Friday, May 30, 2014

Getting Outside to Paint
Rabbit Trail 2 (detail)

Got up very early and went painting outdoors the other day; for fun,
for practice, for resources, and mostly for some peace.
First some coffee,

then over a bridge to the path.

Found a great little rabbit trail

and set up, with a pond behind me.

Snapped a pic of the scene for future reference,

and started painting.

It was so cool and damp I had time to sketch a few while
hoping the washes would dry a bit.

They really didn't--everything stayed pretty wet.

So I looked for the origins of the splashing and slurping
and schlorking behind me

and finally saw that it was coming from
very large fishes like this one.

Suspicious and cranky even in a self portrait.
In truth, I was having a great time.
Rabbit Trail 1. 
The first of the sketches-in-progress--
a decent, peaceful morning's work!

And then I headed back over the bridge.

Thanks as always, for checking out my blog!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Edward Lear's Legacy

Corsica. Edward Lear

Edward Lear's birthday is in May, so before the month ends, thought I'd add a tribute. 
Especially since his works have influenced me all my life.

One night, talking with some young artists, the mention of limericks brought some 
confusion to their faces. Lear's name didn't seem to ring any bells either.
I sure hope Lear's work is not fading into obscurity.

I love it partly because it was so diverse. He painted drop-dead 
watercolor landscapes like the one above.

Toucan. Edward Lear
His paintings of birds--well, in comparison, I never did understand the appeal of Audubon.

His self-portraits, and "silly" drawings--I'd give a lot to have this kind of genius...

...and the kind that could write nonsense this sublime.

Nowadays it seems that artists must squash any diversity and 
limit their output to a single style if they are to receive any notice or reward. 
Glad Edward Lear's times were not so limiting.

Happy Birth-month, Mr. Lear!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Once Upon a Time

Lisbeth Zwerger. From Hansel and Gretel.
(Ms. Zwerger's work, across the board, is incredible.)

I'm celebrating some pictures I love from a different, but fairly recent time in
the history of literature.

Alice and Martin Provensen. From The Provensen's Book of Fairytales.
(A true classic. Which of their books isn't?)

I'm also complaining.
Now, I'm normally not one to cry and moan over the lost "good old days". Most of them were good only in time-mellowed and mangled memory--not in reality.

But still, pull up your chair and let me tell you a story:

Once upon a time there were children's book publishers in the U.S. that truly focused on children and literature. That's no fairy tale. Those houses hired and respected editors like Ursula Nordstrom, Charlotte Zolotow, and Margery Cuyler. Publishers allowed those editors the freedom and the time to nurture authors and artists like the young Maurice Sendak, Trina Schart Hyman, Chuck Mikolaycak, and Syd Hoff.

Charles Mikolaycak. From The Highwayman.
(An amazing book with stunning pictures, as are all of Mikolaycak's books.)

It was a time before tabloid-kings had bought up the great publishing houses and turned many children's book departments into money-losing ventures that made books into toys and venerated
celebrity rather than art. 

It was a time when many authors and illustrators could make a living out of the craft they
loved and spent years to develop.

Trina Schart Hyman. From Little Red Riding Hood.
(Ms. Hyman was seriously one of the best. Do yourself a favor and check out all of her works.)

It was a time when children's books actually generated more income than the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It was a time when making literature for children could be a
vocational, life-long career, not just a hobby.

It was a time when children's book publishers actually promoted the books that writers and illustrators made. (Yes Virginia, once upon a time authors and illustrators didn't have to do it all at their own expense.) It was a time when visionary-but-poor writers and illustrators actually had a chance to cultivate and establish their craft.

Tomie dePaola. From The Clown of God.
(DePaola's books are bursting with "heart")

It was a time when devoted and loving book illustrators and writers, not
hate-radio personalities, won awards.

Don't get me wrong, there are many wonderful new books out there for
children I'm sure, but things have changed big-time. I don't see that it's for the better.
Not for writers and illustrators, and especially not for kids and literature.

On that note, I'll leave you with a link to a wonderful interview with the late,
modern genius; Maurice Sendak: 

And thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Careful What I Wish For
Limerick and drawing by Edward Lear.

