Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Holidays with the Little Guys

A Little Guy by W. Heath Robinson.

The musician above is from an old sheet music illustration. In it, he's following a lovely, dancing wood sprite. Within the illustration, he's only about 1/2" tall--but what personality and expression!

There are few things I like better than the elf-like, faery-like, Hobbit-like people of legend who are full of character and life.  Include in that the Little Guys, my own label for all the goofy humans drawn over the centuries by artist/illustrators. You can find them everywhere, sometimes greatly caricatured, sometimes with gently exaggerated features, always packed with vitality and infused with some mystery. Hunting for and collecting new Little Guys is a favorite pastime of mine--here are a few of the best.

The Wild Man. A.B. Frost. 

Arthur Burdett Frost ( illustrated many books full of regular humans, and he's probably best known for his pictures of Brer Rabbit. But his versions of little guys are pretty matchless. The sinister Wild Man above is an illustration from the Lewis Carroll poem, Poeta Fit Non Nascitur (which, according to google translate, means: "The Poet is Not Born"). I love his face and that broken symbol of  bad luck sticking out of his hat.

Snow, Real Snow. Honore Daumier.

Probably my favorite lithograph--or image--of all time. Maybe. It is perfection though, not only in the stance and wonder-filled expression of the fellow, but in the absolutely spot-on light and atmosphere of an early, snow-filled morning.  Am I crazy, or is this not the peerless evocation of a universal feeling? Perfect verisimilitude!

And if you do think I'm looney, please just accept this picture as my 
Happy Holiday Peace-Wish 
(via the genius of Daumier) 
for you.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Helpful Warning

Marley's Ghost, or Ebeneezer Scrooge's Door Knocker. Mixed media on wood.

Dickens' A Christmas Carol will  always be my favorite Victorian ghost story. And I'm resigned to the fact that Marley's Ghost, which terrified me as a kid, will always be an obsession. That spirit still gives me the chills, but also provides the reminder I seem to continually need:  That "mankind is my business".

And thus, the Holiday Season begins.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Different Ground, Different Result

The landscape in the previous post was begun with a cadmium red ground--that is fairly comfortable for me. But I'd painted this new board black, and it required in an alternate approach, varied brushwork, and a leap of faith. 

"The artist himself is often surprised at the finished work of art. He cannot tell 'how it happened', nor could he repeat the feat at someone's bidding."
-John F. Carlson 
Carlson is right, but in my case, replace "often" with "always". All I can do is write down the sequence which follows, and I hope you find it interesting.

The little house that stimulated the idea.
 Isolated houses buried within trees provoke my need to commit them to paper or canvas. It's a deeply subconscious allure shared by many artists. There's mystery held within walls, and my response to that mystery ranges from vague fear on one end of the spectrum, through curiosity, all the way to comfort and nostalgia at the other end. 

The process:
Using a watery purplish-pink, I brushed in a loose composition, simplifying the house and dispensing with the photo. In my head, I felt that I was pursuing a path similar to the sequence that led to my painting of the previous post. Very wrong I was.

(Sorry about the color in this--it's a cell phone photo.)
My main objective was to keep the painting fresh while still being experimental--I hoped to avoid repainting, over-glazing, or fussing with it.
Keeping in mind that the process is a chase, by allowing my thoughts and brush to scramble over the black surface I discovered some peculiar and exciting methods I'd not used before. 
Of course, some of the process felt familiar, but I'd be a liar if I denied the bit of fear present. I fought the trepidation by telling myself I could always paint black over any mistakes, and start again.
 House at Dusk. Acrylic on board, 8" x 10".

The end product did please me, but the best thing? It had more to do with process than product; more to do with discovery than rote method; and had an unexpected--unpredictable--result.

If I was a different sort of artist, I'd remember all of this by repeating the process again and again (the only way I'm able to retain a sequence), and nail the method. I'm remembering the feeling though, of the unexpected, and the process is calling.
Thanks for reading--I appreciate the visit!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nature, Sparks, and Fire

Nothing renews my faith like nature. God is everywhere, but the line from the natural environment to the Creator is direct.
Not gonna lie, election day made me restless. So I got out of the studio for some exercise, and found some peace and beauty at the canal that winds its way through the city. It has always held mystery and adventure for me--it's the place I went as a kid to scramble around and find snakes, frogs, and salamanders. My mom would wait at the front door for my return and yell, "If you have a snake with you, go right on back and let it go!" Most times, I had to go back.

 Yesterday, exploration--as usual--trumped my lame effort at exercise. But it was a gorgeous day, and my camera-eye was wide open. Found this creepy bug-faced root hiding beneath the bank.

I should spend more time drawing out of doors, but I'm about as good at that commitment as I am to exercise. Just getting outdoors though, has a great effect upon my art and spirit.

At the end of the walk, this beautiful old house came into view. 
A lonely building buried in the trees--even better than snakes and frogs!

A small detail of my latest painting--inspired by the weird way autumn creeps into the trees almost without notice. Hoping to finish this artwork today, now that there's some relief from the politics.
Gerard Manley Hopkins is one of my favorite poets. He loved to draw as well, and was totally in love with the natural world.  I'm heading up to the studio, and will leave you with some of his words:

“All things therefore are charged with love, are charged with God and if we knew how to touch them give off sparks and take fire, yield drops and flow, ring and tell of him.”
-Gerard Manley Hopkins

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