In yesterday's post I wrote about my dream of a new painting, a work which contains insistent perspective and foreshortening. Yesterday's first drawing illustrates the idea; I thought I should make this drawing before the idea was lost to memory. My dream painting had more than two figures, but this drawing illustrates the basic idea. In process paintings dictate their needs in terms of forms, figures, and composition, so the final "Dream" painting will begin with the germ of the idea illustrated in this drawing, but the painting will go its own assertive way. This should be my first painting of the new year.
Otherwise, I had only enough time to make two more drawings, as the afternoon and evening were made of bowling and dinner out. I do not believe I will have a large enough block of time to return to painting until the new year, but the drawings have been good. They have been instructive and their general quality has been high. Concentrated time of shortened duration has brought with it the advantage of tight focus. There has not been the problem with waning energy as a long day in the studio takes its toll.
The dream centered around a new painting. In it there are several figures among simple blocks of stone. The figures sit, lie, and stretch across the blocks. I believe the reason for this dream was to shock me out of my recent frieze-like compositions. In this dream-painting the figures, and blocks of stone, demand perspective depth. At least one of the figures is in a pose which requires maximum foreshortening, his feet in front and his body zooming away from the frontal plane, the head is way back and thus quite a bit smaller than the protruding feet.
I am not the only painter to be stuck on the classical frieze. Picasso always composed across the flat-surface plane. Quite a while ago I posted a reproduction of Guernica from 1937, which is an excellent example of this type of composition. Today I will show two other Picassos, one from 1907 and the other from 1923. In each the composition's depth is very restricted. First the 1923's Three Woman, then 1907's Three Woman.
Yesterday I had scant time in the studio. The 'tween holiday festivities continue with me seeing the Coen Brother's new film, True Grit (no comment). I did get into the studio, having time for two drawings. The second one was very quick and I finished it without much self-criticism (seeing the two heads together in reproduction is disturbing). In any case here they are...
These days between holidays do not give me enough time to invest in painting. So I practice my craft by drawing. Rembrandt did the same. I will go back and forth between my drawings and Rembrandt's. The drawings of Rembrandt's shown are self-potraits; all use line to create form, although technically they are etchings (which is actually a type of drawing which allows many copies to be printed). In Rembrandt's drawings one sees him repetitively test his ability to delineate exaggerated emotions. These exaggerations rarely appear in his paintings. As with me, his drawings are studies, practicing in order to comfortably describe more accessible emotions in his paintings. In our time we sometimes see comedians take on serious roles. Several comedians have been able to tone down their approach and be successful in serious acting, seemingly without effort (e.g. Jamie Foxx in "Ray" and Jerry Lewis in Martin Scorsese's "Kind of Comedy").
Here are my drawings from yesterday, interspersed with Rembrandt self-portraits. (My #2 and #3 drawings are mis-dated with 12/27/2010, they are from yesterday—12/28/2010).
Yesterday I dug out of a major snow storm. Consequently, I had little time in the studio. Perhaps this does not matter. A friend told me about a study of musicians and how the quantity of practice on their instruments was related to the quality of their mastery. It seems the musicians who limit their time of practice to a couple of hours a day actually progress more quickly than ones who spend most of their day in practice. In other words, it is the quality of time and energy which produces results, not quantity. I have long known of a tipping point in my day when continuing to draw and paint produces nothing more of quality. Recognizing the moment of transition from useful to useless is important; continuing to draw or paint uselessly is detrimental to today's work and can also negatively effect tomorrow's work. Avoiding confusion because of lack of energy and focus is important. This past week has produced significant drawings. These drawings are important because they confirm my interest and my direction. I felt good making them, and I feel good looking at them. Yesterday's first drawing was one of these. (The second drawing exudes exhaustion and lack of focus.)
This year's Holidays have created the usual distractions, and the majority of these distractions have been most excellent. As usual, I have a strong need to get back to my regular business. This will not happen quickly, for two reasons: (1) The Holidays are not over, and (2) Even one day away from the studio is enough to disrupt the constant give and take which the making of good art requires. Disruption throws me off the track; I will need to work myself back onto the course. Yesterday, with reason #2 hampering my flow, I went into the studio. I produced the following two drawings. Both felt a bit awkward in their making, but the second felt better than the first. In the second the anatomically impossible woman turns her head completely backwards. Intriguing, yes, but it is more than simply a curiosity, because this drawing does get to the heart of one of my most intense interests: manipulating anatomy and "normal" form to express and emote. As I better understand this manipulation of form it will become more prominent in my work.