I don't think falling casually is the issue in this limerick. Rather, might it be the staying too long 
and "growing stout" in a too-confining space?

An artist friend of mine and I, at a recent outing to the museum, spoke long and seriously 
about art, goals, and people's ideas about The Successful Artist. Mostly we talked about 
freshness and excitement in art and art making.

Now, I love art, but I hate goals. 
And "success"? Seems obvious that this culture's definition of it has done little 
but trap and kill freshness and excitement.

Maybe modern success is the tedium of a kettle in which one grows too stout 
to escape. And, whether you fall into it casually or 
jump into it with ambition, you gotta know when to get out.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Phantom Fixation
An experimental ghost sketch (detail).

Ghosts have been with me--in my life--for years. That's about all I want to say about that. 
But they've played a big part in my artwork for a long time too, and I'm currently working on a project that's pretty much all about those vapory visitors. And that's all I can say about that too.

So I'll talk about the experimental part--the quest for a solution to the problem of exactly how one might draw ghosts using pen and ink. Not thinking about composition, pose, stance, all those eventual bridges I will need to cross. Right now I'm just sketching a string of empirical apparitions.
 Here's an early attempt. (Transparency be damned!)
But some translucence is probably essential. 
Thus, an early morning sketched-while-slurping-my-coffee spectre...
...and a waiting-room wraith. This fellow was mostly worked out just before 
a root canal appointment.

Well that's about it. The chase continues. 
I'll post more when possible.

Thanks for the visit!

Monday, May 19, 2014

"Storybook Birds Workshop" at Willow
I very much love to teach workshops!

Mostly I forget to take photos, but yesterday was different, and though they are but 
phone-camera shots, you'll get the idea.

The workshop was about "constructing" anthropomorphic bird-characters and 
clothing them--hence the costume book. 
These folks were a great bunch of open-minded and energetic artists!

It may be an overused cliche that the teacher receives more than the 
attendees, but it's the absolute truth. So I'm listing only some of what I gain every time:

1. Teaching forces me to think in divergent ways. In this workshop, each artist had varying 
experience with illustration, so I got to modify my communication process quickly. That lifted the 
studio-fog in my brain and brightened it significantly!

This artist nearly finished her cool Victorian character.

2. Teaching exposes me to new techniques for drawing. Sticking too close to my studio (could be translated as hiding in it) is like being in a vacuum, and the art-modes attendees expose me to are 
welcome, fresh, and new to me. When I go back to my cave, 
I've got a whole new repertoire to practice.

A couple of fine works-in-progress.

3. Teaching pushes me to analyze my own methods and expand them. 
Being a creature of habit, this is an unqualified necessity.

This artist's stunning character-in-progress has pure attitude. 
As an added plus, he later generously allowed me to leaf through his jaw-dropping sketchbook 
while he explained some of his totally-new-to-me drawing techniques.

A super-hero bird--this fellow emerged onto the paper within 20 minutes.

Both of these creative works-in-progress were created by attendees who told me they could 
draw what they see, but had never "made up" or constructed a character before.

I hope I'm fortunate enough to be able to do this again.
A sincere thank you to everyone who attended, and to Helen at Willow--our host!

And thank you, as well, for reading this blog!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Five Ways to Keep the Art-Fire Glowing

 In the Machine Room (detail).

[This is a re-post from a year ago. Sorry, but on the eve of teaching a workshop, I found myself re-visiting an old subject--this one--in my head. So many blog posts I read have such angry, strident comments about art methodology--you would think people were arguing religion or politics. Art, like life, is an amazing gift if we are open to the surprise. Tomorrow I'll go into the workshop with a purposely open mind, and I bet I will learn more than I teach .]

Does any one method of learning work for artists? You'd think so, listening to some arguments, or hearing what college admissions counselors tell prospective art students. Usually, the most strident voices are the ones saying "Draw and paint from life--it's the only way! Real artists draw what they see!"
But I don't believe there's only one answer, one method, one technique--for anything.

I ran across an interesting paragraph about the great illustrator, Howard Pyle in which he criticized art programs for emphasizing drawing from life, rather than from the imagination:
"Students were expected to draw from a model who posed stiffly before them in a position that could be held for long, tedious hours of class. The results produced by the students tended to be as inert as the model."

