Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Little People"

This is a doodle I did during a meeting a few years ago. (Actually quite a few years ago!) I often kept my hand busy during meetings when the subject was of limited interest or was dragging on for one reason or another. Unlike most doodles I did at the time, typically convoluted landscapes with lots of cars, trucks,  and people sharing the space with pertinent meeting notes, this has one subject.

Here, as with many off hand sketches, I had started with no particular idea in mind, just a few scribbled lines to test my own creativity. The face emerged as I drew, developing character (and hair!) as I went along. In the end it could have been my idea of Santa Claus or one of my Irish grandmother's "Little People"!

 I've included a detail closeup a bit smaller than original size, so you can more easily see the repetitive pen strokes and the use of hatching to indicate shading and to build form.

I might have had more to show here had my principal at the time been more appreciative of the work. She asked if she could have the drawings after each meeting and I foolishly thought she had a positive use in mind. As my retirement was up-coming I actually thought she might put together a compilation to present at a year end ceremony. My bad!  Perhaps she tossed them out once she saw that I'd actually taken notes.  The curse of the compulsive doodler!

"The object of art is to give life shape."  Jean Anouilh

"It is in rhythm that design and life meet."  Philip Rawson

Thursday, August 23, 2012

TV Topics

In the past I've posted many quick drawings of media personalities made while watching political TV talk shows . They are done directly in ink without any preliminary pencil as I try to capture a likeness.

Much in the same way, the piece on the left started as a quick B&W ink drawing, done without plan, reacting to TV news images during Operation "Shock and Awe" which opened the unfortunate Iraq War.  Much like the "King" print I showed in the Sunday Comics post of a few weeks ago, it was scanned, extraneous marks eliminated using Photo Shop, printed original size (5x7) then color applied using my favorite Prismacolor pencils.

Like wise, the one below is my response to a program about .... well, let's let the art work do the talking!

Really, in the end it's the art itself that has to communicate. A visual work, whether quick sketch, highly finished painting or any other kind of art, has to stand on its own, making its message or purpose known without the intervention of verbal explanation.  Yes, an artist's statement of overall intent or interest at an exhibition is a reasonable thing but if an individual work requires a couple of paragraphs to make the message clear, then that work fails as far as I'm concerned. Not that the message has to be absolutely clear, concise and unambiguous but the fact is, it is a visual presentation!  If you go to a concert it's the music that carries the message and moves you. You do not separate one from the other without damage.  

The piece above is not obscure. It's a simple message presented a thousand times in the past but it's my image, my style, my "voice" if you will.  Other works are not easy and may take real time to comprehend, - perhaps a lifetime.  When doing your own work or viewing that of others, step back, spend time just looking, feeling, understanding.  Visual art, just like music, should speak directly to the viewer and have a gut level impact. Don't try to interpret, the "message" will come intuitively. Study it, absorb it,  - above all enjoy it!

"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing."  Duke Ellington

"The Medium is the Message."  Marshall McLuhan

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Let me talk again about intuition. Back in January I showed a drawing made while being shaken on that amazing Clinitron hospital bed, a post surgery cocoon that supports a patient on warm air floated glass beads so wounds can heal without pressure. Part of its pressure relief regime is vibration and random movement which while wonderful for healing makes drawing difficult - so as you work, the mark itself becomes important, perhaps outweighing any subject.

Here are a couple of  small sketches in which I tried to temporarily take advantage of the bed's movement where the marks add up to loose, barely controlled doodles.  These small 2x3" pencil images, started with no direction, just simple lines and shapes which gravitated toward surreal landscapes that grew and changed as I worked. To me they look like close-ups of a weed patch, like background sketches for a movie like Pixar's "A Bugs Life".  (A recent Pixar documentary told of the animation team's research where they "drove" a very tiny camera on wheels through the grass and weeds outside of the studio to get a realistic bugs eye view! What a fun assignment!)  

You might think this a mere diversion, nothing but a dead-end, but I suspect there's more. Here you can escape the demands of straight representative drawing. Just letting go of craft can free the mind to see  strengths unsuspected. You let your intuition take control to discover new directions as here, the layering of marks, dark on light building a complex background.  In a major work this might be a strong unifying component of the design and a factor contributing rich visual interest.  While I have no idea where these drawings might lead, I'm going to pursue the idea (without the help of the Clinitron, thank you!) to see what potential lies in it. I'll let you know!  As in the past I remind all of the importance of "the mark"as evidence of the artist's presence, his hand at work in whatever his medium. This often is his signature.

"Surrealism is embedded in the everyday, in the daily experience."   Katherine Conley

"Open the window of fantasy to know what reality can bring."   Raul Arellano

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Going back through old sketchbooks, I came upon a couple of drawings that I don't remember doing. I may forget names but rarely an image! I'll bet I put them aside because of fairly obvious problems of proportion, but still, there is something here that I like. In both of these drawings the heads are a bit too large but for me they work as drawings.  Sometimes distortion is not just acceptable but desirable. In an illustration you may want to emphasize a particular aspect of the figure in order to communicate a strength, attitude, or even a weakness.

The inexperienced often draw figures with small or hidden hands, little flippers tucked in pockets or behind the back, simply because they find hands  difficult.  Those figures usually seem powerless! The converse is also true.  The hands of the woman here above are somewhat overlarge but because of that emphasis she seems quite "capable".  Though  leaning back, standing still with weak shoulder and upper arm, she has potential!   Likewise the other model with a large strong face seems quite self-confident.  Even her left hand fingers a bit big peeking over her hip communicate that impression.  Think of cartoon super-heros drawn with overly broad shoulders and huge square fists.

Beyond knowledge is intuition.  We often do things in art with no specific reason yet they seem right. You may add weight to a line as you draw, - strengthen. elongate, thin, wiggle or whatever, - all on a hunch.  It may look wrong in real terms  but feel so right.  You may not know why or what you are doing but it seems the only way to go.  Follow that lead and build on it! 

"Design is a combination of intelligence and intuition."   Richard Glasser

"Logic and intellect can take the artist to the dance, but intuition and creativity are the dance itself;"  Gregory Packard