Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday Afternoon Downtown

 Downtown Asheville on the last afternoon in May-- clouds looming in the east, but meanwhile fierce spring sun baking the sidewalks underfoot;  crowds meandering to a beer festival in Pack Square where lots of live music is also happening;  Jacob and I heading over to Eagle Street to find some good images at a construction site that F and I saw this week.  Here's a sketch of J peering through a slim gap between the chain-link construction fence and the brick wall of the adjacent building.  He's standing behind (and almost inside of) a potted palm that's been dragged there to form a kind of barricade between the construction site and the bar next door.

I found a spot where someone had removed the tarp that was blocking the view through most of the fence while J took off around the corner to try to find a better view.  I love the way this came out!  The workers have torn down several early 20th century brick buildings to make way for a new market building, but happily they've left some of the original walls standing.  I assume these will be incorporated into the new structure.  Drawing this felt like drawing rooflines outside our apartment window in Barcelona.  An interesting touch was that a bagpipe was playing in the background while I was drawing, probably connected to the Highland Brewing booth at the beer fest.  We aren't Beer City for nothing!

After a while I texted J and we met up around the corner.  He had climbed a fire escape and looked down and found what looked like an interesting photography gallery (Castell Photography); so we went to take a closer look.  Inside, along with the really good exhibition, there were old cameras and photography things.  I sketched this large format wooden camera while J tried out a  stereopticon,  We enjoyed the exhibit and recommend this gallery. Be sure to check out Jacob's blog to see his images from today. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

First Quarter Exam?

Today I spent several hours drawing different versions of a couple of sample illustrations to submit to a potential client.  I had read several websites and looked at a lot of images to research the topic (women and babies in Sub-Saharan Africa), and I was asked to do two different styles of drawing, one in watercolor and one in pen with watercolor wash.  I started early this morning mapping out this first drawing in pencil.  My plan was to map out the two drawings, which seemed like a full morning's work.

One happy effect of the 2500 drawings I've done this past year is that I seem to have gotten much faster.  Another is that I don't have to think so much because the drawings draw themselves after a point.  For example, after I mapped this drawing, I didn't want to stop;  so I began spotting in the colors.  Before I knew it the thing was finished, and I went on to the next one.

The second drawing was more complex, but it flowed along easily, too.  I was working from swipes-- photographs of people in approximately the right positions.  I changed the clothing in many cases, and in this second drawing I made up a different head for each of the two adults.  When I finished the second drawing, I tried to decide which one I should draw over with pen, and I decided that neither one should be changed.  To draw over the watercolor would have been to impose a different visual system. I was worried that the outlines would have created a coloring book effect.

Instead I made a quick pen sketch of my painting of the nursing mother and baby.  I liked it for its free feeling and I really liked the way the hands came together in the heart of the piece.  But I wanted to try it again to see if I could make it a good piece on its own that wouldn't depend on the color for form.

The second line drawing has more interesting textures and more confident forms, I feel.  I scanned both of these drawings before adding color to them.  The second drawing especially seemed to hold up on its own so that the colors would add emotional content without distracting from the forms and nuances of line and texture.

Here's the first line drawing with watercolor washes added.  I actually prefer it in black and white, but I'm not the potential client or the graphic designer.  The lines seem to be swallowed up by the color, and the color is so strong (especially the yellow and blue shirt) that it sucks attention from the interaction of the mother and baby, in my opinion.

Here's the second line drawing with color added.  I like the color better in this one,  but it may be that the drawing is actually better in this one.  In the one above, the shirt seems too large when it's blue and yellow.  This one feels more settled, peaceful, intimate.  I really like the arrangement of the hands.  The color does not seem gratuitous here as it does in the one above.

