Sunday, February 27, 2011

All About Me

One thing that was a bit tough to get used to when I first started this blog was that whatever I might do, this blog is about me - my thoughts, my art. I was not used to publicly displaying anything about "me", and even more disconcerting, with a blog you must have an AVATAR.

I love the word AVATAR. According to, avatar means:

1. Hindu Mythology . the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape; the incarnation of a god.

2. an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life.

It is a powerful word.

But for a blog, an avatar is merely, well, your picture.

So I was a bit shy for my first avatar. It was a cartoon I had drawn of myself painting. A cartoon is friendly, and anonymous.

But then as I got to know other artists online, and knew what they looked like, I felt like I was hiding. So I impulsively ripped off the mask by using my cell phone to take a picture of myself, and used that as my new avatar. Some folks missed my cartoon image, and so did I.

This is especially true since my wife and my mother both repeatedly told me that my new avatar was a terrible picture, and didn't look like me. I didn't get around to changing it though.

So this week Alex was kind enough to draw a picture of Raena and I as a tribute to our joint blog, 2'nfro. The only thing was that he used that very bad photo (which was about, what 1/2" x 1/2"?). He did an excellent drawing of a horrible photo. You can see it here.

Serves me right.

Then my wife told me that his drawing looked just like me! You figure it out.

So it is time to change the avatar. This time I chose a picture that looks better than I probably look 90% of the time. This is, I suppose, how it should be for THE INCARNATION OF A GOD anyway. I was very relaxed when the picture was taken, on vacation out of state, and watching my oldest son, Ian, play guitar.

But enough about me..

The first step, so to speak, in the Everyday Matters challenges is to "Draw a Shoe". One day when I was feeling frustrated I decided to start with number 1 of the EDM challenges by drawing my wife's boots, and work forward; but although you could say I have discipline of a kind, it is not that kind. Drawing pictures in order just "ain't my thing."

So I let the ink drawing of the boots lie for a while, and this week I colored it. It is at the very top of this post. I decided to experiment with the background, with colors and "technique" - there is wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry, drybrush, glazing, scraping, scrubbing, I used sandpaper on one part, and Mr. Clean Magic eraser on another, and lord knows what else. If anyone has ever told you that dark watercolor colors cannot be erased (or at least lightened substantially), they haven't tried Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (which must be used gingerly or the paper will be destroyed.) I got this tip from David Lobenberg, an excellent artist, whose blog is here, and who was kind enough to e-mail me when I asked how he made a sizeable dark portion of a rather large watercolor literally disappear! I didn't use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to erase, but rather to lighten a dark that was too prominent. It did leave a sort of soft penumbra though where I did it.

I got tired of all of the squares, and introduced a diagonal. Boredom helps sometimes, but sometimes it does not. I'll let you decide whether it did in this instance. One option would be to trim this picture down to eliminate the diagonal (see on the right). The boots would become more centered, but then the picture would be an irregular size, and I try to avoid that. The background would be more uniform. Which do you like better? Why?

I know which I like better. The cartoon avatar.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

101st Reunion

Valentine's Day. It's a shame I guess, that many consider it to be for the young, and I can understand why someone in a settled relationship might not celebrate Valentine's Day. It is an expense for love already shown, hopefully many times over. And if the couple has children, no matter their age or distance, the couple's thoughts are often on them.

About a year ago I saw a remarkable photo on a blog - the embrace of a mother and daughter. It had been a surprise reunion; the daughter had arrived home without an announcement and somebody snapped the shot. I was astonished at the amount of emotion displayed by the mother's face even though so little of it was revealed. And I knew I would draw the embrace some day.

The other day I pulled this photo from a file and sketched it. I attempted to reach the author of the blog to get permission but it appears that her blog is no longer active and I have no name connected to the photo or the blog. If anyone knows the name of the blogger, please let me know so that I can make a proper attribution and contact her, if possible.

This sketch was done with my Lamy Safari and Lexington grey ink. I thought I'd try Lexington Grey, inspired by many of Nina Johansson's beautiful drawings - and was a little disappointed that the grey was so dark. It still looks like a black to me. Still I love my Lamy, and I like the way the ink looks on paper.

A corner of my heart belongs to the readers of this blog, and to my artist friends on line, and the Everyday Matters Group. My last post was my 100th post. That means that this is the first of my second hundred. And that is only because of you. You have greatly enriched my life and I will be forever grateful.

So Happy Valentine's Day to you!

[4/16/11 - EDITOR'S UPDATE: I've just found out that the photo was of Linda from Quotidian Curiosities and her daughter. Thank you so much, Linda.! The link to her post with the photo is here. And she liked the drawing!]

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Doing the Reasonable Thing

I sketched this man at Balado Tire in Miami. He was waiting for his car, and I was waiting for mine. This was my first time at Balado Tire, a place that had been recommended to me. I was happy and a little surprised that I was able to communicate with the owner with no difficulty. The service was great, and the manager spoke English well.

I am one of the few people in Miami that speak only English. As of 2008, the percentage of English-only speakers was 27.2% of the Miami population. Now I am sure that it is much less.

So you may wonder how I get by.

My answer? Just fine, thank you very much. Here is an example:

The other day I went to Subway and ordered a breakfast sandwich. The lady behind the counter asked me a question in Spanish that I didn't understand. (She was apparently asking what kind of bread I wanted and listing choices, though I didn't know it at the time). I did the only reasonable thing. I said to her: "English, please."

And she got me an English Muffin.

Which was exactly what I wanted.

See? I get by just fine.

I know that the sketch of the man at the tire place looks like others I've done, but for me it is very different. It is much larger. Here you can see size comparison of this sketch to a sketch from an earlier post. It's funny, but the transition to a larger sketchbook has been more difficult than I'd imagined. I'd done larger works before - no problem. But apparently I've gotten used to sketching in public at a certain scale. So it's been like switching from racquetball to tennis - with a different length handle, I've been missing a lot of lobs.

It hasn't helped that I have been trying to improve my sketching of the figure. My proportions have been way off at times. So I did the only reasonable thing. I took out my ruler and I measured my wife. I recommend this. Measure your spouse or significant other. After that, do whatever feels right.

Proportions have always been a challenge for me. You need to have patience for proportions. And although I like to fancy that I am a zen master with all the ohmmms in place, it ain't always so. It's why I pretty much stay away from sketching architecture. It's why drawing and painting on Yupo, which is kind of like juggling with jello while ice skating, is the appropriate way for this artist to paint a building:

I strongly recommend that you be reasonable in all that you do - like me. But don't let anyone else's definition of reasonableness replace yours. If doing the reasonable thing means doing it like everyone else, then the only reasonable thing is for you to be unreasonable, si? Makes sense to me.