Sunday, January 29, 2012

God Save the Queen's Lace

 This wasn't the post I expected to write, but Mari (MJ) Brown of Colour Blob Design posted her photograph of a Queen's Anne Lace here and said the magic words "you can use it" and "I would love to see what and how you would create it on paper."

So today, when I was going to be out and about and it looked like I would have some time to paint, I quickly printed her photograph and took it with me.

Now, I don't know what Queen's Anne Lace is, and have no idea if I've ever seen it, so this was to be something like Durer sketching a rhinoceros.  Except I had a photo of course.

The photo brought to mind when I used to run around as a boy in the field behind our block.  There were small ankle-high scraggly weeds with tufts of cotton-like wisps that would sometimes catch a breeze and float in the air.  At least that's how I remember it.

That was how I saw this plant.  I could see the whole thing floating along in the wind.  I toyed with painting it that way.

So doing my due diligence, never having seen a Q.A.L. before, I used my cell phone to bring up images of Queen Anne's Lace.  There was momentary confusion when I saw beautiful small petaled white flowers.  There were none in the photo - but that's okay.  I had a photograph, and photos never lie, do they? 

So I painted my wispy Queen Anne's Lace.  I was very satisfied.  I am still satisfied.

But I had forgotten where Mari lives.  She is in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  She said it was a "fantastic winter day" when she took this photo.  It was -5 degrees Celsius (which is 20 degrees Fahrenheit) so what I took for cotton-like wisps were balls of ice!!  Those dark scraggly dead stalks were where the flowers should have been.

What do I know?  I'm a Floridian!

I spent more time trying to get the colors of my picture right on this darn monitor than painting the plant itself.  They still are not right, but as close as I can get.  The painting was too subtle.  I hope the feel of it has been conveyed to you anyway.

As you know, I love drawing people.  Then comes the time to paint, which I also love.  I had the sketch of the guy to the right in my sketchbook, and the other day another gentleman sat down in a small eating establishment in just the right spot -and he was involved in a conversation.  And the skin tones were just right.  There is no substitute for a live model.  I managed to finish before he got up to leave.

And it just so happens that as he was leaving, he glanced down at my sketch.  He was delighted!  He told me how much he liked it and proudly announced that he had a BFA from such-and-such a school and did computer animation!  That was the first time that anything like that had ever happened to me.  He was so awfully nice that I almost told him that the skin color on this man was his!  Then I thought that that bit of info might be better disclosed on another day.

The model for the sketch (not the painting) moved around a lot.  This accounts for the odd positions of the arms.  What is he doing?  I don't know!  Conjuring flowers?

What is he holding?  Beats me!  Is it a tv remote?  A Wii controller?  I hope not.

I think this is why artists say haughtily, "I leave it to the viewer to interpret my work."  [Clear throat].  So if you have any idea what he is doing, or what is in his hand, or what I can put in his hand, please let me know, dear viewer, because you know better than me.

A few days after painting that sketch I was at Einstein's Bagels, sitting outside, painting another of my sketches.  Another man walked by.  This guy got so excited and he too proudly announced his degree in art - such-and-such a school, and all that!  That's twice in one week!

He said, "I'd have expected you to be at a cafe', not here."

"I am. This is a poor man's cafe'" I said.  In fact, I added, "I've yet to see anyone else doing what I'm doing anywhere in Miami, have you?"

"Come to think of it, I haven't!" he responded.

So tell me, where are all the other Miami artists?  Why aren't they out and about sketching at every eating establishment like the artists in Toronto or in Portland?  Or in public with their easels? 

It's not as if the weather isn't good.  Right Mari?  Right?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Fish Story, Really

7" x 3-1/2" on Fabriano Artistico hot press
Now here's something different! Once upon a time, I did a very quick sketch in my sketchbook that came directly from my subconscious I think.  I thought it would make an interesting painting. You may remember that I posted the sketch here.

So I finally drew and painted this face based upon that sketch. It actually came out much as I'd envisioned it. Then I wondered what, if anything, I should do next.  What color should be used in the background?

I let the picture rest, and mulled it over. I toyed with making a softly colored background with texture. You can see my study for it below. Rather than the squares you see there though, I thought I could extend carefully selected swaths of color roughly along the lines I had drawn. Or even just one color.  Or hints of color along the lines, keeping mostly white.  But I have been hesitant to do any of it. I am concerned that adding more color will keep the face from standing out on the page.

What do you think? What would you do? I've left the white, but I can still change my mind, and very well might..that's the thing about white. 

This is my first post of the year. The end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 were full of happenings, both good and bad. I felt tossed about. That was not so good for my art or for this blog. Fortunately, the good was very good, and the bad, ultimately, not so bad, and I'm back.

The best of the best was the graduation of my son Ian from Georgia Tech with a Bachelors in Chemical Engineering. The word "proud" does not begin to describe my feelings. Congratulations, Ian! It's on to grad school now.

an ink sketch I made in GA
On the art front, I was a touch hard on myself. Ultimately two things freed me from my destructive thinking: First, a blog post at Zen Habits that I recommend, which is here, entitled, "The Best Goal is No Goal". It is freeing.

Second, I realized I was being too self-critical (a good trap for artists, I'd say). This realization came to me because of a man on tv talking about a fish. This gentleman, in a fine British accent, was extolling the virtues of the halibut. He went on and on. He said this fish was "noble" and was not like its "ugly cousins".


This gentleman did not have self-contemplation as a problem. So I needed to refocus my attention as well. It is the world that is my inspiration after all. I need to be outward looking.

So without further ado is this my quickly-penned ditty inspired by this gentleman (best read at a slow cadence in British English. You are a step ahead, if you already speak that way):

The halibut is a noble fish
Unlike his ugly flatfish cousins.
His eyes may migrate,
But he is ever faithful,
And though his eyes may roll,
The halibut is never haughty.
What can we do, but stand in awe
As we all hail the halibut, this
Helluva bit of a fish.

So if you ever have a creative block, come back to this post and read of the halibut, and you will be cured, I guarantee it.

No, you needn't thank me. It's my gift for the New Year.