Thursday, March 31, 2011

Playing Hookey (Again)

Ok, I should be in the studio, but a warm sunny day in Nova Scotia in March is too precious to waste working, especially with bad weather promised for the next few days. So it was off to Duncan's Cove, where I hadn't been for maybe a decade.

The village itself is ratehr interesting - aside from the tasteless white monstrosity built out of an old WWII coastal defence tower (not shown, it really is absurd looking) - which consists of mostly older houses rebuilt in a variety of styles.

The view down the shore towards Ketch Harbour has that windswept barren sense more typical of Newfoundland than this lush (haha) province...

The trail is cut with gorges, which makes it rather unsuitable for children & old pets like Shorty:

There are also left over emplacements from WWII ( the little rectangle on the far left). I can't begin to imagine how miserable it must have been to be posted to these - open as they were to the weather.

And of course it's a great place to meet new friends, like Digby (who apparently owns a marine biologist/scientific editor...)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hanna, Unfortunate Wit

We have started putting together the poetry and drawings, if anyone wants one, let me know, they are giclee using Epson inks (we can print them currently up to 13"x19"). We start with a simple black and white, with a poem of hanna's I quite like...

Speaking of Poetry...

One of the places I like to go when troubled - and even when not - is Whitman, particularly his Song of Myself. It is a marvelous, expansive celebration of life in all its difficult contradictions summed up in the well known lines of verse 51:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

And then you get to a certain age, and other parts such as this (from verse 52) come into focus:

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow'd wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

Poetry, Art, and Odds & Ends

One of the reasons I like working with Hanna is that she brings many talents to this collaboration. One of those is poetry.

Drawing is often referred to as the "poetry of art"; I think there is also some truth in the converse: that poetry is the art of literature. It is written thought boiled down to its essentials. Like drawing, it is the simplest, most unadorned statement of fundamental beliefs about the world. When you read the work of an honest poet, just as when you look at an honest drawing, you are getting a glimpse of a very unprotected part of the creator's heart.

There's many forms of poetry, just as there are many forms of drawing. Some like elegance, some like meter & rhyme and formal construction; some like grand themes and some like looking at a blade of grass. It's all good, as long as it is honest.

Hanna has been brave enough to share some of her work with me; one of the surprises (though I guess it shouldn't be) is that her approach to writing is similar in many ways as mine to art; it's a reaction to, and an exploration of, experience. It's an attempt to grasp some little corner of beauty and understanding (and for me, real beauty is subjective, and comes through understanding) in a chaotic and often incomprehensible world.

So I have asked Hanna if I could illustrate some of her poems, and she has agreed. One of the things I have always liked is the combination of text and image into a single art form. In the ones I will be putting up(they are still in process) I work directly with her hand-written poetry - complete with crossings-out and rewriting; I find they work well with my drawings, complete with their erasures and re-drawings. You can't explore unless you are willing to take risks, and taking risks means falling down at times. But as Paula Smith (who suffered through several years of trying to teach me piano) used to tell me, "You have got to learn to play through your mistakes."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hanna Poetess

I worked up these charcoal sketches (alas, on newsprint) from photos for practice, but liked the result, particularly the first.

David Redux

Pushing the expressionism a bit (sorry David!)...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hanna Elsewhere

I went to the (roughly) biweekly drawing session run by Richard Rudnicki this morning at the Findlay Centre, and guess who the model was. Lots of new faces among the LDers, it's great to see renewed interest in life drawing in the area.

It's quite a different drawing in such a setting (compared with my tiny but much less formal studio) - especially working perhaps 10-12 feet from the model, rather than 5 or 6. But it's all good (the drawings, not so much).

After the gestures, Hanna took a seated, pretty formal pose. It's actually quite a difficult one to hold, and she did it well. But I wanted to concentrate on her face, which I have a hard time drawing.

The first view is from roughly her level:

but I made her face too squat. So I next moved down to working from the floor ( which I really like doing).

So now her face comes out too narrow. Somewhere there's a happy medium!

