Cogito Ergo Sum

Portrait of Rene Descartes, by Franz Hals (1648)

Portrait of Rene Descartes, by Franz Hals (1648)

René Descartes, the French philosopher, walks into a bar. The Bartender says, “Hey, René, you want a scotch?” Descartes replies, “No, I think not.” And then he vanishes.

Happy Birthday, Monsieur Descartes!

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Drawings in color

2015-06-01 listening cap 2015-06-07

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.

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.

A Study in Pale

Portrait of Jeanne Kefer, Fernand Khnopff, 1885

Screwonhead herringbone beach whites

Reading:  Michel Daguet, The Portrait of Jeanne Kéfer (2004)

“The economy of the palette goes hand in hand with the very measured manual gesture that leads Khnopff to prefer tight brushwork.”—Michel Daguet

Fernand Khnopff was a Flemish portrait painter active at the turn of the 19th century. I discovered his work in The Portrait of Jeanne Kéfer, a book available as a free digital download from the Getty Museum. Daguet’s analysis of the Kéfer painting is good, but I didn’t care much for his overstrained theoretical arguments. Still, it’s an interesting peek at the fin-de-siècle Flemish art scene and the way it connected with trends in France and England. Definitely worth a glance….as are many of the other titles in the series. Degas: Waiting, for instance, was excellent.

Khnopff was a portraitist who dismissed photography as an art form, but used it as a tool in his painting. I’ve been thinking about photography too, lately. His was a form of Impressionism influenced by rough-hewn modernist techniques and the luminous precision of Memling. Perfect. Khnopff’s work appealed to me right away.

What has been unexpected is the appeal that his subtle, pale palette has for me. I generally prefer an intense kaleidoscope of color; it must be the monkish side of me surfacing, I guess. Still, I’ve been looking at a number of things lately with more subdued palettes: the coloring in Mignola’s The Amazing Screw-On Head,  the subtle hues, textures and patterns in classic menswear styling and the harmonious pales I like in beach home interiors.

Will my own work change from its desire for flamboyantly color? Probably not. Maybe it is just the changeable spring weather that has me torn between stormy grays and the riotous floral palette just breaking out, but whatever it is, subtle harmonies really excite my interest right now. If only spring would definitely arrive…

A Day in the Life

I stumbled on this great BBC Four series over the weekend. Want to know what the daily life of an artist is like? Here’s one way to find out, if, like me, you don’t know any successful artists to hang out with and learn from. You won’t find any contrived artist statements or high society wanna-bes–just a cup of coffee in a messy studio, the pressure of exhibit deadlines, the cost of paints and the doubts and pleasures of doing the work. Take a look. Be inspired.

Week in Review

Fashion figure, graphite, watercolor, colored pencil, 2013

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sketchbook page 2013-06-28

Girl in purple

In addition to getting a few thousand words this week toward my current writing project, I also had a variety of drawing and painting opportunities. To the usual fashion sources, I added a study of Braque, David Levine and Jamie Hewlett, some new to me, some less so. In the week ahead, I’d like to continue to paint when I can, but also return to pen and ink. I was looking through some ink drawings in an old sketchbook this morning and was struck by the pure, dense black of the ink. I want to play with that again.

Another incentive to more work was my greater participation in Adam Wiebner’s Twitter page @Draw2Live. Adam curates a collection of posted drawings by a variety of artists, which lately has been sparking some lively conversations. Talking about my work and interests with the others there on Twitter makes me feel engaged in a real community. The feedback is such a motivator! It’s been 4 months now since I decided to start drawing again and it has been every day since then, and every day I want to do it more and more. I’m very excited. I just wish there were more hours in the day…

Experiments

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I started this little experiment with media in my new Hand-Book sketchbook 2 weeks ago and only got a chance to finish it tonight. The sketch is of a former colleague at an architecture firm where I worked in 2006; here, reduced almost to a cartoon. I tried out watercolor, Prismacolor markers and colored pencil.

I haven’t done anything in watercolor in ages, so it was fun to get absorbed in it again, trying to get the feel for layering washes, wet vs dry, color mixing and all of that. Some spots are a muddy mess, but there are moments that aren’t bad and the paper held up pretty well for a sketchbook. The markers bleed through but handle well, and I’m not fond of the paper texture for the colored pencil; ideally, I’d want a smoother surface. Now to incorporate some of these things into my daily practice!

Introducing esolomon art

Joyous Rainbow

Joyous Rainbow

Today I wanted to mention my sister, Elizabeth, the painter. You may have visited her art site before (hopefully, see Blog Favorites), but if not, check it out. And her new http://www.etsy.com/shop/esolomonart Etsy shop! Original paintings and drawings are for sale, along with prints of both photography and art.

We’ve both been drawing since we were kids, but she’s the one who really took off with painting and color. I draw people, but she is more inspired by Nature. She’s got a great eye for composition, but what I like best is the energy and dynamism in so many of her paintings. Her latest is my favorite–Narcissus.Narcissus

It may not look it here, but this painting is quite large. She’s versatile and brilliant and I hope you enjoy these two pieces enough to check her sites out yourself!