Pyle believed that painters could become great by building upon the student's latent imaginary powers, not by slavish technical skill-building. While I don't entirely understand what his philosophy and teaching methods entailed, they fostered the growth of many tremendous artists including NC Wyeth, Jessie Willcox Smith, Frank Schoonover, and Harvey Dunn.
A Ride for Life. By Howard Pyle, from his Otto of the Silver Hand.

As I found life drawing classes incredibly boring, I wish I could have attended Pyle's classes! But like many of my contemporaries, I've had to discover many types of teachers, and many pathways toward learning what I need to keep the art-fire glowing.

What works best for me?  A variety of methods:

1. Some drawing and painting from life:
 Grand Mesa. Watercolor, private collection.

2. Lots of drawing and painting from my imagination (seemingly looked down on by most art programs in today's universities):
 Skeptical Cat. Acrylic on wood, private collection.

 3. Much experimentation with media and subject matter:
 Untitled. Mixed media on cloth. Collection the artist.

 4. A bit of teaching.
 Me, keeping them riveted to their seats, at a "Saints" workshop.

5. Lots of practice copying works (in this case, hands) by artists I admire.
Doing all five fits my personality, and has kept alive the freshness and excitement for making art. The way I see it, we are lucky we've so many ideas and philosophies from which to choose. Why argue about it?

Next post: A Feet and Shoes Resource File.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sketchbook Life
I blog often about sketchbooks and related subjects. I love them; their look, their feel, 
the whole idea of a cache of visual and sometimes written bursts of creative thought.
And I've kept nearly all of mine.

Some are the bond-paper booklets I made back in elementary school, most are the store-bought variety. The sketchbooks span my years from a kid of nine, across middle and high school, through college and art school. Many are only a few months old, massed in heaps on my studio bookshelves. 

They are a record of my ideas and progress. They are a record of my abilities and inabilities. 
They contain me; the child, adolescent, young adult, and the still-maturing artist. 
Mattering only to me, each page is a remembrance, a recollection, and a connection to the person I once was; decades--or just an hour--ago.
Unlike the pages of a diary, most arose not as the purposeful documentation of a daily life but rather, as an undetermined outpouring of my mind and heart. They transcribe my journey as surely as a vacation log, but it is one of metamorphosis, not of miles.

Kind of you to visit--thanks!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ghost's Eye, Bird's Eye, and Eye-Movement
Detail from a yet-to-be-titled work.

As a follow-up to the last post, the teacher in me wanted to show the progression of a new painting, and some of my composition thought-process. This was an experimental piece in some ways--hadn't done a full-blown pen and ink with watercolor added in years. Also wanted to mess with the transparency of a ghost using ink lines.

So the progression:
1. After light penciling in, lots of lines with a crow quill pen and a warm black ink.

painting progression via
2. Then a wash of raw umber, with light cerulean dropped in for an underpainting.

painting progression via
3. Some initial color washes and strengthening of value with the blue paint.

 wip via
4. Deeper color and some cool shadows on the frightened bird.
5. And the final work, with color adjustments to the piece (I lightened some of the values on the ghost as well) and some pen-line strengthening. 
Such a blog-stager I am.

eye movement diagram
But not much of a picture-planner. Just kidding. Usually I am pretty thorough, 
but initially this ghost-picture was not going to be in color, as I was mostly interested in achieving transparency with pen and ink. So my first, simple composition plan follows:
Point of interest: The ghost's eye.
Eye-movement: From the ghost's eye to the bird and all the way around. 
(I wanted a sense of vortex, thinking it might enhance the fear of the bird.)
Balance: Three objects of similar visual weight,
plus the upturned hand added to balance the action of the bird's head and beak.

But when I added the color--oops! Big change.

eye movement diagram
Now that active bird-head with the red eye became the point of interest and reversed the eye movement. The color also threw the balance off. To fix that, I threw a bit of red and yellow onto the floorboards by the ghost's foot.

 ghost detail

And a final detail of the ghost. Happy enough with his translucence that I'm onto more ghost-works!
I'll be teaching some of these techniques and more at Art Makers Denver, this September!

Comments are appreciated, and 
thanks, as always, for the visit!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...