Saturday, June 27, 2009

Trees Don't Move

They just won't stay still, will they? If it's not a hand, it's a head. If it's not their legs, it's their arms.

Or they'll leave. They'll just leave! Then what? What do you do with that half-drawn nose on the blank page? What then, huh?

The nerve of people.

Why can't they just stay put?

Now trees, that's another matter. Trees are calm. Trees have dignity. Trees are patient, and they'll pose for me.

So let's salute our friends the trees, who are there when the people fail us.

Upper right gentleman with Pilot Precise V5; all other drawings: Lamy Safari with Noodlers ink, the last two with watercolors, in a Moleskine

Monday, June 22, 2009

90+ Degrees and Sketching to the Finish Line!

On Saturday morning I was waiting for a doctor's appointment and I thought, "Why not step outside into the parking lot, target some trees, and try to do a quick sketch in ink and watercolor?" (And I'd meet Everyday Matters Challenge no. 15 - Draw a tree or trees, leaves or branches.)

I am amazed at how portable watercolor is, and I am falling in love with the medium. I am determined to learn to use it well, so of course I must practice and use it in different ways.

It was like a race: the time of the appointment, my finish line. How much should be in ink? How much watercolor? Where to apply the colors? Go, go, go!

So, as always inspired by Nina Johansson, and more particularly for this sketch by her latest post, I gave it a try, and this is the result. And I'm moderately pleased, although it is clear that I have so many more races to run. But I think I learned a few things.
I especially like this section:

So did I mention I live in Miami, and that it was at least 90 degrees outside? When I was done, in time for the doctor, it looked like I had just run the marathon.

But what a moment! I crossed that finish with hands held high (and a brush in one of them).. And while I wasn't anywhere near first place, I wasn't last either.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

On Target: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes & Father's Day Thoughts: On Being a Father

At the Supertarget at the counter in the eating area, my target was a blonde girl with an unusual outfit: she wore a white medical jacket, a black baseball cap, long black pants and black sneakers. She also had a small black purse - I guess you could say that the purse matched the outfit. She didn't see me drawing her, and I had plenty of time. She left when I was leaving.

This sketch in public is a step forward for me in a few ways: First, I think it is the first time in a restaurant environment that I managed to draw an entire person. Woohoo! Second, I applied all of the watercolors, there, on site. For me this is very new. I have only just begun using colors in my sketches.

Lamy Safari with Noodlers ink and watercolors in a Moleskine

This drawing meets Everyday Matters challenge no. 36 - Draw out in Public. While I have drawn in public many times before, drawing in ink and then applying watercolor on site, and actually completing the person, makes me grab this challenge like a prize!

It's just a few hours till Father's Day, so please excuse me while I depart from the usual subject of art, and indulge in some fatherly rambling and occasional bragging about my sons (as this doddering old fool will sometimes do). Before I begin I will mention that because it is Father's Day, the boys' mother is not mentioned. This is, of course, a crime, because their mother, my wife, is wholly dedicated to her boys in every way possible. She worries more than I do, feels more than I do, works more than I do, and loves the boys with every ounce of her soul. But, sorry mom, it is Father's Day. Crime committed.

My oldest son, Ian, age 19, has never been so far away from us before. He is in college majoring in chemical engineering, and for a semester he is studying abroad in France and exploring Europe. What a young man he has become! Besides doing very well in school (his job, I know, but he does his job well), he has come to be a responsible, self-reliant, honest, moral, and self-reflecting individual. I could not be more proud than to have Ian as my son. I miss him, and look forward to stealing what time I can with him during the week between semesters. (Yes, and though written in the third person, this message is for you, Ian. I love you.)

My youngest, Matthew, is 13-years-old, and of course he is still at home. What is unusual is that he will probably always live at home. He will not read this post. Matthew is autistic.

Matt has taught me more about what it means to be a father than I ever knew that there was to learn. He is a constant challenge. Still, he is always moving forward, though slowly. Since for many parents of autistic children, there is no progress at all, this is a blessing. It gives me some hope. He tests the limits of my abilities and dedication, but he has taught me to be more even-tempered, more patient, and more empathetic. In sum, I am a better person because of Matthew. Most of my worries are for Matt - who he will become, what he can accomplish, what life he can live - but with all of the complexities that is Matthew in sum, life is richer for having him as my son.

Being a father is not unique. Everyone on earth has had a father, of course. But for me, fatherhood is rare. And it is precious.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Screws in Space

Everyday Matters Challenge No. 226 -
Draw a Screw.

