Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Plein Air Night in the City
 Last night we hit an alley behind Denver's Oxford Hotel for some plein air studies. If I've done night sketching before, my brain can't dredge up that memory. But it's doubtful I'll forget this outing; the atmosphere was haunting, the cold severe, and the light richly evocative. In this case, a fluorescent blue light was shining on the roof, contrasting with warm light from the panes.
 Even though my New Year's resolution is to concentrate on watercolor, the fear of losing my paints to freezing temperatures had me scrounging the studio for an alternate medium. I chose an old pad of brown pastel paper and some Prismacolor sticks and pencils--even though I'm not fond of any of that. Sketching with gloves on created some unwanted smudging, but better that than frostbite.

This old, nineteenth-century window caught my eye immediately. I love the look of yellow-lit windows, and last night this warm one particularly beckoned. Not having night-sketching experience, we'd talked about the different colors of night lights over a beer beforehand, so I was really trying to sear the variety into my eyes, as well as get the values correct. I only had black, white and blue Prismacolors with me, so I added the yellow once back in the studio.

The other guys used water media, with vodka to keep things from freezing, but after an hour, frost was developing on their paintings and their water-cups were slushy.
Even my media choice was affected; when I got on the train for home, I watched my drawing become damp from the thawing wax of the Prismacolor pencils.
 And while I was leaning on a dumpster instead of Hardy's "coppice gate", I'm not going to forget the evening, or the beckoning light from that warm window.

I leant upon a coppice gate

      When Frost was spectre-grey,

And Winter's dregs made desolate

      The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

      Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh

      Had sought their household fires.
                                                             Thomas Hardy, from The Darkling Thrush 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Escaping the Vacuum
Up until a few years ago, I had little chance to work with other illustrators. I taught art classes with three amazing artists, and learned much from them and my students; something I continue to value very much. 
But then I made a change, and began full-time in the studio. While great in many ways, it was dangerous in a big way: I was trying to work, learn, and grow in a vacuum. Maybe there are artists out there who can do this, but I'm not one of them.
I'm a quiet, Hobbit-ish fellow, but I need the company and interaction with other artists. Case in point: In the past, I always began sketches with graphite, but took fellow illustrator Kyle Baerlocher's advice and began sketching with a colored pencil--a Colerase pencil I found on the floor at an illustration workshop.
It's made a huge difference in giving me a sense of freedom I've not experienced.
In the case of the bird-trapper (above), I worked back into the sketch with graphite, adding highlights and color with Prismacolor pencils.
Over the holiday week, getting out of the studio, sitting by the fire, and sketching was a great pleasure; made even more fun using Kyle's (new-to-me) technique. In the toothy sketch above, I went back into the Colerase sketch using a white GellyRoll pen for the highlights and a UniBall Signo pen for the darks.
For some reason, loud-mouthed singers with large teeth were the prevailing theme.
Leaving to Fight by Kyle Baerlocher.

You can see more of his work here:
Thanks for checking out my blog--hope your upcoming New Year is fulla learning!

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Time for Dickens

"This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,
and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy,
for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the
writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out
its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye.
Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.
And abide the end.'

'Have they no refuge or resource?' cried Scrooge.

'Are there no prisons.' said the Spirit, turning on him
for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses."
                                                   - A Christmas Carol, Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits

The photo above is from Richard Williams' animated film--worth another watch.

I wish you a peaceful Holiday and a peaceful New Year.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

How to be an Expert?
I read somewhere that one has to put 100,000 hours practicing a skill in order to become an "expert" at that skill. First, that seems sort of a random number. Second, I'm not certain if that means in general--for example, one would be an "expert artist" if one completed 100,000 hours drawing, painting, and sculpting; or if it means in specifics--100,000 hours painting from the model, 100,000 hours painting still lifes, 100,000 hours drawing goofy characters, etc.
I don't know what the author meant, and it seriously is kind of a dumb thing to try to quantify.
Most of the illustrators/artists I know are many years my junior, and they are more skilled than I.
I've put years worth of hours into practicing art, in many different forms. Even conservatively, my figures still get me to 160,000. I'm not sure what that author's definition of expert might be, but I'd be hard pressed to label myself as one.

Don't get me wrong; I know a lot about art--both art history and art techniques, and am confident in many of my abilities. But I'm maybe most confident in my ability to learn. By practicing. And that's all I really care about.
So I continue to hit the Life Painting sessions at Helikon Gallery (where I mostly life draw), and get outside to paint, and draw and paint in my studio--and anywhere else it's appropriate. My aim's not to become someone's definition of an expert, but to keep getting better at it all; including the ability to share what I've learned--of the abilities I have at any given time--with others.
If I'd have liked numbers, I wouldn't have become an artist in the first place.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Egon Schiele, Decaying Mill

 There's a thing that bugs me. 
Not that that this thing makes me angry; I mean it's a thing that I can't resolve in my life or in my head or in my gut. That bugs me. And this is it:

Music and literature move me in hugely emotional ways. Body engulfing ways; heart exploding ways. All the time.  And artworks don't do that very often. Actually, I can't recall being moved by an artwork in that extreme reactive way ever.

I'm not much of a writer, and I'm definitely not a musician, but I am an artist. So what the heck is up with me?

Don't get me wrong--I love art, and I love looking at artwork. But what artworks do is seep into me over a long period of time, following the viewing. And I often can't let go of the need to see them again, or own them. I think about them, and feel a longing, but it is a much milder, and maybe more intellectual reaction than the emotional engulfment engendered by a piece of music I'm hearing, or a book passage I am reading. The search for an artwork experience that matches the intensity of a music or literature experience dogs me.

I'm curious--bugged is more accurate--if this is even a possibility. Am I searching for that which cannot be? Probably need to somehow quit thinking about it, but I can't.

Thanks for checking out this post--Your thoughts and ideas on this will be welcome.

I can change my mind, not my blood
                                                     --Teddy Thompson
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...