Sunday, April 25, 2010

Floating Heads in Jeopardy

Ah, the plight of men! There they are, prisoners of the mall, with nothing to do but wait. What diabolical plan has brought them to this acre? And what, if anything, can they do about it? Alas, there is nothing, nothing at all. There is nothing at all to do but wait.

But I am not like other men. When I began to turn yellow in Marshall's, my wife released me with a nonchalant wave of her hand. "Now you can sketch!" she proclaimed, and I rushed to where the other men were waiting. My only fear was that my wife (or that their wives) would return before I was done.

It is hard to match the challenge of sketching people in public. When I began, I would sketch only their heads. I knew I should sketch more, but I wasn't fast enough and lacked the skill to draw the body. I called them "floating heads" as you can see in one of my earlier posts here.

Gradually I got better, and was able to bring in bodies that were at first too small for the heads, sure - but they were bodies - and then the environment where they stood or sat. But the character of the faces was my starting point, and I remain fascinated with them. Often I have to restrain myself from drawing the face before the body because of this.

Besides public places, there is only one place that I've found that comes close to matching the excitement of drawing faces in public, and that is in front of the tv during the game show "Jeopardy". I've taken to grabbing my Moleskine at the start of the show, and sitting with pen poised.

As each contestant gives a response, I draw what I can, and add to it with each successive question. So I might have A respond to the first, and draw a nose; B respond to the second, and draw an ear; and then A, and then C, and so on, so that I am darting back and forth between contestants on the page.

The bonuses, for me, are the "Daily Doubles" where the camera stays on the person for longer. Obviously, you have more time to sketch the contestants that respond to more clues. I have been left more than once with a poor contestant who lost more than the game: he or she appeared in my Moleskine with nothing more than the impression of a nose and part of an eye because there was not enough camera time.

Anyway, I think "the Jeopardy Challenge" is a great exercise for honing sketching and observational skills. I do not worry about likenesses. If my drawing looks like the contestant when I am done, all the better, but I just want them to look human. This is calisthenics, only a lot more fun.

Here is the first Jeopardy page I did (except for the side-view of the girl - she was drawn in public). I only recently colored it. I used the opportunity to experiment with skin tones and different techniques for painting skin.

I try never to leave the house without my Moleskine and pen although I must admit that sometimes I get tired of the same sized page, and the precise character of the pen. So the other day, I was delighted to go to an Italian restaurant with a paper tablecloth and crayons! There is nothing better than crayons.

There was an elderly man. (I discretely moved the plate over the picture when he walked by my table as he left, because there was a definite likeness):

Then a woman sitting at the table just in front of me. I think this was the best drawing of the meal:

And the drawing of another woman - doesn't look a bit like her. But she's in my universe now - and in my universe, this is what she looks like!

The waitress gave us a big smile each time she came by - I'm convinced she thought I was nuts. But she didn't say anything, so I gave her a big tip.

Great art? Nah. Great fun? Definitely! Every restaurant should be set up like this, don't you think?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

In Memory of Taylor Nicole

This year my daughter Taylor would have been sweet sixteen had things been different. But she was born with a defective heart. Despite heroic efforts on the part of the medical team at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and a successful heart operation, her lungs would not adjust to the corrected blood flow.

My wife and I were changed by her short life. There was beauty, and there was horror. We were enriched, and we were broken.

This year during a Spring cleaning, I found a poem that I wrote on May 10, 1994, within a month of Taylor's death. It is raw, and speaks of the separate struggles that my wife and I had to endure. People cope and mourn in altogether different and sometimes seemingly incompatible ways. That we grew to understand this was the reason, I believe, that we survived the loss as a couple, when many under similar circumstances do not.

Until this poem was found, nobody - not even my wife, had read it. The last line of the poem seems to point towards where we are today: we find much to appreciate and enjoy about our lives. I was tempted to extend the line length, and change a few words here and there, but it is probably better to present it as it was written.

So let this poem be a tribute to Taylor's memory, and a testament to all who lose a loved one and especially a child, that you can and will make it beyond the loss, with time.

In memory of Taylor Nicole Kent
(March 11, 1994 to April 18, 1994)

Sweet angel,
The family trembles.

Rocks crumble
Beneath your short existence,
In aftershock.

The mother's dream
Slips through
Trembling hands.
The father drops to his knees
To recover what he can.

Time falls heavenward.

Lifelong companions
Amidst merciless rapids,
Unable to grasp one another,

The mother drowns in
Your assaulted purity:
In you, the candle,
The innocent flame,
To pieces;
In you, the baby's breath,
By her own traitorous

The Father is dragged
Downward; his kicks,
His struggling arms,
Amount to nothing;
He breathes alone.
He buries himself in
All things living,
The pain of your absence
From them.

He enfolds himself
As a cocoon
Around your brother, and
He touches your mother
As a precious jewel.
Light, deflected
From the prismatic well,
Is dim,
But an occasional flicker
Or spark, makes him dare
To Hope.