Posts Tagged ‘sketching’

Thanksgiving Meditations

November 24, 2016

two-knobs

Why not make a little collection of detached ideas which come to me from time to time completely molded and to which it would thus be difficult to attach others? Is it absolutely demanded that one produce a book, keeping within all the rules? Montaigne writes by fits and starts. Those are the most interesting works. 

Eugene Delacroix, Journal, Tuesday, May 7, 1850

This Thanksgiving holiday has been warm and cozy, and I’m always grateful to come back home and see family again. As the aromas of food cooking filled the house, I relaxed in a chair, reading from the writings of Delacroix, and came across this passage I’m posting.  I was so inspired by it that I laid the book aside, pulled an old doorknob and locking system from my bag and began sketching it in my journal.  My dad, liking what he saw, went out to his shed and returned with a second door knob. I removed mine and inserted his into the box and attempted a second sketch before dinner time. The time was rewarding, and I enjoyed the feeling of putting something like this on paper.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

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Drawing Away the Christmas Day

December 25, 2015

imageI’m feeling somewhat embarrassed to sail so many things out on the blog today.  I used to force myself to blog daily.  Then after reading Hamlet’s Blackberry, I took the author’s message seriously and began spending longer stretches “offline”, and enjoyed my quiet time of reading and making art, determined that I would not throw something out on social media unless I really had something to say.  Today has been one of those sweet days spent reading, drawing, playing Solitaire, chatting with family, and just soaking up the spirit of Christmas and family.  And for some reason, I keep firing up the laptop to upload a photo of what I’m doing.

I was seized with the impulse to work on another section of this same tree I’ve been observing outside my sister’s patio door.  The more I study and try to copy the “architecture of trees”, the more convinced I am that it will pay dividends with future attempts at landscape painting.  And I am indeed enjoying what I see as I stare at the congeries of limbs and try to plot the movement and mass on my sketchbook page.

Thanks for reading.

Sketching Into the Weekend

October 16, 2015

imageI prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.

Andrew Wyeth

Since my high school years, I have preferred winter trees a a subject for drawing. With the ragweed season out of control, I cannot go outdoors to draw trees from direct observation, so I continue to sketch them from my imagination, a practice that I always fear leaves caricature or cartoony effects. Soon the wretched ragweed will die, the fall colors will change, leaves will disappear and once again I will be able to look directly at my subjects and attempt to draw them as they really are.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Second Afternoon in the Studio

October 14, 2015

imageTwo consecutive afternoons in the studio are paying dividends. I did not go back to work on the first large watercolor, feeling it is nearly finished, or perhaps already finished. This one is starting to take on more character. I’m still not satisfifed that I have pushed the texturing of the ground cover quite far enough yet. I’m going to lay it aside for another day at least before I proceed.

Today was not what I would call a real school day–PSAT testing for four hours, followed by abbreviated class schedules. Seeing that I was taken out of the teaching loop, I managed to scratch out a couple of sketches throughout the seven-hour grind. I do find a sense of peace and consolation when I scratch different grades of pencil across the page and pour out my ideas. And since my main job throughout the day was administrative proctoring, I made my rounds, scratched a few lines, walked around the desks some more, scratched out a few more lines, and ultimately a tree was born.

Though unfinished, I like the direction these two 5 x 7″ sketches are going. Perhaps tomorrow after school I’ll have more time to scratch out some more limbs.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to think more clearly.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Lacunae

April 22, 2014
Quick Sketch of a Victorian House after a Long Work Day

Quick Sketch of a Victorian House after a Long Work Day

Must a painter paint everything?  Can’t he leave anything to my imagination?

Diderot

“Lacuna” (plural lacunae) is defined as a “gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument; hiatus”.  I have gaps in mind as I work on a quick, quick watercolor sketch late at night, after a long afternoon of art history preparations for tomorrow’s slate of classes.  I began this sketch with the deliberate intention of leaving large parts unfinished.  Some refer to watercolors as “vignettes” when they have undeveloped perimeters.  But I am thinking seriously of letting pencil work finish out much of this Victorian house I’m rendering.  At any rate, I won’t “complete” it tonight.  I still have more art history to prepare and the hour is getting late.

