Friday, August 28, 2015

Ink Work, Pen Play

This is what I had in mind two weeks ago when I said, "To be continued". Serious work can be the result of off-hand play. These doodles are like clouds, yes, but more intuitive, more evocative of something serious - a reminder of old images of atomic bomb bursts perhaps - but for me more fundamental.

I like them for the nice fluid pen work and really enjoy the loose line, especially those describing the bow crowning this one on the right below. For me it's a particularly playful image!

Now, compare the work in the first two doodles with this more specific subject - on the left below. If you guessed I had recently quit smoking you'd be right!  I started with a loose, un-formed sketch but as I worked it became more specific and content driven. In the end the lettering nailed it down. It's a fun / serious image - one I hadn't set out to produce at all.

Letting go and doodling playfully can result in ideas and images you didn't even know were in there. Don't think, don't judge, just start. A funny mark or two can lead you to adventure. Let that line free and your mind will follow!

"Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way."   Ray Bradbury

"It is a happy talent to know how to play."   Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The essential ingredient for creativity is wasting time."    Anonymous

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Painting Clouds

This is a quick post in response to a follower's particular interest. Last week in the blog comments, Suzy wrote saying she's had difficultly painting clouds and was going to flip over to my painting website to see "how to do it right". (!)

I don't know about "right" but you should know that as a sky loving 
x-pilot, I take tons of photos and as you've seen, I do sketches when moved.  I put the pic's together, edge to edge or overlapped, to construct the basis for an interesting and believable sky. 

I know that there are only a couple of pantings there on my website ( that show any sky at all and none of any real "cloud interest" so here are parts of a couple that focus on the cloud filled sky. This whole painting measures about 10 x 17 inches. - you are seeing about two thirds of it with some loss at the bottom

This horizontal image below is actually a reject.  I'd finished a painting one time and realized I didn't like the composition. (Looking now at this post, I think it actually must have been the one above) There was just too much sky! Since I paint mostly on board or panel rather than canvass, it was easy to cut off the top couple of inches, do some repainting and the image was greatly improved! My wife happened by just then and asked if I would frame that excess piece for her, saying it would fit under the upper cupboards in the kitchen very nicely. There it hangs today, "A Sky for Lorraine'"!

"I never had to choose a subject - my subject rather chose me."  Ernest Hemingway

"I was never one to paint space, I paint air."   Fairfield Porter

"Where you stumble, there lies your treasure."   Joseph Campbell

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Last week I spoke of drawing clouds when first pursuing my master's degree. While those first cloud sketches were tentative and essentially directionless, they somehow opened a world of ideas that were totally unexpected. Some, like the little "Shazam" moment here on the left, led to a series of cartoon-like works that still give me a chuckle whenever I come across them, whether in my files or on a collector's wall.

That "Shazam" requires a tip of the hat to  C. C. Beck, the creator of Billy Batson, the big city newsboy who could become "Captain Marvel" by uttering the magic word "Shazam!". (No, there was no App then!)  He first appeared in Fawcett's 1940 Whiz Comics and became an instant hit. I liked it because unlike its rival hero "Superman" or the darker "Batman" the series had a real sense of humor, even a bit of silliness at times. I was hooked when I picked up the latest Captain Marvel at Verdi's corner store and found him facing an evil little worm named "Mr. Mind"!  Hey, I was 6 or 7 years old!  Now, I wonder, was that comic worm an unrecognized influence as I started a major series of drawings those many years later?

Of course, being a visual person, I like most artists had many influences. Early in my career a young children's book illustrator hit the market with a fine bit of fantasy that still sells today.  Loving to draw, I took one look at the pen work in Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" and found a medium and for a while, a direction. Tho' I never saw it in the past,  I can see a connection now between this soft "cloud" plane and a certain Sendak aircraft aloft "In the Night Kitchen".

This image represents a next step in an intense period of creative work at SUNY and beyond. It retains some "comic" aspects in those antic "worms" but moves in a slightly more serious direction where my visual statements were variously ambiguous or pointed.  I did many versions of this kind of image  while they grew in size and intensity, ending up as thirty to fifty hour  meticulously cross-hatched ink drawings - strong images that that earned me the title "Dirty Doodler" - conferred by an Albany columnist who viewed my masters show at the SUNY Albany Galleries in 1971. It didn't take much in those days to raise the ire of those defending "The Public Good" ! 

 To be continued:

"Even the most innocent images can send subliminal messages of an erotic nature."   Julie R. Jones

"When inspiration doesn't come, I go halfway to meet it."   Sigmund Freud

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fair Weather!

A few days ago I sat frustrated in the shade of an ancient oak trying to capture the form of trees in full foliage when I noticed huge storm clouds boiling up in the east. They were gorgeous! I immediately forgot the trees, turned my paper over and tried to capture those monsters before the storm could dampen my paper or my day. That's most of it on the left. The storm blew by and next day I was out there again, pencils in hand to capture more clouds rising in a more benign blue sky.

Back when I started my first masters classes at SUNY Albany,
I used to sit out on the warm wide steps of Edward Durell Stone's "cold" campus looking north toward banks of cumulus clouds rising above the Adirondack mountains. I found I enjoyed drawing clouds then and really love it now! Here are a few from this week's plain-air drawing time.

Recent days have been a mixed bag with strong breezes and rising fair weather clouds,  everything moving across bright skies. You choose a developing cloud like these cumulus, put down a few lines and when you look up just a couple of seconds later, all is in flux!  If you think any of it is static , think again! - and look again! As you can see I didn't even begin to think about color.  For now it's enough to keep working without loosing track of the relationships of shape and tone as these "mists"  rise up, expand, then flatten out and dissipate. In the end you accumulate countless pages of sketches and a hours of pure enjoyment, - frustration blown away!

"What art offers is space, a certain breathing room for the spirit."   John Updike

"An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one."  Charles Horten Cooley