Archive for September, 2013

Cultivating the Sketching Habit

I’ve recently become a lot more disciplined in doing regular sketches of images that I find interesting for whatever reason. When I was a kid, or a teenager, it was a natural thing to just pick up a sketch-book and treat whatever I saw. I sort of lost that habit in the business of being an adult. Now, as I am producing more lately, large complete works, it’s all the more detrimental to maintain regular practice sketching small ideas and things that I may want to turn into larger complete works.

So, I came across the following Reuters photograph in the NYT (photo by Rebecca Cook): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/27/us/300-million-in-detroit-aid-but-no-bailout.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

I started with a pencil, and quickly realized what I thought was going to be a quick sketch was actually a very complicated and difficult image to reproduce. There was so much texture to this photo, from the over-grown grass, to worn brick, to wispy clouds. I actually put a couple hours into this over a couple days.

This gets to why doing regular sketching is important. There was a lot of problems to solve with this image, a lot of challenges to it too. This is how being twenty years into taking art seriously, I am still learning and not stagnating. Enjoy:

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Continuing on the sketching habit, I was immediately charmed by this image in the NY Times. This is Arline L. Bronzaft. She’s described in the NY Times article as a “environmental psychologist.” This fiery little woman has been a consultant to NYC mayors for decades now, she essentially busies herself with reducing noise problems in one of the most bustling urban environments in the world.

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Photo and article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/07/nyregion/arline-bronzaft-seeks-a-less-noisy-new-york.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

So, continuing the tirade with sketches from photos credited to the New York Times, I did this photo from the paper of virtuoso Pipa player Wu Man,

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I did a bit more sketching last night. I am trying to draw out some ideas for the small works I talked about in the “Small Works” Blog.

The first draws from “Right Woman…” by Degas. I was doing a class demonstration and realized this pose has some pretty serious challenges in it. So, I brought the image home to work it again: 

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These poses of young girls come from two separate works by Edouard Manet: (“Old Musician,” and  “St-Lazaire” respectively):

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Another New Work (Time Spent With Lesser Evils)

So, I started a new abstract piece, I just realized now, I had started it November of last year.

For a while I had considered it done, and gave it a place on my wall in the kitchen.

It started life, almost a year ago, looking like this:

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Eventually, a portion of the canvas looked like this:

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Then it sat on my wall for many months. Very lately (as in last night) I decided I needed to re-work it. Although I considered it done, there were places the while of canvas peeked through the paint. It was too reliant on a yellow ochre and red scheme that my paints trend towards without my total consent. Parts of it had gotten too blended with umber and red. I wanted to work it again so I did.

Here’s the re-finished, finished painting as of last night, drying:

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I am still unsure whether or not to call this one done. Am I done beating up on this canvas? I don’t know yet. I am going to give it a couple days.

I also did not name or date this piece. I am trying to come up with a fitting name. Normally I reference something going on in my life in titles. So, I’m thinking about that bit of it…

PS: just for fun. An old iMac sits several feet away from my easel, and became collateral damage in the process of painting last night:

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Update: as of 12/27, while I was scrambling to have things to exhibit, I decided on a title of this piece. A frind had suggested time ought to be a theme. The challenge with titling abstract works, is you want to be creative without being over-the-top. You also want it to logically register to whoever is viewing a piece. It’s hard to choose a title that makes sense with the content of an abstract piece. A friend suggested “time” as a theme. I ended up calling it “Time Spent With Lesser Evils”

“Years Later, I Stopped Looking for Places to Hide From Her”: Session 1

I started a new work today. The image comes from this sketch, which is a pencil drawing I did from a photo by photographer Clifford Richards of the Steven and Harriette Meyers House. The Meyer’s Residence was once a stop on the underground Railroad, and a local organization is currently fundraising to renovate the house and make it a historical site and cultural center. It is located on Livingston Ave in Albany:

Here is my beginning sketch (with my prompt for the larger piece, which I will talk about in a moment):

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Now, I have always believed that as an artist, one needs to find a way to connect to the emotional content of the work you are creating. Since pre Civil war as an era of history is a little beyond the scope of my experience, I used a prompt to get me thinking about the piece. The title refers to a period in my early twenties when I had to withdraw from school to tend to my health. At the same time, a pretty serious relationship had ended, and my former fiancee had made some pretty wild accusations about my behavior. As a result of that I developed a strangely specific anxiety about meeting my former partner in public places. I began mistaking almost any petite girl with dark hair that bore a passing resemblance for my former partner. Agoraphobia, if you call it that, or any related phobia of that sort is pretty balls. Panic attacks suck.

The prompt may be about a pretty dismal time in my life, but it’s hopeful, because it suggests that that fear passed with time.

Anyway, before the picture of my first session with the piece: I needed to let the first coat of paint dry before I continued to build the colors. I made the pitch of the stairs less steep, and opened up the fore-ground (see original sketch). I hope to continue to work on this piece throughout the week. If I make some progress, I’ll share it here:

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The work is large, acrylic on canvas. It is very much a work in progress.

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So, session two. I am building the colors and darkening the painting. I feel like the contrast has to be made even greater. Here is the work after session two:

 

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