In my weekend reading, I spent considerable time in Diderot’s writings.  He began publishing critical articles, reviewing the annual Salon in Paris as early as 1759.  I like his comment (posted above) and the way Andrew Wyeth echoed those sentiments in recent years.  Wyeth always said the strength of the composition lay in what you could leave out.  As one who has always enjoyed chasing and nailing down details in drawing and painting, it takes real fortitude for me to stop and walk away from a work when I feel there is so much left to be done.  But tonight, being tired, and still behind in my responsibilities, I thought “Why not?”  Do a quick, quick pencil and watercolor sketch, leave it, and see how it looks in the days following.

Thanks for reading.  I have more work to do.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Art and Fear?

February 11, 2014
A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

A Little Space in the Afternoon Studio

God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

Yes, I read this excellent book, Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland.  I felt that a pair of artists were in the room with me, engaged in legitimate, heart-to-heart discussion.  And they addressed the inherent fears and required courage of art making rather than the blocked-artist syndrome.  I am not a blocked artist.  I am a public school teacher, teaching multiple subjects.  I will frequently face weekday afternoons and evenings where preparations leave little-to-no time for quality studio work.  But that is not blockage, not creative paralysis–it is just  an overloaded schedule.  This afternoon I managed to eke out some time for the studio, so here I am, with a little hesitation.  So what is this “fear” factor?  I will be the first to testify that making art is a courageous act.

Art requires more courage from me than other acts that might stir up fear in others.  For instance, I am not afraid to walk into a high school classroom, stand in front, and begin talking directly to the body of students.  I have never been afraid to stand in a public auditorium and address a congregation of adults.  I don’t know fear in those instances.  But what is this “fear factor” in art?  Am I afraid of rejection by the public?  Not really.  Do I fear ruining a $20 sheet of quality watercolor paper?  I don’t think so.  Am I afraid I am wasting my time?  Hardly.  I have invested years in this, and don’t begrudge additional hours, days, months or years.  In fact, I wish I had 500 years left to invest–I’ll never reach the level I want to reach in my own lifetime.

So, what is it?  Am I afraid of making a bad painting?  Perhaps that is it.  But I don’t understand that.  When I make a bad painting, I just don’t show it.  I seldom throw bad painting attempts away.  I suppose that if I keep them in a drawer that I’ll take them out another day, study them, and learn from the mistakes.  But I don’t generally do that either.  I just don’t look at them.  So what is it that frightens me?  What is the source of the anxiety?  I wish I knew.

Somehow, I am intimidated, approaching subjects where I have little-to-no experience.  And that is what is happening now with the rendering of human figures in watercolor, small human figures.  I don’t know why I have this phobia about screwing up.  So what if I screw up?  This is laughable.  I don’t live financially off my art sales.  My job keeps me fed and housed.  Maybe at the root of all these art endeavors is the fear of failure.  But how could that be?  How can one fail, if allowed to re-do, re-try, if allowed to learn, grow, accomplish?  Silly, isn’t it.  Perhaps I need to re-read Rollo May’s The Courage to Create.

At any rate, I am in the studio for a short while this afternoon, nibbling away at this small watercolor sketch.  And writing this blog is therapeutic it seems.  Right now, I am not afraid.  In fact, I’m enjoying the process, regardless of the outcome.  And when I finish this one, I will turn to the next.  One cannot help but improve with practice, and practice on the human figure is something I have yet to accomplish.

Thanks for reading.  Thanks for putting up with my navel gazing (smiling).  I had some things to work out.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Saturday Afternoon with Edward Hopper

February 8, 2014
Sketching from the Hopper Collection

Sketching from the Hopper Collection

People say, “It is only a sketch.”  It takes the genius of a real artist to make a good sketch–to express the most important things in life–the fairness of a face–to represent air and light and to do it all with such a simple shorthand means.  One must have wit to make a sketch.  Pictures that have had months of labor expended on them may be more incomplete than a sketch.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

This past month, I have taken more advantage of my local art museum’s offerings than previously.  The Edward Hopper exhibit has offered excellent schooling for me, as I admit with regret that I have never been a disciplined sketcher.  This current exhibit focusses on the preliminary sketches that led up to the masterpieces of Hopper that I have admired for so many decades.  I have forced myself to go to the museum again and again, to sketch, and sketch some more, study the results, and return to sketch some more.  I’m hoping that it will alter my studio approaches in the future.

