Thursday, May 30, 2013

Amiga & Friends

Isn't it wonderful what technology has done for us! The first color computer I ever worked on, the Commodore Amiga was, in the late 80's, the best affordable graphic design desktop on the market. I smile now because each pixel was so large you could treat it like a mosaic tile or a large dot in Seurat's pointalist paintings. I remember producing a small demo drawing/painting of a little red rocking horse  which, when printed, looked pretty good if you looked at it from across the room!  Oh, I do wish I still had that piece to show you! At the time I found it impossible to envision today's computer capabilities, preferring my 'hand-made' art work. Who knew? Well, two guys working in Steve Job's parents garage knew! They had great insight - an instinctual vision of what would eventually become the Apple computer that  pushed the Amiga and a few others off the shelves. They then joined battle with Microsoft for the desktop market. 

Several of my ex-students whose first digital steps were taken on the Amiga are now well established at companies like Disney, Activision and Electronic Arts. Another helms one of the most successful animation studios serving New York's advertising industry. Some work for themselves in smaller commercial endeavers while others are full time painters making a wonderful living with their work (or not!) There are photographers, print makers, fabric designers, advertising designers  I want to make note of all those who have become teachers too, whether public school art teachers or college professors in, out or beyond the realms of art. There are so many, some I'm likely not aware of.  They may have no paintings to display here but they've chosen an honorable, important profession. Hats off to all!  (My apologies to any I may have forgotten. Bound to be some!)

One aspect of teaching that can be both a delight and a challenge is accomodating individual talents and interests while imparting fundamentals in areas such as design, drawing, color and craft. It means working with each student on a daily and long term basis - making suggestions, showing relevant examples, pointing out strengths and weaknesses, - gaining trust by demonstrating solutions without stepping on students' unique visions. The rewards are graduates confident in their own abilities and proud of work which reflects personal concepts and individual solutions. The ultimate reward of course, is to see those young people, your students, move on out into fields where they find success building on those fundamentals.

A very important is the solid satisfaction I've had with students in general. After all, not everyone is a star, but while not all are destined for fame, each are worth attention, time and effort.  There were quite a few who just couldn't get it together in high school but have found real success a life doing something they find truly interesting (art related or not), making good families, raising strong children.  I run into them everywhere: Picnicking in a park two states away, talking to telephone reps for large companies as they ask, "Are you the Phil Spaziani who...?",  Surgical nurses greeting me as I'm lifted onto the table! There are those who send holiday greetings from Montana mountain dirt roads, London Close homes, expensive NYCity apartments, small flats in San Francisco, cards from Mexico's Day of the Dead celebrations and these days posts by the dozens on FaceBook. Thanks!

A special thanks to all those great students who with their enthusiasm and interest helped make my teaching career so happily successful.  Another to those who have followed this blog over the past few years with encouraging comments and reflections.

 Now, it's break time - time to re-charge. I'll be back.

"When one teaches, two learn."   Robert Half

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Figure Possibilities

I've been playing around with some of my figure drawings thinking to add some interest, trying to present them as something more than just another nude. Over the years I've often added actual studio backgrounds when time permitted and found I liked the contrast but in this case I want to dispense with realistic context. A new graphic element  helps us see the design possibilities in the figure itself.

The background 'Grid' pushing up against the figure and coming forward in space provides contrast that points up the soft feminine figure and at the same time is an un-natural frame for the figure.

 It emphasizes body contours, negative space and suggests an undefined background, perhaps a window, yet does not perform the function.  So it is in a small way, a mystery.

This is a sparse post and a spare concept - just a start - working with older drawings. I think there are possibilities here.

"Becoming is superior to being." Paul Klee

"I keep very weird hours. I never know when I'm going to have an idea."   Sergio Aragones

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New tree - Color

My original blog idea was to post whatever drawing I'd done each day. While that didn't quite work out, here in that same spirit are a couple of quick pieces done this week.

The sun was warm and bright - first really comfortable day to sit outside this year. In a spur of the moment decision I headed out to draw a huge old maple across the street. Thinking,  "Keep it simple!" I grabbed a nice sheet of gray paper left from some forgotten project plus a couple of pencils and dove into a race with fast changing early evening light. It was fun!

Looking it over later,  I thought the b&w a bit difficult to understand (How about that snow!) so two days later at the same hour tried a color interpretation on another grey. Naturally that bit of "summer" of the previous few days had disappeared! The wind was now blowing madly and so much colder than I thought it would be -  I had to work fast! I tried to capture the 'flash' of sharp sunlight on the new leaves as they fluttered on twigs but still  barely caught what I saw.  I even went back at the end and added some black, trying to boost the contrast but still it doesn't adequately convey the wonderful light of that evening.

Perhaps the darker paper of the first day would have been better! My friend Harry Orlyk, a master of color would have had the answer! He is out there everyday putting oil paint on canvass to produce gorgeous impressions of Washington County farmland. Check his work @

At the top of the page I said I'd set out to draw a tree.  In the end, it wasn't the tree at all!

"In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present."   Sir Francis Bacon

"In nature, light creates the color. In the picture, color creates the light." Hans Hofmann

"Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite - getting something down,"   Julia Cameron

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Looking at Line: recent nudes

These two recent models, Brittany below and Lauren right, both young women relatively new to me, inspire excellent work. Both have real presence and poise even in simple poses like these, making drawing a real pleasure. But subject is not everything.  Sometimes the things that bring a drawing alive and make the drawing truly interesting, are the lines, the marks themselves.  Following the line and comprehending the form described is pleasure - little to do with the subject.  Its like listening to music or poetry.  Some evoke a mental picture, a place, an action, - but for me most often it's the sound itself that is the joy and here in drawing it's the line.

Here, I started with contour line, added white highlights, then went back and strengthened some lines. Like a poet raising his voice to point up important parts or just emphasizing the ends of lines -  the period at the end of a sentence.

Back in art school (100 years ago!) we were taught that given lines weighty enough, reduction for reproduction would minimize the problems of a line drawing. Some- how seeing these at about a tenth of original size belies that idea. Seems I see parts not important in the original given unintended attention to the detriment of the drawing! Perhaps to see a drawing in a different context has you see things not noticed as you work, something like the practice of holding your work up to a mirror in order to see things you've missed in the doing! Like reading your poetry over out loud to hear the sounds, you have to spend quality time with your work, really looking, following the lines along to feel the flow and get the meaning - the form.

"No object is mysterious. The mystery is in your eye."   Elizabeth Bowen

"Is it not instructive that music can have color and art have rhythm?"    Ian Semple

"Contemplation is the root of awareness and creativity"   Sandra Chantry