home, they have no objections to posing for me. They seem to sleep most of the day anyway so how could they possibly object.  They are fun to live with (for the most part) and a real delight to draw. You do have to be quick because they hardly stay still.  It's a rare day when they stay asleep long enough for me to draw them fully.

The sheet above is typical of a sleeping cat drawing session.  Sure he's asleep but there's hardly an undisturbed minute when there are no shifts in position. I get many false starts and quite a few partial portraits.  Every once in a while, rather than trying to continue toward an entirely realistic picture I'll play with the unfinished image just to see what I can make of it.  Hey, cats and stars may be a perfect (notice I did not fall into "purr-fect") pairing but you never know! How about a mix of cats and dogs and snakes! Where did that come from?! 

 It may have been just a random doodle or I may have been inspired by my designer daughter's nice web-site. (ninapatina.com)  She's an artist (who likes snakes) with a strong interest in surface design, - you know, the patterns used for fabrics, dinnerware, - wherever the need.  I love her work and as you can see by checking her site, I'm strictly amateur in comparison.

But, -who knows, with this "Cats, Dogs and Snakes" pattern displayed here, someone like NinaPatina might see it and just BEG to use it on a big important project. The next thing you know I might be a famous designer, world renowned,  courted by major corporations for my expertise, taste and creativity, - money raining down on my handsome head. (Or not!)  Strangely enough, it is raining "Cats and Dogs" (no snakes)  right now at 4:30 AM.  Hey, I can dream can't I?

And you can dream. You should dream! A bit of odd doodling , a page of funny drawings may spark a direction, an interest that you'd never considered.  Don't be afraid to explore,  BUT - After you have done your exploring and found a direction, something you love, stick with it!  Make yourself the expert in that area. As a teacher I've needed to be good or at least conversant in a wide variety of art areas so that I could be useful to my students, but when you get out in the world of commerce, whether fine art, cartooning, portrait painting, digital movie magic,  etc, be a specialist!   Find a niche and make it yours. Make your mark as the expert in your field and let your style be your signature!

"Wherever you go, go with all your heart."  Confucius

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."  Beverly Sills