Friday, September 28, 2012

The Legal Line

I've spoken of my habit of watching TV talk shows and making quick drawings of the participants in real time, - working on the fly so to speak.  It's a great way to practice your ability to pick out pertinent lines and characteristic shapes to produce a recognizable portrait or at least a telling caricature!  If your wish is to produce an accurate depiction you would need at least one good photo of the person to work from.

To picture a particular event, you'd also need reference material.  Illustrating that process, here are a couple of drawings in which I tried to make visual the tragic earth quakes which struck Haiti and Japan a few years ago. Since I was not there and would have no photos of my own as I do when painting landscapes in my studio, I went on line and found a number of good photographs to use as a jumping off point. These are simple works which can stand on their own or could be developed as strong major pieces perhaps even in other materials.

Picasso said something like, "poor artists copy but great artists steal"!   He meant you (the great artist) make the image your own by interpreting it in your own particular way (in my case here, an almost cartoonish style) taking an idea and doing it better! Use whatever you need for inspiration, take chances in your imagery but be an artist and a craftsman. (or craftswoman)  Make something worth owning.  I know I'm running counter to a lot of current art philosophy but I think an artist should produce something well that says something worth saying with materials used honestly (Yes, the Hand of the Artist!) and with respect for the work and ideas of others.

Following those rules you avoid any legal ramifications.  BTW, everything on this blog is copyrighted! Actually, any work once published on the net has copyright protection. Yes, friends, there are people in this world who ignore those and take work directly - that is they really do steal - using other artists' images as if their own to make reputation or money.  Gee, tell me it isn't so!

"Lots of people know a good thing the minute the other fellow sees it first."   J. E. Hedges

"Xerox copies, Artists create."   C.J. Rider

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Not all models are young and svelte but that is no reason to neglect any opportunity to draw those with interesting form or face. This young lady has a long history on the modeling stand unafraid to show her body. She would pose nude, partially clad, in costume or in motion!  You might think she'd always be sedentary but I have many action drawings in my sketch books where she moves, dances and does fast poses so that the artists assembled can practice gesture drawing! She was always fearless!

My very young son once described a full-figured relative as being "all circles".  For me, this woman was not all circles but all about form.  I always enjoyed rendering her abundant presence whether in an hours-long pose or working quickly to catch the light and shadow defining her ample body.

In our drawing group we've often had a very thin models whose value for me were well defined bodies with boney guide-points great for an art anatomy lesson. While more difficult to see here, we still need to find those guide-points, those small spots where hard bone comes close to the surface to help keep the drawn figure sound. The rolling landscape of this model's anatomy was
a wonderful challenge that made me bless my early art school instructors who had us drawing cones, cylinders and spheres in various light conditions while demanding that we "feel" the form and put life-like light in it!

I've heard movie directors speak of actresses whose faces loved the camera.  This large lady was a fearless and creative model whose body loved the light. As an artist working with form, you have to love the light and be fearless enough to spend a great deal of time looking, seeing and drawing.  In truth, drawing is seeing!

"There is only light and shadow."  Francisco de Goya

"With an apple I will astonish Paris."   Paul Cezanne

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Two Portraits: One Model

I've been drawing Kristy for several weeks now with only modest success.  There have been too many false starts and poor finishes - all very frustrating! The warm toned work below, a partial exception in that bad run, was done weeks ago.

I finally settled down last week and made this decent drawing in blue Prismacolor pencil on grey Canson pastel paper. (The Prismaclor / Canson is a comfortable combination I often use) You can see considerable difference in technique between the two pieces. The one in blue is quite linear, the second on gold somewhat more sketchy as I worked lightly, constantly correcting. There I used some hatching and soft white hi-lites to show 3-dimensional form.  On the grey paper I drew with contour line, following each edge individually, concentrating only on the line as I drew it with few corrections.

