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.



  1. You've made my day again, Dan. It is good to hear from you finally half way through this first month of 2012. I'm so glad the good was very good (congrats to your son) and that the bads weren't so bad.

    I like the picture with the black and white abstract as the background.

    I brought my pole and was hoping I could dig up some earthworms to use as bait,


  2. I wouldn't add anything to the background

  3. I wouldn't add anything to the background either, but what do I know, I can't draw a straight line. Congrats to you and your son, I know how proud you are feeling...3 times.
    Georgia Tech? My uncle was an Athletic Director there many years ago.
    And oh....

  4. Hi Dan! Happy new year to you as well! I love all your artwork keep up the good work!

  5. You are probably on to something if you worry that color will keep the face from popping out. You could put a plastic sleeve over the painting to protect it and try laying some color onto the plastic. That would help you to see what might happen.

    Great post. Love the Zen piece.

  6. Your painting is perfect as it is, I think colour in the background would do exactly what you're afraid it would do. I hope you have some more like this hidden in your subconscious!

  7. First of all, congratulations to your son, proud papa! Secondly, I really like where you've taken your sketch. As for the background, I'm a firm believer in trusting your gut. Thirdly, I really like the pen and ink sketch, also. Was it drawn during the commencement ceremonies? Fourthly, your extoll-ations on the halibut are fun. I love you're quirky sense of humor. Thanks for the smiles.


  8. Happy New Year, Dan ! And I'm glad to see you back (Thanks for your comments on my blog, too!)
    Congratulations on your son's success: that's a good way to start the year!
    As for the painting, I would leave it as it is, to keep the focus on the face !!
    Well done anyway and I 'm looking forward to more !!

  9. Many things to say, because as usual, your post is rich! First, congratulation to you and your son!
    Second, I love the cubic face, it looks awesome. Great graphic style and great choice of coloring. For the background you can scan your painting and try various colors with a software like paint or photoshop. Anyway, I think it's great in white, but maybe it could be neat with a pale blue or something else.
    Third, your ink portrait is fabulous. Beautiful face, wonderful linework.
    And finally, your poem is hilarious. I've been picturing that fish and delighting in those wonderful strange English words and really laughed. I've tried to say the poem but with my French accent, it loses a lot of its charm.
    Happy New Year to you!

  10. Yes, the background, as it is, seems to fit the feeling of the face. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Dan...I love the drawing as it is with the "Jetsons" graphic background, but you know best what to do. Trust your intuition. I love your signature too--it is very cool. Congratulations to you and your son, Ian. Huge Accomplishment! I think British people really love love love nature. When I visited England I turned the "telly" on and there was a man talking (incessantly) about "the brown hare". It was just like your halibut fellow--this man talked and talked about the brown hare and how it was not everywhere, as it once had been. "where IS the brown hare?" he kept asking. Your poem is a delight, as is your new 2012 work. I'm lookng forward to all your upcoming sketches!

  12. p.s. forgot to mention......the black and white profile is wonderful too!

  13. Hi Dan, Congratulations on your first posting for 2012! MOST festive! I liked both portraits and the watercolor piece. I think your background really works; creative! I like the slight changes in color on the portrait, reminds me of Cezanne. Hmmm, no goals ala may be on to something!

  14. Hello Dan,
    Blimey, I hope I can get this to post (having a lot of trouble with Blogger).
    Congratulations, I'm not surprised you are proud - tell him well done!
    I have to say I am quite sure that white is the background I would use.
    Great to see you up and blogging mate.
    Celeste, yes us English do love nature - nature is everything. I love hares and would love to draw/paint one. I was thinking of drawing a badger soon. Actually, maybe I should draw a halibut but I would need a snorkel and waterproof paper. I drew a stag last year and would like to do another at some point.

  15. Crickey...
    I have tried all kinds of things to get that last post up. Blogger keeps telling me my Wordpress site doesn't exist so I try the Name/URL option and it works.
    Oh well, good job I have no goals for 2012 (except me winning gold in every event at the olympics) or I could right now be having trouble posting to my own site.
    Can't wait for your next post Dan.

  16. Ah--I switched to a different computer; now I can comment. I like your tall head and love the simple background. To me it looks like it took many, many matches to light that cigarette--must have been windy.

    Congratulations, Dad, on your son's graduation.

    May the remainder of 2012 bring only good things; and many more blogs.

