Drawings in color

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Again a stressful week limited the amount of useful real work I was able to do, but I did make a few things I liked. The first was a small marker drawing and the second was a watercolor based on a composition by Felice Casorati. I’ve been fascinated with foreheads recently, which is probably why this fellow’s is preposterously high; you know, the way kids draw the daisies bigger than the house because they really like flowers. (Obviously not a future architect.) I stumbled onto the Casorati image on Pinterest, but knew nothing of him prior. He painted in the early decades of the last century and has a lyrically simplified composition and figural style that was half abstraction and half della Francesca. He’s one I’ll be studying this week.

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.

Draw (and repeat)


Leonardo da Vinci, sketches for Leda, c. 1504

I’ve heard it said that the difference between an amateur and a professional artist–or a hobbyist and one with more serious intent–is that an amateur draws until he gets it right, while the professional draws till he can’t get it wrong. That was a revelation to me when I read it–I was certainly one who aimed (oh, please) just to get it right. Once. And then I’d be happy, for sure. But there’s more to it and I find this new goal very motivating.

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.

Bacon Suits

Francis Bacon - Tutt'Art@ (17)francis-bacon_george-dyerFrancis Bacon Paintings Art 187francis_bacon_25Francis Bacon Paintings Art 169Seated Figure 1961 by Francis Bacon 1909-1992

Oh Francis! Look at you all dressed up and nothing to scream at. No meat, no blood. Almost serene…you know, for Francis Bacon.

I’m still thinking about these paintings. I love his very graphic compositions, the strong color blocks, and, in spite of the distorted faces and contorted poses, I love the suits, the shoes, crisp line, muted grays and tans. I need to find time to experiment on my own men-in-suits, see what I could do with paint and color. Another dream that for now is postponed. But it is on my mind.

PS–Sorry if you were expecting a post about Lady Gaga, though it sure would be fun to have seen his take on her. Could be almost as fun as she is.

Explode the Suit! or, What happens when Francis Bacon paints a well-dressed man…

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When I sketch businessmen in their suits on my lunch break each day, it never occurs to me to paint them. I see mostly men in dark suits with mid-tone ties, and now with June looming, a few summer suits but in the bright sun, laced with strong shadow, a reverse of the usual dark-light pattern. Sure, there are a few daring gents, like the man who shocked me giddy with his dark shirt and jacket, rust-orange pants, red-rimmed specs and very orange hair–some men really should be painted!–but most look very well in my austere line drawings. So, I don’t think much about painting, at least I hadn’t until I was looking at some Francis Bacon paintings the other day.

WOW! I’ve been a fan of Bacon’s for many years, but I guess it’s the screaming popes and writhing nudes that stayed in my memory, not the men in suits. It really has set me thinking….How exactly would I paint my suited men if I could?

These paintings have me excited all over again, scheming about where to take my work next.