Again in Tuesday, the women of Alba Flamenco allowed me to sit in on their castanet work to sketch as they practiced. Sitting in the darkened studio, watching figures in motion echoed in shadowy mirrors, a-swim in the currents of rhythm and cante… I can tell you, it’s hard to keep drawing, when I’d far rather be sipping scalding red wine and clapping along. But for an artist, this is one sweet gig.
I’m out of practice at rapid figure sketching, but I’m getting back to it. I make that disclaimer to compensate for any criticism my work may merit. We’re all sensitive, after all, about being less than we dream or aspire to be. What I witness is exceptional, but my drawings are (for now) sadly static and inadequate. I want more from myself, especially when the dancers stop by at the end of rehearsal to judge what I have done.
It’s curious how insecure we all are. Each of these women, when looking at these drawings, recognized and enjoyed the images of her friends, but confronted with themselves, showed resistance. I found them all beautiful, as I do probably everyone I draw, and when that is not my initial reaction, I find that the process of studying a face or a form warms me to them. It’s one of the reasons I draw self-portraits. When I’m too heavy with self-loathing I know it’s time for the mirror. Yes, my face is aging and was never, even young, classically beautiful, but it’s a good face anyway, busily telling its story to anyone pausing to see it. I wish more people would take the time to appreciate their own story and the map of it they carry every day.
The dancers are beautiful and I’ve tried to capture it. I hope you will take the time to find the merits it may have. (Thanks again to Barb, Susan and Michelle!)
I had two moments during the week in which I made drawings that I liked; one was a quiet night at home, fairly late, and the other was in a terrifically hideous mood on Sunday evening. There’s definitely no such thing as needing a certain “mood” to draw well. All you really need when you feel down is to draw a good-looking man in a suit. Works wonders.
Self-Portrait, Profile, pencil, 2015
I’ve been shocked in recent photos at the seemingly sudden appearance of the signs of aging. I guess that means that in the ordinary routine of dressing, washing face, fixing hair, that I’m not really paying attention, or if I do, I put down any alterations to stress or a restless night. But no. I’m approaching my 55th birthday–this is what it is.
A self-portrait study in colored pencil. Seems I’ve been doing a lot of these lately, not to mention looking over all of the old ones. But hey, I’m a model I can count on, someone who doesn’t mind being stared at. I like the idea of the split face with differing treatments; besides, that was the natural light at the time. I’ve been having a hard time getting motivated to do much with drawing lately, so it was a huge relief to do something decent.
You can also view it in the new Self-Portraits gallery.
I’ve added a few more items to my Self-Portrait gallery, pencil and marker drawings from 1979 and 1980. In the first set (1979), I believe I was just back from a bad day at work–pretty much a given in those days–which may well explain the hostile expression. I was so thin back then–all that long neck and the ears that stuck out when my hair was pulled back. And dig those gigantic plastic frames! They were stylish then. Odd how I went for the glam-fashion frames when I dressed like a hippie; I’ve never really known what I was doing with clothes.
I don’t remember anything of the circumstances of the second one, also 1979, such great, thick hair I had back then, but the third set was from a sultry summer afternoon in 1980. I was hot, bored and miserable and it shows. This set is my favorites in this group; I especially like the folded hand I lean against. My face looks elongated too–in fact it’s quite round–a distortion that occurs every time I draw without my glasses. Is it my astigmatism? Maybe. I read a theory once that claimed El Greco drew the way he did because of astigmatism, but does that mean every Italian Mannerist had astigmatism too? I don’t buy it entirely. Interesting thought though. I do know that when I draw without glasses, the proportions look fine to me.
Another variation on my recent pencil self-portrait. This time, caricature. You can see both versions in the new Self-Portrait Gallery.
Self-Portrait, pencil, 2015
First self-portrait of 2015, the best of the drawings I’ve made since the first of the year. Why is it that every year seems to get off to such a slow start? Dull winter, coldness, dark days…perhaps.
I’ve felt rushed all week with busy prep for the holidays: gift-making and wrapping, trips to the post office, and then the office party smack in the middle of Saturday, making the day useless for much else. I really don’t like the holidays, but this year hasn’t been bad so far. Even the dark days of December aren’t bothering me like they usually do. Maybe I’m too busy. I’d say the real source of hassle this year has been getting health insurance, now that the place I work has dropped coverage for us. For me, it’s limitation and expense, but for some friends of mine, the decision is almost impossible. I’m sure management felt they had no choice in the decision they made, just as I imagine that our president thought this plan of his was a boon to all humankind. But as a human who works full-time in the lower-middle income bracket, and who happens to be over 50, it’s a racket and nothing else. Here’s hoping that next year this time, the humankind benefiting from this health insurance menace will include working people like me and my associates. End rant.
But I drew a lot. I got into the work of Alex Eben Meyer (illustrator) and Kathy J. Lui (student/ artist/ filmmaker), stopped into the Carnegie Art Museum after work on Thursday to wander and draw, found people asleep in the lobby or too busy looking at art to realize I was drawing them. A drawing I bought online arrived–it’s beautiful and I’ll write about it soon. Meanwhile, another weekend goes by with only little offhand drawings. I want the time to draw something bigger, more ambitious, but it doesn’t happen. How did I do it last year? Because I did. This may require some thought…
Self-portraits, pencil and colored pencil, 1980
Images from a distant summer, 1980, right before I headed off to college to be an Art Ed major….That only lasted a semester till I switched to an English major …and then later to Fine Art, briefly, and eventually to Film. I really couldn’t make up my mind; all of it interested me. Before 2013, I did more drawing in 1980 than in any other. I had just completed a Drawing 1 class at my local community college with Lawrence von Baron, whom we called VB. He had great models come in for us to draw, a real diverse group, and the students were equally wonderful. I made friends, went to an art museum for the first time, began to move into the world I thought would be mine. It’s so heady being 19. Fearful, wary, defiant, all there in those faces. I used to do a lot of those stylized distortions back then…I still think they’re pretty cool.
I’ve been messed up with rotten teeth and trips to dentists, pain meds and root canal appointments, none of which have helped me be very productive in the drawing department. During the week, I stuck with my own face for subject and drew in pen and marker. Simple. The photos are from last fall; I might have needed to embellish newer ones with a pink bulls eye on the left cheek and red cartoon lines radiating from it.
Today is also the anniversary of my first year of drawing every day. I’ve set myself this goal many times before, full of enthusiasm, but I’ve finally managed to do it. I think I’ve learned perseverance as the years have rolled by; I’ve never been good at pushing on when the work was lousy or boring. I plan to keep going for as long as I can now that I’ve made this a part of my routine, maybe indefinitely. It’s instructive–working this consistently. I’m learning how to weather the bad drawings and keep going; getting used to the waxing and waning of my energy, enthusiasm and progress; and forcing me to create strategies for getting a drawing done, even with a 10-hour job interruption five days a week. (I like stealing a few minutes in the morning before I run out to catch the bus the best.) While I am still an amateur, of course–drawing isn’t my job–I feel less like a hobbyist. I am conceiving aspirations that I begin to hope I can meet. It’s been an interesting road.