  17. The background of your elongated head reads mathematical to me. I think it looks like plus and minus and yields and less than signs. I like it. It makes me curious as to what it means. I'm curious about the halibut as well. He's loyal. He's faithful. But he rolls his eyes--not in a haughty, I'm-better-than-you way, more in disbelief and astonishment at seeing something just a little bit different. I'll settle for that interpretation. Congratulations on your son's accomplishment. What a proud father you are. Thanks again for your kind words. I intend to carry on and perhaps a bit more?

  18. "Enjoy the Now' is one of my mantras. That must be why I like your blog, you always seem to follow that idea.
    Great post.

  19. :) I like the white background and this slight crazy post. Good to see you in 2012.

  20. Thank you all so much for your comments! You have no idea how much they mean to me - you helped give me a lift in this New Year of challenges, and keep me motivated, for sure.

    It is true I am the artist, but so many of you said you liked the white, that I am going to keep it that way. But I am going to try something in a similar style again, and then we will see - maybe I will play, and use some of your suggestions on another piece.

    Vicki - Thanks for bringing your pole. There are no earthworms here, unfortunately. This is a clean site.

    Barbara - The great thing? Every piece I do is a zen piece. I am totally absorbed in the present when I do any art. Is that what makes me so darned slow??

    Cathy - I hope so too. I am stroking my muse's hair.

    Don - The pen and ink sketch was done from an old black and white video of a blues singer online. This woman was in the audience. When the camera panned over her, I had an intake of breath, and had to draw her.

    Kazumewannabe &

    Celeste - I heard a bald man say the same thing.

    Peggy - Cezanne?! I'll take that!

    Stew - Finally - an Englishman! Blimey & Crikey! I'm glad this passed your muster. Good luck with that badger!

    Hallie - A unique interpretation as always - lol! My god, I think you're right!

    Linda - The background means nothing - spontaneous doodles - this is my subconscious at work. Welcome! Or maybe it means everything..

    Sandra - I try, sigh, I try..

    Sue - Crazy? Crazy?! Well, only slightly. :)

    Your suggestions are great, by the way

  21. Whoops screwed up a bit - Kazumewannabe - that dropped comment is for you. Great suggestion - I need to learn how to use Photoshop better.

  22. I love this painting of the smoking dude. The colours in his face are great. The background is definitely working as it is. Perhaps he deserves a second painting (!) in which you can play around with the background. Either way, he's great.
    Have a great week,

  23. Congratulations on your son's matriculation from Georgia Tech... my daughter and son-in-law are also holders of Engineering degrees from that fine institution of higher learning :-)

    I LOVE your long faced... dude... since you have a digital copy of it try out different colored backgrounds with photoshop to see if you'll like them... and then finally just DO IT... it's only paper and paint after all, and you can always make another one.

    Good to see you back online... sorry I didn't notice your post for so long...

  24. I had to come by to tell you I listened to the radio interview of Ric Nagualero. Thanks for telling me about it. From what I gathered he started out on FB and from there his career took off. I visited his page and befriended him, not that that means anything except his acceptance of my friendship gave me faster access to his work, which is quite beautiful. Thanks again Dan.

  25. Wonderful post! I am trying the no goals attitude too, and it is very freeing. I love seeing your work and like the painting just the way it is. Congrats to your son!

  26. Nora - That is such a great idea!!

    Captain - Go Jackets!! Only paper and paint, only paper and paint, only paper and paint - I have to keep telling myself that one..thanks for the advice.

    Linda - Great! I was afraid you weren't going to listen. I am not where you are yet (though I hope to be soon), but I get great joy listening to these podcasts. Just heard another this morning. Someday I will have to go back and take notes. There is so much there.

    Thanks Ann - I am trying the no goals attitude - not sure I am there yet though.

  27. Dan, first...congratulations on your son's graduation. We all know that they don't do that entirely on their own.
    Secondly, your humor in your writings makes me want to read and see more, you are a talented soul!

  28. That ink sketch is amazing! And I really like that Arnold Schwarchzeneger look-alike too =)

  29. If you're still thinking about painting the background, how about a soft green, like the little green section on his neck? I think it would be complimentary to the peachy pinks in his face. Know what I do when I'm thinking about a colored background? I take a sheet of clear mylar and put it over the painting and paint on the mylar to try out the color.