Screws falling. Better.

Screws plummeting into Earth's atmosphere from outer space. That's it!

Screwy, I know. But Fun.

This drawing is based in part on a great photograph, "Floating Screws", taken by Alceu Bap and found here.

ink, watercolor pencil, and yellow highlighter on small Moleskine page

Saturday, June 13, 2009

So What If I Can't Dance?!

If you live in Miami like I do, unless you live in a cave (and there are no caves in Miami as far as I know), you will be invited to a Quince. A Quince is the enormous party that occurs when a young lady turns age 15. She is the center of attention. She dances with her father and her grandfathers, gives flowers to her mother and grandmothers, toasts are made, and she dances with her "Court" composed of her many friends in a choreographed, well-rehearsed routine. Dinner is served, alcohol flows (for those of us somewhat beyond 15), and there is dancing. It is a big bash.

Last night was the Quince of Christine Alvarez, and it was a beautiful affair. We dined, we drank, and well, I danced once - if you could call that dancing. But I was not a wallflower. I pulled out my new watercolor Moleskine and kept busy with my new Lamy Safari pen with Noodlers Ink. I tried to capture the scene in the way I have seen others do. This is, I suppose, the first time that I have ever memorialized an event in a drawing.

So far I love my Lamy Safari - it is great for sketching in ways that the technical pen is not. And it is waterproof, so today I could add color to my sketch. I'd say that this drawing meets Everyday Matters Challenge no. 129 which is "Draw People Doing Something" (which sounds to me like a topic from "Wheel of Fortune" where a category might be, say, "Thing", but it's good enough for me.)

When I completed the drawing, I felt limber. Ready to go. I pulled out my other Moleskine, the one for sketches, and started furiously sketching a few folks dancing. I was almost scrubbing the page. It was interesting though - this time the Lamy Safari did not seem to keep up. I think that maybe the frenetic strokes do not suit the instrument. In fact, the ink started flowing erratically. This fit the drawing just fine, but had me a bit concerned about the pen. Today, at home, I decided that I wanted some color behind the figures. I tried to lay a wash with watercolor but on this smooth paper with no teeth, the result was uneven and rough.

Wrong pen. Wrong paper. Erratic ink flow. Patchy color. But somehow it was just right for what I was trying to convey. Two wrongs, in this case did in fact equal a right. (Or so I would like to believe). This drawing meets Everyday Matters challenge no. 155, "Draw something with a step or steps", because all dances have steps, right?

This morning, my Lamy Safari wouldn't work at all. This is my first fountain pen, and I know nothing about fountain pens. The ink cartridge was nearly full. I filled it the rest of the way anyway. I tried to remove any air bubbles by pouring out a few drops of ink. Finally I blew into the top part of the pen. Voila! It worked. Go figure.

If any of you folks out there think you know what happened, I'd appreciate your input. Will a Lamy Safari only tolerate sedate sketching? Did I do anything to cause the problem? What, in fact, was the problem? And what did I do that fixed it, for heavens sake? For the record, I still love my new Lamy Safari.

Finally, under the heading "drawing in public" - this week I have sketched in ink and colored the drawing with watercolor on site for the first time, at a Quiznos sub shop. Another head, of course (I am always drawing heads).

It is an interesting change, drawing in ink with the goal of applying color. I am testing the waters as to how much detail to include.

First efforts, but I am always looking forward..

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I am Edison, yeah, that's it, Edison

Here are a few past drawings from my sketchbook, from Flickr photographs.

One in pencil:

And one in pen:

Thomas Edison tried thousands and thousands of filaments before he found the right one for his light bulb. I am heartened by that, because lately I have had mostly failed experiments.

But I haven't yet blown up the lab and that is good.

Here is one, below, I guess. My most valued critic says that it is hard to tell what the colors in the background represent (it is a very close mountain peak, so there is no sky or mountain shape to clue the viewer). This is true. She says it is a boring subject, and that it looks like two twigs on a field of blue. Yes and yes. And that it's been done before. Certainly. But I kind of like it, and I promised to share the journey, so here it is. And did I mention that I kind of like it?

There have been some beautiful monotypes posted on the Belinda Del Pesco Fine Art Blog lately. I have no access to a press or anything of the kind, but I decided to try to achieve the same sort of effect with watercolor pencils and this was the result. It's not a monotype, so I'll call it a zerotype. Why not? It is based upon a beautiful photograph taken by my son, Ian, in North Carolina a few years ago.

6-5/8" x 10-3/8", watercolor pencil on 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper