Monday, May 30, 2011

Elizabeth and other things...

The sun's shining (finally!), Fats Waller is on the CD, and I sit at my desk working on redrawing the sketches of Elizabeth from Saturday, reworking the etching plate of Hanna at the piano, and watching the neighborhood kids building a fort out of knotweed stalks, and life's pretty good.

Anyway, here's some quick sketches from Saturday (complete with notes to myself, what a mess). Elizabeth is a new model to Richard's drawing group. Very quiet, graceful, and poised. I don't know if I'll do anything formal with them, though with her fine lines, formal carriage, and the mixture of sharp highlights and strong tones of the day, I really wish I had the patience a to do mezzotint. Maybe in the next lifetime!

As for the etchng plate, there's things I really like about it, and things I don't, which is a much worse position than when you really like a thing completely, or hate it altogether. I'm not a master of decisive action, so I'll probably just wind up redrawing it from scratch...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Future plans, models wanted

Now that Hanna has moved on, I am looking for a new model or two to work with in the Halifax area. [The rest of this post has been moved to the Help Wanted page linked over on the right]
Ahh, the lost post is back....

Hanna, thanks!

Hanna, the model I have been working with for the last several months, is moving on. It's a sad day - it brings to an end this part of the project - and yet a good one as well, since whenever a friend decides to spread their wings a little wider one can only feel glad.

Too often the contribution of great models is overlooked, particularly by those of us who wish to go beyond painting the figure as a can of beans and into portraying the person. Not the person as the photograph might snap it, not the person as some abstract floaty splooged object, but the person as a living, vibrant, human being as one sees her. I remember Hanna commenting on one of Schiele's better pictures that she felt - despite the abstractness of it - that it was as if the subject was there, just on the other side of the paper. Like Goya's caption, "I saw this." I think we should aim no lower.

But it takes a very brave model to engage in this sort of task; there's a lot more on display than just skin, light, or academic forms. It is in a sense exposure to the world of an intensely personal core; even clothed, the model is far more naked than the classical nude. And the difficulty is much more for the model than for the artist, the very worst I can do is display some drawing or painting errors.

For myself, these last few months have been a great period for artistic growth for which I owe Hanna a real debt of gratitude. I think of it especially when drawing others, like my neighbor's son, or the model we had this morning. Though it's time to move on, there's lots of good stuff that remains.

There will be a few more Hanna pictures; during the last six weeks in particular, when we were working together four or five days a week, I've built up an enormous backlog of rough sketches and drawings. And there's still two on the easel to finish.

But she'll still be missed. Even by Shorty (though he'll be glad to have his couch back, and he definitely won't miss the brushing).

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quick note

If you are having trouble logging into blogger, try clearing your cache and history. This worked for me, but apparently not for everybody. The lost posts and edits though are still not back.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interesting times....

Well, first Blogger loses edited versions of posts, and now the login has been broken for a few days. But scanning through their chat board, some - not all - noted that they could login using different browsers. So I tried Chrome (I usually use IE, bad habits die hard), and here I am. The lost posts though have not been restored, although the powers-that-be put up notices that it's all back (when they bother to put up notifications at all). This sort of repeated idiocy usually indicates bad management practice, if I had any Google stock, I'd consider unloading it.

Enough ranting :) It's been a busy time with nothing to post for it, though it certainly has been an educational! I took the same image as the litho, and decided to try doing it intaglio to see if I could make the background more settled while bringing out more liveliness in Hanna's figure. The line etching went well, though I should have feathered it more, and I adjusted some of the perspective lines to bring the image more into focus:

But from there on in, with the aquatint, disaster! C'est la vie. So once I recover (sob), I'll give it another shot with another plate...

Meanwhile, we've started on illustrating another one of Hanna's poems, Parasite Worms. Right now it's in the sketch stage (so it may go out the window altogether), but the idea is to try and incorporate the poem and a dreamlike figure into one large encaustic (36x36). Lettering in encaustic is a bitch, and it's been awhile since I've done figures from imagination. Should be interesting. But like Picasso said, "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." Words to live by.

Speaking of poetry, in case there's anyone reading this from the Halifax area, the show Dan O'Neill is curating over at the Dal Arts Center opens tonight. The full blurb is here, scroll down to the "Second Impressions" listing. The show comprises lithos by Motherwell and de Kooning with poetry by Frank O'Hara and Octavio Paz. Which of course allows me to close with one of my favourite O'Hara poems:

Why I Am Not A Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hanna at the Piano

A few more piano pieces today, featuring selections from Chopin and Satie. Very good music to draw to! I hope to turn some of these into etchings or perhaps gouache, and I'll try one or two in the litho workshop this weekend...The lighting is going to be interesting to capture, as the piano faces into a corner with tall windows on either side.