So I ended up sending all 6 files to the graphic designer.  Even if I don't get this job, it was a fantastic process to do all these drawings today!  (The originals are around 5 inches high, quite a bit larger than my current sketchbook drawings, which are all done within a 3 5/8 inch high  x 5 inch wide page format)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

First Scratchings

All of today's drawings are very preliminary research drawings made from a combination of swipes or reference photos/drawings.  I'm working out figures as well as a certain style of drawing as well as a particular cultural vocabulary.  
Tomorrow I'll spend most of the day finishing two of these to show to the potential illustration client.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On Reaching 2500/10,000

Walking in the UNCA Botanical Garden this afternoon with my friend L,  I reached 1/4 of the way to 10,000.  There was no sound track.  No cheering.  No clap of thunder even.  A bluebird chirped, and the head gardener continued telling us his method for getting rid of the ubiquitous poison ivy.  (It's a native plant, he explained, and people used to encourage it to grow in their yards because of the beautiful fall colors of the vines and berries.)

I was quickly sketching some of the plants, and all of a sudden I realized the next number was going to be 2500.  In my original projection, this was going to happen on June 15, the one-year birthday of this project.  It's tempting to take a little sabbatical until then, but I think I'll just keep on rolling.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Treasures in the Mail

When I was a child I had a treasure box given to me by my great aunt Della.  In it I kept gumball machine charms as well as select Mardi Gras throws and a few choice pieces of broken jewelry that I had found.  I also had two tiny baby lipsticks, Avon samples given to me in secret by my fun grandma, who was an Avon lady. 

Last week Nate, age 4 3/4,  sent me a painting that he did using the fingertip brushes that I sent him from Barcelona.  In return I'm sending him some treasures for his already extensive collection:  a Genuine starfish (dried) from A.C.Moore, the tag of which assured me  that "This is not a toy.  Not for children under 7.  May contain sharp pieces that could be ingested."  I'm also sending him a package of 10mm Adhesive Rhinestone Alphabet Letters, blood red and very sparkly. And the greatest treasure, a string of Byzantine-looking jewels that are wonderful to hold and feel and peer into the depths of. 

His little sister Abby, at 15 months, doesn't send letters or paintings, but she's having a rough time what with teething and learning how to walk and starting to talk, and just general getting-to-be-close-to-two-years-old malaise.  So I'm sending her a soft plush life-size robin and a little knitted finger puppet penguin and baby penguin-- good things to chew on I think, especially the bird with its flat velvety tail and cone-shaped plush beak and flappy velvet wings.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Fauna and Flora at the End of May

 Today as I sat at my drawing table I looked up and spotted this groundhog scooting across the backyard, very close to the house.  I've seen his hole back near the fence at the edge of the woods (which is really a hedgerow between our yard and the high pasture behind our house) with its huge mound of excavated soil.  Recently I found a second hole, closer to the fence than the first one.  I've learned that these guys can excavate many yards of tunnels that run all around underground with periodic entrances for safety.  Since coyotes roam in the back of our yard and in the pasture , this groundhog probably needs his extra entrance pretty often.

The groundhog stopped for a few minutes and sat on a paving stone by the back porch, kind of leaning on one elbow and surveying the backyard.  Jesse was off duty, lucky for the groundhog and probably lucky for Jesse,

Later this evening P and I took a walk along the new river trail, and I collected seeds that are already forming-- True Solomon's Seal,  two sets of them, the one on the left just beginning to ripen, and the one on the right looks almost formed but still green'  then a rose hip in process.  There's also a little fluffly aster-type flower that is making dandelion-fluff seeds, then a chive, and at the far right a pair of seed cases from some ladies' bedstraw.  Across the bottom is an odd triangular seed capsule on a plant that I do not recognize but that grows along the ditch near the parking lot by the trailhead.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Romanesque Goats in Glorious Color

 I spent all day today and yesterday teaching a monotype class to a group of ten spectacularly good students at Asheville BookWorks.  (A monotype is a painting done on a metal or plexiglas plate, using rags and fingers, brushes and various improvised tools, and then passed through a printing press where the paint is offset onto paper.)

I needed to do some demos during the course of the weekend, so of course I used my recent drawings of P's goat as one of my subjects.  This first print was a demo of printing without using the press but with finger-burnishing instead.
The second image is of one of the bestiary goats done very quickly using rags and fingers and a brush and then printed using an etching press.

