Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I have a rule. When I don't like a picture I do, I usually don't tell you. This stems from my days in Toastmasters.

Toastmasters are a fine group of people. They remind me of the Everyday Matters group. This is because they are optimistic folks, all working towards the same goal, and encouraging and teaching one another other in a positive way. Only their goal, rather than perfecting their art, is to improve public speaking skills.

One day, just before I was to give a speech, I realized that in my rush to come to the meeting, I had put on one brown sock, and one blue. Never one to waste a laugh especially when it is at my own expense, I showed the group my feet and made some kind of a joke or another and got my laugh. It was great fun.

But the experienced Toastmaster that evaluated me (everyone is evaluated when they participate - that is how you improve) told me something I've never forgotten:

Don't tell us, and we will never know. Don't point it out, and we may never notice.

And that stuck with me.

I am my own worse critic. I am hard on myself, and see the smallest defects in my art. We are all like this.

The viewer of our art, though, sees what we do differently. It we put it out there, maybe they will like it, maybe they will hate it, but I'd place bets that if they hate it, its not because of the blotch in the corner that is driving us mad. It's probably some other reason altogether.

And if they like it - if they like what we have done - they probably don't notice the blotch at all.

And this is why I don't point it out.

But today I have the opposite problem. I am excited. I actually like this one. So do I tell you?

I sketched this one on a beautiful day in sunny Hollywood, Florida, at restaurant called La Piazza Pasta. It was February 7th, the last day of the magnificent Norman Rockwell exhibition at the Fort Lauderdale Museum. That was where we went next. (If it comes to your city - go!)

For a change, I wasn't alone when I did this sketch. I was with my wife and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. But it was such a beautiful scene that I had to pull out the pen and the Moleskine.

I tried to follow the conversation, I really did. I even tried to participate. And I only made them wait a short while until I finished when they were ready to go. When we left I snapped a quick photo with my cell phone so I would remember the colors.

Yesterday and today I painted it. I wanted to capture the outdoor light and the shadows. I wanted to be a bit playful with color. And I think I did it. And I'm thrilled.

So there's probably a "tooting your horn" rule too, one that I was never told (except by my mom). But I don't care. I'm feelin' good. To me, today, it feels like z'art!

Today my socks match!

What might tomorrow bring?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Getting a Few Z's (And 3 S's on Shadow Shot Sunday)

Jasper Johns is, of course, a famous artist. And at one point, he says, he made a decision to "stop becoming an artist and actually be one". At this point in my journey, that quote is meaningful to me.

The first anniversary of my blog just passed, on March 15th. And this past year in the blogosphere has been wonderful, thanks to all of you. I never imagined that such meaningful connections could be made over the internet, and that I could learn so much from so many. It has accelerated my progress in art and given me much joy. Thank you so much for that.

And the journey continues. I am not sure of the placement of the line between becoming and being. A student, of course, is always learning, but a dynamic artist is learning as well. When does one stop becoming, and start being an artist? What do you think?

One wonderful thing that I am doing now is creating a good working space in my home for the creation of art. Yes, that's right - a studio. I had planned to have this done by the end of this month, but the end of April is more realistic. And that will be good.

I watch "Morning Joe", the news program on MS-NBC with Joe and Mika. Sometimes, Mika's father, the former United States National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter appears as a guest.

Everyone treats him with great deference. His name is Zbigniew Brzezinski.

He has gravitas. Besides having a wonderfully learned accent, he has z's all over his name and in odd places. This adds to has stature.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think having z's scattered throughout your name creates a great advantage for anyone in any field, not just political science, but also literature, and the arts. Having that final letter appear somewhere in your name can create all of the difference between respect and oblivion.

I believe, then, that to be rather than become, it would jump start the entire affair if I simply change my name from Dan Kent, to Dzan Kzenski.



Of course my name wouldn't be unpronounceable, like the name of Zbigniew Brzezinski or the name of God, for example, but that would keep my feet on the ground.

Zbigniew Brzezinski also has three z's. I would have only two. I would be important and humble - the best of both worlds.

There is zen in Kzenski.

I am not, of course, Dzan Kzenski. I am merely Dan Kent. But it helps that Ramona has awarded me a Kreativ Blogger award, and I thank her for that. There are certain obligations that come with the award that I will fulfill in another post.

In the above drawing, I drew the family eating dinner at one restaurant, the surroundings at another, and the trees at a third. The above picture was a painting adventure for me, and I believe I have managed to smooth some bumps in the road, while creating a few others. That is learning, I guess.

If I can't get a few z's, I can at least have three S's. For Shadow Shot Sunday, I contribute the following:


A somber note and message: On the Everyday Matter Posts, it was announced that Danny Gregory, the creator of Everyday Matters, who has greatly enriched so many lives including mine, has tragically lost his wife, Patti.

To Danny: I feel for you and your son, and wish you solace in the wake of this tragic loss. You have spread the gift of joy, wonder and hope to so many, myself included. I hope that each of us can convey just a bit of that back to you, to help you through these difficult times, so that you can know that the thoughts and best wishes of the entire Everyday Matters Group are with you and your family.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Trade Secret

This is the University Chicken Grill. There are good chicken wraps and chops there. The grill is across from the University of Miami, and the seats there are Orange and Green.

