Friday, November 30, 2012


Finally!  We have solved that Google site problem but now being late,  I'm publishing just a short post this week. It is this latest Kristy drawing. Look how lovely it is on my favorite grey paper!  (You have to know that friends and family constantly kid me about my love of grey!) Yes, you might think it was rendered that way but actually the original is the multi-color drawing below.  I thought it interesting to scan the piece in both original color and also in black & white. Now I think I like the grey better! In comparison the color piece seems scattered, less coherent, without unity. Hey, perhaps there's a lesson here! Think about keeping it simple; complication for its own sake, whether in form,  technique, composition or color might be confusing and self defeating. Think about repetition; the idea that gives an art work harmony and contributes to its integrity.

In our last post I showed how increasing the contrast in a soft delicate drawing using photoshop adds strength so that the work shows up better on the blog. Here now, is another way to enhance a published piece using PhotoShop.  Not bad - but If you are going to do something like this, I believe you should inform the viewer! You wouldn't want to mislead anyone by electronically enhancing your work, making a person believe your work is something other than what it actually is! Just from a practical standpoint, - you certainly wouldn't want a potential buyer to come looking for a work that doesn't exist!  It's hardly good salesmanship nor good customer relations.  Maintain your integrity!

" ... where harmony is concerned, more can be achieved with less color"   Scott L. Christensen

"The hidden harmony is better than the obvious."   Alexander Pope

"The elegance of honesty needs no adornment."  Merry Browne

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Praise Nature

This is a tree I drew just yesterday. I was wandering through our nearby NYS Saratoga Spa park, in an area I'd previously explored, when I came upon this beautiful beech tree. I'd actually taken note of it a few years ago but its existence had slipped my mind. I parked across the road, retrieved my ever-ready sketch book and went to work.

The drawing below was the result but in scanning it for the blog I found that the light pencil strokes didn't reproduce well. For some reason they seem just a bit out of focus. At least that's the impression it gives. I tried several times with the same result.  I've noticed the same problem in the past with a particularly nice ball-point pen drawing which to my eye is perfect but the scan is truly less than lovely!

So that I might share the drawing here, I opened it in PhotoShop, upped the contrast (probably a bit too much) so that now it shows up very well!  I really love the delicacy of the original but, alone it would have been a complete dud here on this blog. You can see yourself that presenting the two images gives us a more complete picture. I hadn't thought of that before, but I like it!

Now with the stronger image in place, I see another little problem!  Can you?  About 2/3 of the way up the tree on the left side, my eye is drawn to an unfortunate accident, - not one of poor observation of the subject but one of poor oversight in execution. I'm usually very conscious of the shapes I draw, including the shapes of the negative spaces created. There enclosed by, delineated by a couple of small branches is an almost perfect circle among all the odd oblong and triangular spaces!  It's the kind of feature that once seen is difficult to ignore - something like finding a face in clouds or leaves -  it calls attention to itself and interferes with our appreciation of the total drawing.  Looking very closely with some magnification, I see that one mistake was in failing to fill in the hatched shading in that part of the heavy main branch that forms one side of the circle.  Flattening that side of the circle will render it less attractive to our eye but adding a twig to break the circle may still be needed.  While creating lovely things, do be conscious of inadvertent moves that may detract from that beauty.

All that being said, there is something truly satisfying in looking at trees. They are another natural set of forms displaying enough variation between individuals and within each individual that the observation is always interesting, - wonderful shapes, great form, nice structure! When I speak of observation, you know I'm referring to drawing, the best and most intense kind of looking!  The visual knowledge gained and then presented by the serious draftsman is golden!  The image the artist presents to the viewer is often more informative and more interesting than the viewer's own first hand eye.  On this lovely Thanksgiving morning let's be thankful for the simple beauty of nature and the opportunities it gives us all.   Cast your eye around, - really look, - really see!

"Art will never be able to exist without nature."  Pierre Bonnard

"We find the works of nature still more pleasant, the more they resemble those of art." Joseph Addison

"I am at two with nature."  Woody Allen

Friday, November 16, 2012

Art Speaks!

I'm tempted to say again, "Now for something completely different!", but I'll resist the urge. These works are different from one-another in subject, style,  different AGAIN from most of the work previously published here but oh so very much related in terms of materials and color.

The first is a type of "certificate", a form I use for a variety of gift items,  like births, weddings or any other significant celebration.  This particular Wedding Certificate for my friends Marie and Jay is about 10 inches across with (If I remember correctly) 14 inches of blank space below.  I arrive at the reception with the piece in a simple protective folder and circulate through out the early stages of the celebration, gathering the signatures and well wishes from all the guests in the space provided. When I'm sure all present have added their greetings, I pop it into a prepared mat and frame then with added bow, place it among the other gifts ready to be opened. It's a very personal gift that will be appreciated at least as long as the marriage lasts! (We know that's often a challenge but I believe in this one)

The piece below is more personal, more cartoonish obviously, and much more an observation of unhappy fact than any sort of celebratory work.  At 5x5" it is in fact, a small observation and recognition of the pain and profound loss engendered by my old spinal injury. Yes, I know, it is probably not as interesting to others as it is to me but as a significant fact of my present life, it does loom large as a recurring theme in my work.  No need now to pursue that aspect further. Later!

I show it  here for two reasons: First to point out the common materials and color plans of the two illustrations.  Though the techniques are a bit different, both use the same Steadtler Pigment Liner pen and are colored with my favorite Prismacolor pencils, - just as if it were a fine coloring book!

