Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hanna Bent Not Broken

Yesterday was a bit of a rough day drawing-wise, though not as bad as I thought. Perhaps salvageable! And today started out with some difficulty, but for a change improved as the session went on. Kind of like Nova Scotia weather...

We are currently working at creating another encaustic. We tried first working from her her feet, looking up (another failure), and then from her head - this one has possibilities. There's still a lot of fiddly things to do like reducing the curve on the upper back (but not so much that the raven tattoo gets lost), settling her face into the blankets, softening the robe, etc. But that's all probably best left to the painting stage.

There's a line down the drawing about 1/3 of the way in from the left. That's because I am used to working on 2x3 foot vertical drawings, and have trouble with horizontal formats. Can't think sideways! So I started with a vertical format, and thought I could leave out the legs & feet. But on the vertical format the drawing was just too incomplete, so we turned the support over and stuck the first drawing on the end, creating another foot for the feet.

But what to do about the background? Perhaps some verticals, and a raven.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hanna Broken and Sublime

I've been off for a few days, dring to get this one done. It was supposed to just take a day or two! The best laid plans....
Encaustic on canvas, 24x36

Quite an enjoyable exercise. Hanna had been curious about encaustics; so we took advantage of her broken wrist (which has been keeping her off her regular job) to pile into this one. It's been a number of years since I did a large one, and I had forgotten how enjoyable it is. Much more pleasant than oils! An added bonus was listening to her collection of music (we've run through most of mine), which included a new-to-me group called Sublime. When she first mentionned them, I thought someone was setting Edmund Burke to music? I have sort of a disconnect from modern culture, I guess....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hanna Broken II

We've decided to give encaustics a try - it's been several years since I did one. But the first order of business is to get a sketch together, which is here:

It's even sketchier than usual, and there's a lot of odds and ends (like the left arm) that need to be corrected at the start of the encaustics stage. But it's hard resist the perfume of damar and beeswax....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hanna Broken

I quite enjoy just sitting and sketching people in daily activities. Airports, restaurants, skateboard parks, and city parks during lunch time are great for this, though it is not always appreciated (especially in airports). I love the unpredictability of it, especially in pan and ink, where you have to live with all your mistakes (and try to get something durable out of the uncertainty).

So yesterday I got - at least for me - a lucky break. Hanna had badly fractured her wrist on Sunday practicing for roller derby; the discomfort plus the pain killers put any posing at all out of the question. Plus to reduce the swelling, her wrist had to be kept elevated. The second lucky break was that it was spectacularly warm & sunny for mid-April here in Nova Scotia (though rather windy). So we lounged around the backyard, chatted, and I got to do pages of (real) life drawing.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hanna, Shorty, and Nietzsche

I always have trouble with horizontal format work, I seem to think better vertically. Yesterday was no exception, but it wasn't helped by the fact that my Corgi wanted to get in on the picture.

Hanna created quite a sensual and relaxed pose, and Shorty seemed quite content at the far end, down by her feet. Then things started going wrong.

The first mistake was just in the way I set up my easel. I often work from the floor; it puts me at roughly eye level with, or slightly below, the model, which creates a more intimate and less formal atmosphere. But no, this time I worked from a standard height. The second was setting up nearly perpendicular to her axis, which kills any major foreshortening - again creating a more distant feel. This quite appropriate for those who like to concentrate on artistic form (all the visual stuff that hits your eye - like line, colour, dimension, etc. - but not necessarily your imagination - like who is this person?). And finally, I didn't shoo the dog off...

About halfway into laying out the drawing, Shorty decided he really didn't like being near feet. (That's the result of a deeply rooted complex left over from a certain someone who has been exiled to BC to while away his time surfing, snowboarding, and living with a Border Collie :)) So Shorty climbed into the middle of the picture. He seemed to settle down, so I figured I could deal with that. But once that got rolling, he decided he was going to shift around and find a better pose, and then after that, well maybe something on the floor was actually more interesting.

Long and short, the result was rather unfinished, and I picked away at it today, before tossing in the towel.

So what's this have to do with Nietzsche? It started with an article I read over coffee this morning, called Bored With Modernism. It's actually an interesting article, and I am pretty sympathetic to his point of view, particularly the identification of a problem in art. But what got me was the art that he includes in a positive sense; it's all very concerned with form, including gesture. Not that the work isn't beautiful! But it is the formal qualities which seemed to count most.

And later today, still picking away at this picture, I stopped for awhile to browse through a Nietzsche reader that Hanna had leant me, and I came across section 59 of "Beyond Good and Evil". It's a bit of a diatribe about forms and morals vs risk and exploration, and takes a humorous jab at retreating to form rather than grabbing at what lies under the surface...