Both drawings are NuPastel on 24"x36", but I have cut them down to square to save pixels.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hanna Imperatrix

Some days just bring home how important the model is in figure work, and yesterday was one of them. Especially when one want to work not on the body as a design (i.e. a can of beans) but to visually understand and express the subject as a person. I think it's harder work for the model than the artist; the model after all has to take a relatively fleeting sensibility, form a pose around it, and then maintain it for a significant length of time - at least long enough for the slow work of the pastel.

But more difficult, I think, is that the model, when working like this, exposes much more than just their bits and pieces. We all have them and know what they look like, after all. But a great model is able to bring out her (or his) interior life, which few of us ever display openly, because it leaves us quite vulnerable. It's not unusual to find - at least in my generation - Prufrocks with an attitude that this is somehow immoral (or worse, those who doltishly snicker) - but apparently the feeling that this is indeed a brave act is more common among Hanna's friends. My vote is decidely with the younger crowd.

I stumbled across a Nietzsche quote the other day - that the basis of great art is gratitude. Now this isn't great art, but the same basis is there. Gratitude for all sorts of things - from being able to work with a great model to just being able to do this at all. And (of course) gratitude for those of you who have stopped by.

Anyway, enough words. The images from yesterday follow, they are all 24"x36", NuPastel on Kraft paper. They follow in the order in which they were done, pretty much in the way in which they were drawn. Fixes and formalization will come later. Which reminds me, re. the drawing method - I don't measure much (obviously) and I pick the colours somewhat intuitively. The idea is to try and keep it simple, to try and keep it free. And maybe with a little luck, come down where we ought to be.

Hanna started the session off a little tired and frazzled from another job, and settled into a relaxed, almost meditative pose.

Then something more languid and sensuous:

And finally, Hanna Imperatrix. I really wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of that glare.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hannan Exercises

Once again, it's back to drawing from photos to get my hand back under control. Like the Hanon Exercises for piano, the practice might be of dubious benefit, and it might not. The point is to have a little fun while building speed and accuracy.

We shot the photos during the drawing session Thursday, and I spent Friday & Saturday practicing. Today was supposed to be another practice day, but with sunshine & shirt sleeve weather in Nova Scotia - in March, no less! - well, self-indulgence won.

The drawings themselves take about 20 to 30 minutes. Ideally that should get down to 5 or ten. Still a ways to go. But it's a definite improvement from the time it used to take.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Monday Hanna and I worked on a really challenging pose - an awkward angle, lots of foreshortening - and I'm not going to put up anything until the drawings move beyond looking like a pile of tangled sausages.

But Monday night is time for drawing sessions DASL; this time with a new model, and a chance to relax...

Sometimes the best part of art

isn't the painting....

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hanna on the Phone

Hanna (alas) isn't available until Monday, so I'm taking a little time to start redoing sketches. This one is derived from the one put up two days ago; I quite liked the pose.

24"x36", NuPastel on Kraft paper.

While I had the camera out, I thought to reshoot the Hanna Prone (below). That one was taken at night, and I found the colour a little washed out. So here it is again:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hanna Over the Edge

The studio was cold again on Tuesday, so Hanna worked in a robe. She takes fascinating poses - she (generally) chooses the pose, and I the position to draw from. This one just seemed so organic and natural, it was a pleasure to work from.

Occasionally I ask her for a specific pose - this one is based on something that happened last week, when she took a call during one of the breaks to schedule a modelling session. (And yes, she does model for others, if you are an artist in the Halifax area looking for a great professional model, drop me a line and I'll pass the info along). While she was on the phone & busily writing in her agenda, I kept wishing I hadn't left my drawing tools in the studio. So I asked her if she could try repeating the pose, which is obviously (physically) difficult, what with the unbalanced weight and the pressure on her neck. She was able to do it long enough for me to get a quick sketch down (while she was actually drawing my feet....)

Both drawings are 24"x36", Nupastel on Kraft Paper.