Today the museum offered a workshop–Sketching Like Hopper.  I reserved a spot and showed up gladly.  Here, I have posted a pair of my charcoal sketches of his work.  I have always liked Robert Mothwerwell’s observation, “Drawing is a way of organizing space.”  In this pair of sketches, I focussed on the geometric shapes that made up Hopper’s compositions, then tried to put in the darks, middle tones and light areas, saving the details for last.

I emerged from the museum to a fifty-degree day, a nice respite from the string of frozen days experienced lately.  The food trucks lined the park north of the museum, and the experience of a Reuben sandwich in the sunlight was a deliciouis one.

Thanks for reading.

Lunch Outside the Dallas Museum of Art

Lunch Outside the Dallas Museum of Art

The Art of Conversation

January 16, 2014
Thumbnail Sketches from the Edward Hopper Exhibit

Thumbnail Sketches from the Edward Hopper Exhibit

A Second Page of Sketches of Hopper Compositions

A Second Page of Sketches of Hopper Compositions

Sketching from the Museum's Permanent Collection

Sketching from the Museum’s Permanent Collection

True happiness is of a retired nature, and an enemy to pomp and noise; it arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self; and, in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.

Joseph Addison, The Spectator, no. 1, March 17, 1711

After a challenging day in the classroom, I was gifted with enriching conversation over lunch and coffee with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in years.  It was great catching up on old times and talking in depth about values that have mattered to both of us.  I was so thrilled with the respite.  Following that enriching conversation, I headed east into Dallas.  The Museum of Art is open until 9:00 p.m. on Thursdays, so I thought I would get my “Hopper fix.”  This time I took a pencil and made a series of thumbnail sketches and notes in my journal.  As the night unfolded, I alternated three separate excursions through the Hopper gallery with side trips through the European, American, Meso-American, African and Far Eastern exhibits.   I took my time, and the longer I strolled the galleries, perusing the works, the more I became aware of how my breathing changed and how sweet the environment became.

What I was not prepared for was the engaging conversations that occurred with three of the guards overseeing the Hopper exhibit.  I am not used to museum guards having anything to say, but this trio was absolutely stunning in their depth of knowledge and appreciation for Hopper and their enthusiasm for art in general.  I didn’t want to leave.  And frankly, I cannot wait to return to the Dallas Museum of Art for the chance of conversing with them further.  I wish I could give them a “shout out” on this blog, but I feel I need to protect their identities, so . . . if any of you read this, THANK YOU for an enchanting conversation.  I think you are a wonderful asset to the museum and a reason why it has become a much more enjoyable environment for art lovers to come and spend an evening.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Sketching around a Full Schedule

January 12, 2014
Sketching a Hopper Composition

Sketching a Hopper Composition

Architectural Thumbnail Sketches

Architectural Thumbnail Sketches

Descartes Collage

Descartes Collage

The third characteristic of a symbol is that it opens up levels of reality which otherwise are closed for us.  All arts create symbols for a level of reality which cannot be reached in any other way.  A picture and a poem reveal elements of reality which cannot be approached scientifically.  In the creative work of art we encounter reality in a dimension which is closed for us without such works.

Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith

The hour is very late.  I’ve spent an entire Saturday in social contexts that provided no space for art, but now am enjoying a quiet sanctuary environment, looking over recent sketches and designs I have scribbled out while musing over the past week’s subjects covered.  I posted yesterday evening the afterglow of students discussing poetry in my classroom over the lunch hour.  I haven’t yet gotten around to talking about my past week’s classes in Philosophy and Art History.  In A. P. Art History, we’ve looked at Romanesque and Gothic architecture, discussing the symbols of that era, and about architectural aesthetics in general.  In Regular Art History, we are in High Renaissance, and devoted the entire week looking at the remarkable creations of Leonardo da Vinci.  In Philosophy, we’ve discussed theories of knowledge, focussing mostly on  Socrates and Plato, while preparing a foundation for Descartes.