This is done from a sketch of Jesse sleeping in his Jesse-colored fur bed, pretty abstract.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

(E)scape Goat Redux

My favorite animal art is from Medieval bestiaries, so when I could NOT get that goat out of my mind all day, I came home and whipped out a book of Medieval bestiaries from the Cloisters in Manhattan.  I found a number of goat scupltures from churches mainly and a few goat drawings from books of hours.  I drew after several of these, trying to see what common features these artists focused on in their stylization.  Immediately it became clear that most of the goats in this collection were having a bad run of luck-- all but one were being eaten by lions, killed by dragons, or eaten by a single lion.  Goats symbolized sin and fallen humanity.  There's that sort of creepy Bible story about separating goats from sheep, and of course the sheep were the good creatures and the goats had to go to the sinister, or left,  hand of the judgmental and testy lord.

Other common features:  all the goats had hair stylized in clumps and had concentric circles around their horns.The one goat who was happily chomping on some leaves, unbothered by any other animal, had the same clumpy coat and stripey horns.  All had cloven hooves, and all had large eyes that lacked much definition (probably because they were stone carvings and the convention for eyes was an unarticulated oval embedded in thick lids, those Byzantine eyes still hanging on).
So tonight I redrew P's (e)scape goat as a Medieval goat, gave him stylized clumpy hair and striped horns, big oval eyes and cloven hooves.  P told me he needed a collar and that he now remembered that his beard extended all the way to his collar.  P thought the faux-Medieval goat looked more like his goat than did the police-artist composite that I drew last night.  So in the spirit of Medieval sculpture, here's the (e)scape goat.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Making a Drawing of a Suspect

Jesse settled down on my yoga mat this morning and refused to budge.  Nothing to do but draw him as he thoroughly groomed himself and then rolled a few turns and finally trotted off.

P and I went for a dinner picnic with sandwiches from Katuah Market (my night to cook, true, but I DID drive to get them AND paid).  As we sat in the spot where the trail overlooks a meadow and a little mountain peeking over the grasses I made a couple of quick landscape notes.  We also noticed that the great Solomon's Seal plants are blooming like never before.  I drew part of a dangle of blooms-- they are perfectly delicate and arranged in pairs except for the first two from the end.  At the bottom of this page is a sketch of my phone, which I started early this morning when Jesse was biting it.  But Jesse moved before I could draw him;  so just the phone.

But on the right is the real prize for today!  Actually, two days ago this billy goat walked down the middle of our street and stopped in our front yard and chewed on some weeds.  I wasn't home, but P watched him for a while.  Then he called the farm manager from the college farm, who came out, took a look, and said it wasn't one of their animals.  The farm manager called animal control who came and got the goat, but I was very disappointed that he was gone when I got home.  I would have loved to have seen that billy goat. 

P picked him out from a lineup of billy goat images that I showed him on my laptop;  then he qualified the image that he picked out , and I drew the goat from P's description with reference to the lineup image.  This is why all those police suspect drawings look like they're made by beginning drawing students. 
        P:  He was scrufty, not all smooth like the picture. 
        Me:  How, exactly?
        P:  the horns were shorter, not flat, not like that, no---- sort of stumpy?  And he had a stringy beard. 
        Me:  what color was he? 
        P:  brown and gray--no, white too-- more gray 
        Me:  Like this? 
        P: Well he looked more weather beaten, like he had been living on his own for a while. 
        Me:  How did that look? 
        P:  Just-- weather beaten, rough.  Maybe he was one of the goats from the dentists' office? 
        Me:  But that was last fall!  How could he still be living around here? 
        P:  Well there's plenty of food.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Back From the Brink

Last night I stomped around the house drawing things that looked like I felt.  The two carping crows made of cut out copper gutter material looked as self-critical as I felt ;  the little half-black head was my gloomy mood;  the nutsy two-faces-at-once with a head full of odds and ends represented multi-tasking monkey-mind me.
And for some odd reason, the corn husk woman with her goose made me think of the Einstein quote that says something like "Ignorance is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome."  I was so dumpy that I blew off posting and went to bed.  I decided posting everyday is a good example of my driven self hard at work and I was done with it.