Secondly, I want to point up my previous assertion that anything in this world is worthy of consideration as subject. You the artist are the director of your own creative life and as such, have the privilege and responsibility to choose your own subject matter, - producing something of significant interest to you and lasting interest to your viewers.

As you develop your theme(s) you decide which pictorial elements are emphasized or played down via your control of the design aspects of your creation. You use repetition of color, of shape and even line character.  Very importantly for visual interest, there is also variation in those same elements.  Look, for example, at the blue background shapes in the cartoon, - all basically vertical, somewhat rectangular and texturally similar.  Repetition and variation are key to good design!  Throw in contrast, as in the white body shapes against the blue, to emphasize an important aspect and you have a complete work!

But your control is not all!  In describing art work, I often write that the exhibited work speaks for you (and itself!) but while you are in the midst of creation, the work often speaks directly to you, subtly suggesting or even demanding the direction you will take it!   When those first few lines and shapes are put down, there is immediately a challenge to make the whole thing work. Step back and just look. Look slowly and let the work speak to you.  Listen!

"Work is more fun than fun."   Noel Coward

"Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got."   Betty Ford

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Naked Truth

OK, after last weeks "different" post, that cartoon self portrait, here we are back in fairly familiar territory, the penciled nude.  I chose these two with the idea of comparing the drawing techniques used but quickly realized there was another topic to address. Regular readers of this blog can easily make those technique comparisons for themselves.

Years ago these particular images may have been questioned because of what used to be called "frontal" nudity.  I'm not talking obviously flaunted genitalia as in some contemporary art today but here in these works it is basically there in the presence of a simple line. Whether it was cable TV, modern advertising, graphic novels or perhaps the feminism of forty-five years ago that freed us from the censorship of the past where even pubic hair was porn, it's so very nice to have the freedom to depict the human body "complete" without embarrassment.  I am constantly amazed at the stance taken by otherwise intelligent people who still find this a problem as in recently heard references to models as exhibitionists and male artists who use them as dirty old men!

Models are everyday people earning a few dollars by posing for artists like myself who, at least initially, observe human anatomy so that in a future situation, perhaps needing to depict a reasonably natural person, might have the ability to construct an invented figure in imagined action. While artist's anatomy books are helpful, even a cartoonist or other artist depicting distorted character will benefit from this firsthand study.

Beyond that and more importantly, there is tremendous beauty inherent in the human figure. This has been pointed out by countless artists over hundreds of years. The female nude, beautifully drawn is a wonderful thing. I'm not speaking of famous fashion models or gorgeous airbrushed beauties ala Playboy, but of the natural beauty and dignity of ordinary human life and it's expression in the factual physical body. As I draw I am constantly awed by the way it all works together and humbled in my efforts to produce a viable version.

As to the depiction of particular body parts, I believe that anything in this world can be fairly and beautifully shown in the production of an expressive work of art. Sexuality is certainly part of our human experience and regularly shows up in novels, movies, dance and the visual arts.  Considering the range of work done by today's artists, no one should judge in advance the propriety of particular subject matter.  In terms of global artistic concerns I know this is beating a dead horse but there are places in this country still, where the sight of a woman's breast is an eye-popping event. Even breast-feeding is a barely accepted practice here!

So join your local figure drawing group, hire a model, produce some wonderful work and promote the human body as a beautifully natural subject.

"Woman's nudity is wiser than the Philosopher's teachings."   Max Ernst

"The nude portrait is only incidentally about the person in the middle of the room."  Paula Brook

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Bit Different!

Yes, this week I've decided to skip the nudes, the trees, the people waiting for car service or Xrays to talk about (Ta Daa!)  myself!   Yes, I know I've done that in the not too distant past but this time I will skip the drama of serious surgery and love gone bad in the comics and concentrate on the fun aspects of life.  I'll even exclude the standard penciled self-portrait you expect to find on every self-respecting author's book-jacket blurb. There, I hit "delete" and it's back in the dark end of my files! 

Seriously, for a moment, I want to show some work different from my usual and while I'm at it, tie these divergent works together. If you have been following this "Dailies" Blog for any length of time, you know that the principle thrust here is my serious interest in drawing. While I may have posted paintings or photos in the past, drawing is my primary art interest.  I like many aspects from serious observation of the real world, all the way through illustration to simple cartooning! 

These are two drawings which at first may seem quite diverse in approach.  The first, a cartoony illustration shows me in my office / studio / art library working on a self portrait. (Yes, the one I just deleted!)  It's not just a work room, it's a favorite place in the house. As both an artist and collector of art, I work here surrounded and inspired by the art of both the famous and obscure. I love it!  One informs the other!

The second is an almost pedantic drawing of a mundane object, - a hot water bottle illuminated by a bed-side lamp.  It's a welcome source of bed-time heat in a drafty old home.  (Yes, it's more than you want to know so I'll spare you an explanation!)  One night, still up long after twelve, I was struck by the light falling on that taut plastic (not rubber these days) surface.  I retrieved my drawing pad from the studio and spent an hour drawing on the Canson toned pastel paper that just demands highlights to enhance to work.  Even though the techniques in the two are different, - hard line vs. soft, - cartoon vs. realism, - they are united by the use of white pencil high-lights that enhance three-dimentional aspects of the subject.  As you know, I often use the added white  in my contour figure drawings.  I find it a very versatile and satisfying way to work. It's a simple way to make a simple subject work. Try it, - you'll like it! 

"Philosophy begins with wonder."   Plato

"The simplest things are often the truest."   Richard Bach