I was introduced to contour drawing many years ago in the Kimon Nicolaides book "The Natural Way to Draw" published in 1941. It was out of print for many years but I see it is available again. While it is a bit dated in style this is arguably the best how-to-draw course ever put in print. He says it is a "How to Learn to Draw" book.  I believe it really should have been titled "How to See" as that is the thrust of every exercise.  I recommend it!

In contour drawing Nicolaides  allows  few corrections and no erasures, a rule you know I recommend.  Any correction has to be a new line, leaving the old one as an artifact.  Actually, Prismacolor does not erase well anyway, it really smudges! Sometimes it is possible to minimize an error by carefully working over the errant line with white. I believe I did a bit of that on the left hand above but for Pete's sake don't tell Kimon!

BTW, I don't know if I've mentioned this in the past but I usually work on the back side of this paper. The front has considerable tooth - fine for pastel but much too rough for pencil, - at least as I use it.

Now that I see the two portraits together on the same page, the model seems to have shed a pound or two in between times. I suppose it could be my inconsistant drawing quality or the fact that I was looking up at her as she sat straight on a high stool, but I'm not about to admit that!  No, she gets all the credit!  BTW, there in the warm tone drawing she's not waving her hand around or wiggling her fingers. As a good model she's always able to hold a pose for long minutes.  That was just my fumbled attempt to draw her fingers as I ran out of time to work that day. No doubt I'd had at least one false start that session too.

I think it helpful when looking at reproductions to be aware of original dimensions but I've been forgetting lately to note sizes.   The blue figure's height is 13 inches with some minor clipping because of my 9x12 scanner. The older, gold drawing is smaller at 8 inches high.

"What is art but a way of seeing?  Thomas Berger

"Focus and time limits, works for me."  Liz Reday

Thursday, September 6, 2012


One of the greatest promoters of the visual arts here in the  Capitol district of  NewYork was Les Urbach, a veteran of Hollywood and Madison Avenue  who arrived here in the late sixties thinking he'd retired. Appalled by the lack of local appreciation for the visual arts and particularly the dearth of public support for local artists,  he lobbied the City of Albany to provide some kind of venue for exhibits.

At first he was only able to find funding for movable display units which could be set up in banks or other public spaces.  Later he was able to secure a lobby space in the Capitol District Psychiatric Center but after a short time there,  convinced "The-Powers-That-Be" to allow the conversion of what I believe was a public parking garage into a permanent gallery.  Christened "Albany Center Galleries",  it was a wonderfully large space easily appropriate for all manner of art.  Local artists loved it!  The vast space encouraged many to produce art larger than they'd done until then  This wonderful gallery, bouyed by Les's enthusiastic support launched the careers of many regional artists.

I was one who benefited from Les Urbach's strong interest in local artists. At the time I was president of a new association of University of NY connected artists.  "Graphic Artists Of New York", was a group particularly interested in printmaking and drawing; as wonderfully diverse a group as you can imagine.  Les was one of the first to give us a major show. It gave us the visibility needed to make us a strong presence in the larger community. Later we had a strong show which traveled nationally!

One of Les's favorite annual exhibits was  titled "Masque",  a show of artist designed masks (it may have been a Halloween inspired event) which were auctioned off during a benefit affair at the gallery. I believe this lively event was held annually for five or six consecutive years and contributed significantly to the gallery finances.  Here pictured are three that I did by cutting apart old prints or drawings and reassembling the elements as collaged "Masks", -  framed faces of a sort that more than satisfied Les's idea of a creative answer to the "Masque" challenge. These pieces along with a few others reside in the collections of area art lovers. One collector, a well known benefactor of local arts in general and Center Galleries in particular, successfully bid on several of my works over those years.

As an ardent advocate for any art medium, Les Urback could see worth in an artist's work and could fuel his or her ability to break out in new directions.  He was in a way, a one man show, but his influence lives on not only in the Albany Center Galleries, but in the memories of those he championed as he almost singlehandedly revived appreciation of the visual arts and artists of this area.

Les Urbach died in December, 1997.

"The mission of the artist ...... is to call the old magic back to life"  Tom Robbins

"What makes greatness is starting something that lives after you."  Ralph Stockman