24 Hours: Glamour and Style with No Substance

2016-07-25 24 Hours

Sketches from the beautiful but dull pre-Code film, 24 Hours, about a bored wealthy couple who beat a murder rap and rekindle their flame-proof romance.

Kay Francis and Clive Brook as the Towners, whose lives are shaken up when the husband’s lover is murdered and he’s the prime suspect. (The wife has a lover, too. It’s pre-Code–fair’s fair.) They live beautifully, drink profusely, dress to the nines, but are so miserable, they can’t muster the energy to even quarrel. The energy comes in with Rosie, the nightclub singer played by Miriam Hopkins, Towner’s squeeze who is strangled by her jealous gangster husband. It was his second killing that night (he had energy, too!). The story is weak, Towner is a downer, but at least it’s beautifully shot. I focused my sketches on Francis and Brook because they looked like beautiful Jazz Age illustrations: all drama, style and glamour. The real study would be Miriam Hopkins–maybe next time. I think I’d need to do gif for her.

Brook was better in von Sternberg’s Underworld (1927), mainly for the earlier part when he was a down-and-out drunk and the end when he shows his boss what integrity is. (Integrity is when you want to steal the boss’s best girl, but you will rescue him from a police shoot-out anyway.) Brook does longing well enough, but he is leaden when it comes to playing a lover. Maybe they thought that was noble back then. I’ll pass.

Francis was beautiful but lugubrious. I haven’t seen her in anything else. I haven’t seen Miriam Hopkins before either, but I’ll be looking for a chance to see more of her work. She seemed very modern in this film.

The DP for 24 Hours was Ernie Haller whose work included Captain Blood, Jezebel, Dark Victory, Gone with the Wind, Mildred Pierce, Rebel Without a Cause, Whatever Happened to baby Jane? and one Star Trek episode (Where No Man Has Gone Before). No wonder it’s beautiful!

He who seeks

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Habitat 67 sketch–Moshe Safdie


He who seeks truth shall find beauty. He who seeks beauty shall find vanity. He who seeks order shall find gratification. He who seeks gratification shall be disappointed. He who considers himself the servant of his fellow beings shall find the joy of self-expression. He who seeks self-expression shall fall into the pit of arrogance.–Moshe Safdie


Week in Review: Art Inspiration

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I had some fun yesterday at the Handmade Arcade craft show with my friend, Greg: he did his Christmas shopping and I bought cards, art by April Bleakney and children’s comic books by Nathaniel Taylor. (Nathaniel’s blog, Something’s Out There, has great content too–check it out.) The last time I went was years ago when it was held in the cold, grubby warehouses of Construction Junction, and the atmosphere was one of a fun, impromptu grunge party. The food, served from folding tables, was offered by small local restaurants. This year the show was held in the spartan, white-walled Convention Center, with food offered from a concession stand. (It may have been catered by a local restaurant, but it didn’t look inviting so I didn’t find out.) Considering the crowd-volume, a place that size was a necessity. I think the vendor selection was much better though, and it was a pleasure to spend a few moments talking with the artists.

As for my own work, I didn’t do as much this week as I might have wanted to, though several hours did go into gift-related work. I didn’t get to the museum to sketch Thursday night either; it had been an exhausting day and when 5 o’clock came, I was ready to go home and crawl in bed. Maybe next week. I’d say my drawings were evenly divided this week between sketches from life and from photo reference, and overall, I like what I made. Maybe in another 40,000 sketches, I’ll start to do really brilliant and abundant work, but till then, I have a lot of new inspiration from all I saw this weekend.

Sketching Art at the Carnegie Museum

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What a glorious day! As I mentioned before, a friend turned me on to Jason Polan’s work, which inspired me to get to my local art museum to draw everything! The Carnegie Museum of Art has a great collection, and for a smaller city puts on a lot of quality shows. It’s worth visiting if you travel to Pittsburgh. I saw so much on Sunday, did tons of sketching, but didn’t do half of what I wanted to. There’s only so much you can do in 4 hours, but realistic expectations are not my strong point. Man, I wanted to go back again the next day….but work called. The Small Prints, Big Artists show was a knock out. Scores of engravings, woodcuts, etchings and drypoints by the greats of the Renaissance and  Baroque, very intelligently arranged, with commentary that even a jaded art historian (me) found insightful. Looking at an early Dürer in which one could see the imperfections in his technique, figuration and composition brought tears to my eyes. It’s not that I want to see weakness in the mighty, not at all, but it was such a hopeful thing to realize he did not burst from the skull of Zeus fully-formed as an artist. The stages in his development were illustrated, Rembrandt’s technique and innovations were explained…long familiar images became exciting, at least half because I have never seen these images in person, seen how large, or how small they were, to see the micro-chip like detailing these men did. It was genuinely awe-some.

I also wandered through the very interesting Faked, Forgotten, Founda detective tale about three Renaissance paintings, and enjoyed the small show called Architectural Explorations. I especially loved the Lebbeus Woods drawings and a sort of palimpsest of tracing paper sketches from Desmone Associates, a firm here in town. I didn’t sketch in either, but I wouldn’t mind sketching in the architecture show. There was great stuff in there.

I think the most important things to me though was the notion of drawing everything, which meant standing still in front of things I would normally walk past or glance at quickly and forget and try to see them well enough to capture them. I became quite fond of objects I’m sure would never have penetrated otherwise. I’m looking forward to returning to carry on with this project, to find what other treasures are hidden in plain sight.

Week in Review

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A difficult week to get much drawing done…super hot early on, which makes it hard to do anything. I just wilt. Then it was days of depression, insomnia and nightmares, totally mush-brain. But the weekend has put everything right. My friend on the job, Susan, came back from vacation with a reference from a show she saw that she thought I’d like. DID I!! It was a piece by Jason Polan, part of his Every Person in New York project. The more I research him, the cooler I find him. I was totally inspired. I even went to the Carnegie Art Museum this weekend–to start my own All the Art in the Museum sketchbook?  I’ll post the drawings I did there soon. It’s been years since I’ve been and I can’t even say why, but I loved it and can’t wait to go back. Except that there’s a show I want to see at the Warhol–Halston and Warhol–and a small show of Degas drawings at the Frick. Between the amazingly mild weather and all of the art and inspiration, this is turning into one of the best summers ever.

Retro Friday–Watercolor with Rodin (1983)

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Rodin 1 (1983)

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Rodin 2 (1983)

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Rodin, Eve (2014)

Rodin (2014)

Rodin, Despair (2014)

My recent rendering of a Rodin statue in pencil and watercolor was a throwback to a style I used back in 1983. I went to the Rodin Museum in Paris that year, and to the wonderful little Rodin collection in Philadelphia not long after. I even copied out extensive notes from the book Art by Auguste Rodin (1912); back then it was harder to track down used copies of books and I didn’t have a lot of money. Here was inspiration.

I can’t identify the statues in those earlier drawings,  though I am fairly sure they are by Rodin. Last night I did another; maybe there will be more. It’s a quick, simple format, but allows for a good study of form–and I want every opportunity to get used to brush and paint again. Besides, I love Rodin’s twisting, sensual forms, the emotional intensity of his work. There’s no ambiguity. Feelings made physical, the spirit becomes visible, and we are given a glimpse of that light inside that makes it all move. It’s what I hope my own work will do. One day.