Here and there one finds a passionate and exaggerated adoration of "pure forms" in philosophers as well as in artists: it is not to be doubted that whoever has NEED of the cult of the superficial to that extent, has at one time or another made an unlucky dive BENEATH it. Perhaps there is even an order of rank with respect to those burnt children, the born artists who find the enjoyment of life only in trying to FALSIFY its image (as if taking wearisome revenge on it), one might guess to what degree life has disgusted them, by the extent to which they wish to see its image falsified, attenuated, ultrified, and deified, ...

So I figure Shorty was doing his best equivalent of Lassie's "Timmy's in the well" routine, but channeling Nietzsche instead. And if I got a bit of a cartoon rather than something better, well, at least I learned something. So an extra biscuit for the dog...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hanna in Lavender

We started the session out with quick sketching and lots of coffee. It's an interesting exercise, trying to capture a figure while carrying on a conversation (no posing allowed!). Drawing in the immediacy of life is an old tradition in the arts, particularly before photography; one of my favourites is Rembrandt's Old Woman and Child with Leading Strings. Try posing that! But when it comes to capturing life, he's always been my touchstone. (There are lots of other drawings of his over here, including his wonderful Lion and his quick take on a Nurse and Child.)

Well, I'm no Rembrandt, but that doesn't mean I can't take some of the same delight in just drawing quickly and responsively to whatever is going on. And like Picasso put it,"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it."

So here's a couple from the warmups:

This is my favourite, though I made Shorty look way too small, and sort of fierce rather than totally moony...But if he won't sit still, that's his problem.

Then back to the studio for proper work. Hanna was quite taken with some of the NuPastels I picked up at NSCAD on Monday, so after blowing one drawing (colour-wise, palette-wise, placement-wise) I suggesested she pick the basic colours for the next try. One of which was a lavender I had never tried before; given my staid and conservative drawing style, another train wreck loomed. But it turned out ok, even if I didn't have a proper Easter egg (jellybean) blue for the fingernails. Must have been the pose.

Pen and Ink

Saturday the model didn't show for the life drawing group (these things happen), so some of us took turns. On the one hand, this was a little hard ( though the sitting pose I took was ok, I made the mistake of taking a standing one as well. You can drink the night before, or you can stand the next day, but you can't do both, at least without some pain...). On the other hand, it was great to start ramping up for spring and summer, when I like sketching people in and around Halifax (more on this in another post). Anyway, here's Richard in a three minute and a twenty minute pose...

Tender Crows, Cheesecake Corgi...

I was shooting some drawings this morning, and when I unloaded the shots I found some photos taken earlier in the week - the crow couple that hangs around (who are usually pretty rough) cooing and flirting to each other, and Shorty looking rather debonair. Must be something in the air.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hanna, Post-Modern Olympia

Perhaps one of the greatest privileges of working with a single model over a period of time (we've been at this now for about two months) is the way it helps me see Hanna as a complex human being. One would think that drawing the same person repeatedly would make the task easier, and yet I find it harder; one becomes aware of the subtle shifts from self-possession to pensiveness, from inner certainty to the young poet who could write:

You never asked me to think of you, but I disobeyed.

(It's from one of my favourite poems of hers, written several years ago I think, but I haven't put it up yet).

Alas my eye is still quicker than the hand, but it slowly gets better.

The first of these was done last week; it's a retake of one we did about ten days ago, but I rather messed up the drawing. I really liked the pose, what with the arm resting on the cushions and the hand floating above the shoulder, and asked Hanna to repeat it. (She usually takes her own poses).

This one was done at the same time as the original for the one above. The photo seems fuzzy because the drawing was; by the time I got around to sharpening it I though better of doing so.

This last was a quick sketch, we had almost run out of time. Lots of drawing errors, but then again, there's nothing like a shortage time combined with tiredness to force one to loosen up a bit, and just focus on capturing a sense of what one sees. Which is maybe why I like it best.

All work is on 24"x36" Kraft paper, using Nupastel.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hanna, The Embittered Poem

I have been slow in putting this poem of Hanna's up, partly just for technical reasons, but mostly because on first reading it is visceral, immediate, and personal. Who hasn't experienced one side or the other of destructive control? For that reason alone it is worth reading, because it takes a good deal of courage to question that aspect of one's personality (as victim or victimizer).

But I think it also needs to be read on other levels, such as in the sense of what a disappointed, accusatory lover might project on the writer. And at a positive level, I read it in the sense of bemused detachment that comes from self awareness.

Which is it? I don't know; but good poetry leaves these questions open.

(You might have to click on the image to get a readable version. I haven't typed in the poem, because I like the effect of the handwriting, to the point of reproducing the paper bag versions below. They can also be expanded by clicking on them. As with other work on this site, high resolution poster versions up to 13"x19" are available)