Three personalities who have occupied my attention the most in recent days are Leonardo da Vinci, Edward Hopper and Robert Motherwell.  Da Vinci, to me, is the quintessential sketchbook/journal artist–the only artist I think of immediately who balanced writing with drawing.  For over a decade I have chafed at my own practices, knowing that I scribble in journals almost daily, and paint almost daily, but never on the same page.  My journals are 100% written and my sketchbooks are 100% drawn. I have recorded in earlier posts that I have a set of twins in my A. P. Art History classes who faithfully sketch and record observations in their Moleskine journals.  They say that the practice helps them concentrate on their subjects better, and that is what I have believed to be true for years, yet I cannot seem to stay with the practice.

So.  After spending time lingering over the Hopper/Drawing exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art yesterday afternoon, I began sketching and writing in my own Moleskine, and began reworking some collage ideas on Rene Descartes.  I have a strong notion to begin a watercolor sketch of the historic Fort Worth Flatiron building from a different angle than the one depicted in the watercolor I sold recently.  My intention is to study the details better, and become better versed in the technical names for the architectural elements peculiar to this building.

I am going to add this to my growing list of New Year Resolutions: draw more, sketch more, and find a balance between writing and sketching in the same journal.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Inspiration for Sketching and Composition

December 4, 2013
Preparatory Studies for a New Watercolor

Preparatory Studies for a New Watercolor

Art lies behind the cloth of surface things, it is always deeper than appearance and must be delved for.  Within or about every living work of art, or thing of beauty, or fragment of life, there is some strange inner kernel which cannot be reached with explanations, clarifications, examinations, or definitions.  This kernel remains beneath, behind, beyond.  It is this dimensionless particle which lives, beathes, and means.  It is this living particle which makes art mystical, unknown, real, and experienceable.

The best way to talk about art is to work.  The best way to study art is to work.  The best way to think about art is to work.  art is to work hard and one day it may become art and you may discover the artist that you are.

Richard Pousette-Dart

After two extensive visits to the Dallas Museum of Art to view the new Hopper Drawings exhibit (http://www.dallasmuseumofart.org/View/FutureExhibitions/dma_507810), I am still vibrating with newfound energy and a renewed sense of joy about making art.  One primary element that’s been missing from my work over the years has been the discipline of sketching and compositon in preparation for my finished paintings.  Naturally when I watercolor en plein air I go directly to the painting with just enough pencil work to provide a scaffolding for the watercolor sketch.  But when I work on a serious studio painting, I usually go directly at it with a pencil to sketch in the structure of the painting.  I have not had the discipline or interest to do thumbnail sketches and compositional studies.  And I have always been bothered by this.

My colleagues at Arlington Martin High School, Dan Darr and Patrick Schneider, are excellent draftsmen, always sketching, always drawing seriously, filling up sketchbooks as fast as I fill up journals with my scribbled thoughts.  I have twins in my Advanced Placement Art History classes this year who are continually drawing in their Moleskine journals as well as taking notes.  Daily I see them bent over their work, and am inspired to follow suit.  A fellow artist/blogger, Corey Aber (http://coreyaber.wordpress.com/), is a master sketcher, and I am always moved at the sight of his prolific output.  I have been an admirer of Leonardo da Vinci throughout the years because he went back and forth between writing and drawing in his sketchbook journals.  History is replete with authors who filled journals and artists who filled sketchbooks, but how many Leonardos have there been?  For several decades, I have marveled about this, yet I keep my journal activity separate from my art activity, and as said earlier, have done very little sketching over the years.

Last night, I sat down to do some serious sketching, and continued during my breaks at school this afternoon.  I am making preparation for another mid-sized watercolor of a service station from the 1950’s and am excited about getting this one right.  Taking a page from Edward Hopper, I started with some thumbnail preliminaries (not posted) and then moved on to some larger tonal sketches, using a dark sepia Faber-Castell pencil.  I thoroughly enjoyed poring over the composition and making decisions of where to place objects, where to deepen the shadows, where to place mid-tones, etc.  I got lost in the study.  I feel that I am nearly ready to begin the painting.  And I am very enthused about this new direction and where it could take me next.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.