Then today I felt much better.  I was waiting in line for a coco kale smoothie this morning, and I could not resist sketching quickly the smoothie maker's glorious fuschia dreads under her work kerchief with a slogan button on it.  Later at the acupuncture clinic I drew a lazily swimming lemon colored fish.  Two Jesse drawings round out the fun drawings for today.  He was taking the cool evening air on the windowsill of our bedroom after sunset.
(Before French Conversation group this afternoon  I told J I was thinking of posting every other day, and he said that is a BAD idea.  If I start posting every other day, soon it will be every two days, etc.  I think he's right, so I am back from the brink.)

F and I worked hard today doing some R & D, which we really enjoy, as we tried to redesign a small bag that we make so that it fits phones in their bigger cases.  My attempt was a complete failure, so I drew my failed bag and annotated it. I was trying to gain some flexibility in the bag by sewing it on the inside and turning it inside out.  Not possible with a lining, which we really like.  F's bag is good, but perhaps could be a slight bit wider.  So, two working drawings, and that's it for today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fabulous Things Flinging Themselves My Way Today

Today was one of those days when things begging to be drawn popped up all over.  At E and B's house this afternoon:  baby chicks in many different varieties, fluffy-legged, sleek and dappled, banties, big ones-- all moving constantly and completely unruffled by the two dogs who were nosing their way into the door of the henhouse.
On the coffee table at book club, B had floated three perfect white peonies in water, each in a slightly different stage of ripening.  

In the top right corner is a close up of two ovaries surrounded by stamens.  You could almost hear them buzzing in the commotion of yellow dust and pearly white petals.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Thin Collection, but That's the Way It Goes Some Days

I've been walking the River Trail for the past few weeks, avoiding the mountain trail because bears have been seen on our street several times lately, and they seem to live up on the mountain.  But today P and I decided to brave the mountain.  We were as always amazed at how green everything had become on this trail since we were last on it, and how good it smelled with the invasive-but-still-good-smelling multiflora roses in bloom everywhere.  Just before we got to the overlook we noticed enormous paw prints in the soft mud of the damp trail.  I first thought it might be a lynx, since one is rumored to live up on top of this mountain.  It seemed too big for a dog but a little small for a bear.  I squatted down to get a closer look and sketch it so we could look it up.  We noticed there was a straight trail of these prints and it went for a long distance before heading off into the underbrush.

When we got home I looked it up and sure enough it fit the description for a bear paw print, probably the young one we've seen on our block.  It was so deeply pressed into the mud, with five distinct claws evenly spaced in an arch. 
And then tonight my journal group met, and I had not done any drawing after the bear paw;  so I began to draw other people's and my own notebooks.  The interesting thing about this group to me is that we get to see other people's processes and how they use this practice.  No one seems to feel satisfied at first;  but then we begin to see how it's the process that changes us.  We each alter our experiences by drawing or taking notes or whatever what we do; and the product isn't important except as an artifact to look back on, to mine for ideas, to sharpen a memory sometimes.

On the left is A's box that she made.  She had a book inside of the box, and I thought of how it would be good to keep a box of small notebooks and carry only one around at a time.  That way if you lost one it wouldn't be so bad.  MA had a purchased daytimer that was bursting with notes, lists, plans, contacts, etc.  Her journals are gloriously colored and designed, but this beat up little daytimer also seemed to me to be a valuable asset.  While she was talking she realized she could use some ideas from her journal for an art project she's thinking about

D said she hadn't been doing much of anything, but then realized that she does keep notes from meetings in the little elastic-wrapped notebook she had with her.  And then she mentioned that she makes notes every night in a three-year journal,  and has actually been doing a lot of things and keeping track of them with her journals.  Someone else talked about his studio journal, and someone else showed us a piece of art that she made pulling on ideas that began life as journal notes and sketches.  A showed a travel sketch that began as a pencil sketch on site and then became a mixed media entry after she went home and reworked it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Mossy Cat, An Intriguing Building

P and I and J went to a concert at the Asheville Masonic Temple this afternoon.  This is the second time we've gone to hear Pamharmonia play Baroque music at this place, and this time the concert was held upstairs in teh third and fourth floor theatre that has hand-painted drops painted in 1915 by Chicago artist Thomas Moses.  This little theatre looks like the inside of an elaborate diorama from the 19th century.