It snowed last night. I awoke to more than a foot of the white stuff on the path between me and my studio. I am going to have shovel my way to get there. There is symbolism in this requirement that I must work to clear my way to perspicuity.
The holidays re-charge one's zest for living. Making art does too. Neither is totally dependable. Both have their positive moments and their moments of confusion and pain. In the end, both are rewarding because they give one ground to live upon. The holidays, and art-making, are similar. Both are celebrations: we re-visit the past, live in the present, and hopes are raised for the future.
Over the next week my time in the studio will be sporadic. This erratic art-making will produce drawings of quality. Painting requires larger blocks of time than drawing. I will not expect much from my painting. When I charge into the studio in fitful, infrequent, and episodic moments, the high quality of the art created often surprises. The energy to make art is high because of its infrequency. This happened yesterday. Both drawings reward in their playfulness, invention and solidity of forms, composition, emotive subtlety, and manner in which surfaces are delineated by marks. There is music in the marks. This is a quality Van Gogh so beautifully made apparent in his work. Obviously it is important to me too. As a holiday present to you I will post a painting by Van Gogh, which exuberantly exudes his musical use of brush stroke and form. Look for it below my drawings. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
I am beginning to paint the way I draw. You will see the progression of approach in today's posting of "Woman with Flowers." I chose this relatively simple theme and composition to enable me to work on approach and technique. I have developed an approach in drawing which facilitates my solving problems other than the manner in which marks are placed on the page. At last this is beginning to happen in painting as well.
The one drawing I made yesterday illustrates my continueing struggle with handling the entire ball of wax simultaneously. Form, composition, surface texture, demonstration of emotions, et cetera and et cetera: ALL have to be done together. I am moving in the right direction, progress is being made, slow but sure wins the race.
Yesterday was one of those days swept away by personal business and me helping others. Time in the studio was limited to two hours, but I produced two drawings. These drawings exude some of the qualities I have been working to achieve. Specifically, in my drawing I currently have three main objectives: (1) Marks touching and delineating the forms with feeling, (2) Pleasing forms, (3) Satisfying composition. I know the words "pleasing" and "satisfying" are completely subjective. When I use words like "pleasing" and "satisfying" I am telling you I have not thoroughly contemplated this aspect of my art, so I am unable to give you a better verbal description. My current primary objective in drawing is to feel my way through the forms. I am trying to draw with emotive feeling without muddying the form by heavily marking portions of the drawing. In other words I am trying to insure clarity and readability. I believe the drawings shown today accomplish this objective.
Yesterday was a day of simple progress; no masterpieces made. That is very good. The enormous amount of time spent making art is paying off. My internal engines are being tuned. Clarity is coming through daily effort. Woody Allen said, "Eighty percent of success is showing up." I agree. To nuture insight there is nothing like being in a place which coaxes one to be present in a task. My love of making art revolves around its moments of insight, but I treasure the material result: the insights are visually recorded. This means my memory of an insight has visitation rights which are permitted by just "showing up." I do not want to be confusing, one must "show up" to have insights, but on days when insights are hard to find, visual memories bring some joy.
Yesterday's work on "Woman with Flowers" was definitely in the right direction. Her left leg is cumbersome. It has to be reduced in weight and made more sensual. Little ideas, such as this, call me back into a painting, but are mere staring points for the day's activity.
Yesterday's drawing rewarded me with two heads whose surfaces and upper torsos were touched by pencil marks. This drawing exhibits comprehensive ability to feel forms and surfaces though the activity of making marks. However, my satisfaction with this drawing is diminished by my inability to make the forms as pleasing as I desire while in the activity of touching every surface. The man's head is particularly awkward, its mouth and chin incongruent with its overall form.
Today's title alludes to the daily mystery of my efforts. I keep walking into the studio. Sometimes I have a lot energy, and insight comes easily. There are days when I feel energetic but insight is difficult to find. And then there are days when I feel like a noodle, limp and nearly useless, but working still brings nourishment. In spite of the inconsistency of living I walk into the studio every day. It is a necessity and a passion. In other words, I benefit whenever I work in the studio, but some days are more rewarding than others. Sad to say, but more than anything else I want to feel the zing of insight, touching truth by making marks on paper and canvas. This time of year, with the holidays and with family surrounding me, I feel more conflict than usual. Conflict also means distribution of energy. I want to make an important, insightful, successful painting right now, but I must accept tis the season where the strength and focus to do this is difficult to find.
Here are the drawings from yesterday:
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