Hanna playing Chopin's Nocturne 9-2:

A couple of Saties ( Satie gives strict yet ambigious advice - play the pieces in a manner "don't leave", "ligtly, with intimacy", "don't be proud", "dont eat too much", and "cooked". Hopefully we managed to convey this advice within the music, and also the sketches. What that would mean, I do not know):

This last one happened after we wrapped up, Hanna was putting on some makeup in the full length mirrors...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hanna, Cooked

Well those of you who didn't read the last blog post before Blogger crashed and lost a bunch of stuff on Wednesday won't understand the title! Maybe they'll get it back, but in the meantime, tant pis, and do yer homework, and go practice Satie.

The next picture is of my first semi-decent litho, done Friday and Saturday at the Mahone Bay Arts Centre. Thanks Dan O'Neill for teaching the workshop, and thanks Sally Warren for doing such a great job organizing it.

There are a number of things I would like to change about it, though I like the basic design. For example, I would like to add more weight to the piano and bench so that their solidity would provide a stronger support for Hanna's intensely focussed liveliness. Unfortunately the ball grain aluminum plate lithography doesn't make that sort of change very easy, so perhaps we can redo it in an etching of roughly the same image size. (The image is about 9 1/2 by 12 1/2 inches, this one is done on Rives BFK)

The other current project nearing completion is this one:

There's still work to do on it, but it is coming along. Hanna suggested I strengthen the figures in the background, and add something to do with water, both of which seem to have helped a lot. One of the irritating things about encaustic from the photographic POV (though wonderful from the real life POV) is how variable they are under different light. It varies a lot from one day's photos to the next. I guess if you really want to see what it looks like, you should buy it. Or drop in sometime.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hanna at the Piano

A few more piano pieces today, featuring selections from Chopin and Satie. Very good music to draw to! I hope to turn some of these into etchings or perhaps gouache, and I'll try one or two in the litho workshop this weekend...The lighting is going to be interesting to capture, as the piano faces into a corner with tall windows on either side.

Hanna playing Chopin's Nocturne 9-2:

A couple of Saties:

This last one happened after we wrapped up, Hanna was putting on some makeup in the full length mirrors...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hanna at the Piano and Other things

An interesting morning, with Hanna working on her poetry, and then piano. She brought along a couple of flyers from the Open Heart Forgery - a monthly poetry publication that's definitely worth looking into (just click on the link and download some free stuff!). They'd like visitors to download their current PDF, print off a few copies, and drop them off wherever you might like. Pretty cool....

As for me, it was the usual Monday morning, slow getting going. Must be those wild weekends. But there are a few drawings that aren't too bad, one from the piano, several in the kitchen.

While I was drawing Hanna at the piano it struck me that something other artists must like are all those reflective surfaces (the piano, a mid 20C Knabe baby grand, is black and polished). If one of these piano pieces goes to a painting it's going to be, uh, fun?

Then a couple in the kitchen as we wind up the session, the first thinking about something....

and changing the song on the laptop...

Finally, how I really spent my weekend - still lots to do - the drawings in the upper part were taken from sketches at Halifax's famous South End Diner (Google street view). Except the odd looking bird. That's taken from Gauguin's Nevermore

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Useless Studio Assistant....

...thinks he can cut it as a model, while I pick fur out of the encaustic. Or maybe he's just trying to reclaim the couch. Maybe that sort of snootiness comes from watching the recent royal wedding. He is elegant in his own way, I suppose....

Updated ...

the idea of Shorty relaxing by someone's feet is really pretty amusing...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hanna at the Piano

Guess there hasn't been much posting lately! We've been busy on an encaustic which is taking absolutely forever (it's posted below). The encaustic will take a while to finish - lots to do on the background - so we're moving on.

Personally, I love genre work (basically people in everyday activities, though often pushed in the direction of homilies, from the entertaining Jan Steen to the somewhat stuffy - but beautifully done - Broken Pitcher by Bougeureau).

But for some reason there seems to be a special place in art for people playing the piano, and related instruments. Vermeer's Music Lesson and Lady Seated at a Virginal (Pollock fans should take a close look at the decorations on the instrument!), Matisse's Piano Lesson and Music Lesson, Renoir's Yvonne and Christine, van Gogh's Mademoiselle Gachet at the Piano or even Degas's Monsieur and Madame Manet (the piano got cut out) are all pretty typical examples. Why it should be such a popular theme is intriguing; perhaps it's because the sitter, if absorbed in playing, is no longer aware of the artist. Or maybe the use of muscles, motion, and focus is just really interesting.

So we relaxed for awhile today, Hanna played piano while I drew. A little rough for her with her right hand in a cast. The piece is Chopin's Nocturne 9-2. (Alas, my sound card is dead, you'll have to take your pick)

And this is the current state of the encaustic. So much work left to do! Maybe a little better planning is in order....