Color is important.

As Myrna Wacknov (a very talented and adventurous artist) taught me, learned treatises have been written on color. And I've absorbed just a fraction of what I need to know.

So how does an artist choose colors? I know that for most works I scrutinize my colors and try for balance across the page.

For this one I had trouble deciding what color to paint the jacket of the blonde woman on the left. But ultimately my decision was made. And I'd like to give you a glimpse into my process.

I painted part of this at the Chicken Grill itself. But parts were painted elsewhere as I was sitting at a booth at another restaurant. And as I was painting, a young girl, curious and fearless, about 7 years old, walked up to me and asked if she could see what I was doing. So I showed her this page of my watercolor Moleskine, and some other works-in-process. Her parents looked on nervously, so I gave them a reassuring smile. Satisfied, the girl walked back to them.

About ten minutes later she came back, with her younger brother in tow. He was about 5.

"Can I watch you paint?" the girl asked.

"Why sure!" I said.

"Oh boy!", said her younger brother. And as the girl leaned over to see, her younger brother hopped up on the booth seat next to me to watch as well.

"And it has to be red!" said the boy.

And that's how I chose the color.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A NEW BLOG!! (for Two and for You)

I, no WE, have a NEW BLOG! And for the blog I bought a brand-spanking new large watercolor Moleskine sketchbook. On the very first page I painted the above picture. And today I am going to stuff it in an envelope, and mail it 1100 miles away to Raena.

When it arrives, Raena is going to open that envelope. Then she will draw or paint something else on the same page - whatever else she wants - and she can paint over and around or on top of what I did if she wants, and she can use any medium she feels like. And then she is going to mail it back to me! Then I will work on the page some more.

We are going to mail that Moleskine back and forth and back and forth .. and work on that one and only page until one of us declares it done! Whoopee!

And then we will go to page 2.

In this way we both hope to improve and challenge ourselves. We are going to post the results at our NEW BLOG and both of us are quite excited about this. Our Blog is pronounced Two and Fro. Well, actually, we want to be we call it 2'nfro. Cool, huh? And you can find it here.

We want to post everything we do in the Moleskine in one place because you are so much a part of what motivates us. And we would love for you to come along as each page progresses over time. It will be a leisurely endeavor, perhaps a post a month, I am guessing. So please .. please go over to 2'nfro, and say that you'll follow us, please?! Both Raena and I will so appreciate it.

This is not an original idea. We both, some time ago, saw a blog where two professional illustrators did this - one was in Europe and the other in the US. Raena and I, of course, are not professionals, and we are both on a single continent (she is in Houston, and I am in Miami).

But we are 1100 miles apart, and have never met except in this virtual reality, and most of all WE TRY HARDER!

I would love to link to that earlier blog to show you all of the possibilities, but darned if I haven't lost track of it. (If any of you know of it and can provide the link, that would be great.) As I recall, they had already completed their sketchbook by the time I got wind of it.

But a good idea is worth repeating, don't you think?

It's funny, but I already think the new blog has helped my art. It's certainly got me thinking. I didn't want to mail just anything to Raena. After all, she was going to see it in person. And that meant something to me, in itself.

This picture is from a photograph that I snapped on my cell phone. I saw the woman standing in front of the most beautiful silver bus but something about her and the dogs struck me. So I stood in front of my car and pretended to text. Thumbs moving, I snapped her picture. And she smiled at me. I think she may have known what I was doing, but didn't seem to care.

The cell phone isn't the best camera around. But digital is amazing. Although she wasn't close, I can zoom and crop and then blow it up so I can see it in all its glory on my monitor. And if a photo isn't perfect, all the better, because my art abhors precision. But using the photograph was interesting for me. I spend so much time sketching in public places, that with time to study the shapes and values I am very pleased with the result. (The scanned image is a touch disappointing - the colors are more subtle in the original. The dog on the right has a slight blue tint to the grey, and the outfit on the lady is a bit less bright, more maroon.) Anyway, I hope to do more like it.

And now a solemn moment. In honor of the new blog and the new Moleskine I decided to take my Lamy Safari, with its black Noodlers Ink, out of retirement. Its nib was a bit wider than that of the .005 point of the Pigma Micron that I'd been using - another fine, though less expensive, pen.

But I had forgotten. Forgive, me, my Lamy, I had forgotten..

Ode to the Lamy

Oh, Glorious Lamy.
Your Line is So Smooth.
Your Line flows like a river.
Meandering wider and thinner, you Draw
Like no other pen that I have ever known.
Oh, Glorious Lamy,
I never again will forget.

That said, I am so pleased that I decided to draw with the Lamy. I took a risk, and drew pen to the paper with no pre-drawing, figuring that I do that all the time anyway. And the pen felt so good in my hand.

Kathy recently had an interesting post on collaboration, and to read the comments on the post, artists have had mixed experiences. But I am excited about this one, and I know Raena is too. And our hopes are modest. We merely want to improve and then improve and then improve, and then ultimately conquer the art world. That is all.