While walking from the car to the building, we saw a moss-covered topiary cat outside a shop, and I was unable to pass it up.  It gave me the idea of making a moss topiary inside the rusty child form! What a great thought!  What a lot of moss it will take!  And how odd it will look- - -

Before the concert J and I walked down to the third floor (we were sitting in the balcony, which you enter from the fourth floor) so he could take some photographs.  I sketched a roofscape while out in the hall a man repeated "the third floor is completely full now.  You can walk up to the fourth floor or you can take the elevator"  at least 200 times.  I felt very sorry for him.

I drew one of the violinists during the first number, and then I did a warm-up sketch of the stage with its painted drops.  The concery was performed from the middle of the floor with seats in a horseshoe around it.  I was fascinated byu the three-dimensional effects of the layers of drops.  It was impossible to tell what was painted and what was real.

After the intermission, during the wonderful Brandenberg Concerto, I drew the backdrops for real.  I had gone down to get a close look at them during intermission and saw that they were gigantic pieces of canvas with some elements attached to pieces of string netting with one-inch squares.  For example, the griffon figure on the right is cut out from its background canvas, which allows the canvas behind it to show.  We walked behind the last backdrop and found another one and around 30 rolled up ones in the ceiling.  What an enormous undertaking to build this theatre.

Jacob decided to go sit across the balcomy from us and our friends so that he could unobtrusively take a few photographs of the musicians from above.  I meanwhile sketched them as they played.

Here's Jacob standing on the stairs in the corner next to the proscenium arch.  He took a lot of photos but I haven't seen them yet.  Check his blog at Jacob Diehn Photographer to see his pictures.  It might be tomorrow before his new posts appears since he has to go to school tomorrow and get a little sleep tonight.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

In Search of Images

I spent the afternoon and evening chasing down good images with Jacob, he with his camera and me with my notebook and pen.  On the left, though, is a study of the fine dumpster that I was parked behind while I waited for J to finish his jazz ensemble class.  I compared this giant metal bin with the woven plastic cloth dumpster-units that we saw in Barcelona.  I've heard that these cloth dumpsters are being used in the US now, too.  It was completely amazing to see cement blocks and other construction debris contained in fragile-looking bags;  I can't wait till these make it to the Asheville area.

It was after 7:30 when J and I made our way down to the River Trail to find twilight and sunset images.  The sky had been overcast all afternoon, but by this time there were periods of bright sunlight.  One of our first stops was to look across some newly-planted fields at a sunny strip of hillside with a few trees.  While I drew this, J took photos of a barn and fields.  You can see his images on his blog at Jacob Diehn Photographer.
As always I like to draw J doing whatever he's doing, so these next two drawings show him wading out into the icy river to take some pictures of the water in a riffle area.  The river was running high and fast after recent rain.  On the left is a start-up sketch that I didn't have time to finish.  It shows J trying to gain a foothold on a sunken log in order to photograph the water running over some rocks.  On the right he's photographing the water and rocks.
I counted all these gesture drawings as one since the whole series took about three minutes and J was constantly moving as he crouched down on a flat rock trying to get really close to the water.

As it grew darker and darker we hurried back through the woods to get to the open fields where we thought we might get a shot at whatever sunset we could actually see.  The clouds were heavier than before, but there were some pinkish spots in the west.  In the east there were pretty pink-topped clouds in a clear aquamarine sky.

As we drove home we spotted the field behind my house filled with cows!  We pulled over and parked.  J got out while I drew from the car.  The cows gathered close to him- dark, slowly moving shapes with a few babies galloping in the background, muttering and groaning and chewing the long grass.  J took several amazing shots of the cows in the near-dark.  I can't wait to see what he does with them.  Be sure to check out his blog tomorrow!

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Compleat Jesse Roll

 All my drawings today were done with a knife and two gouges from a set of linocut tools.  I've finally finished carving the set of seven rubber stamps of Jesse doing his tension-relieving driveway roll.

These are very rough proofs printed quickly on scraps of paper, as you can see.  In this first print Jesse crouches, every muscle tense.

This is drawing 2416.
 I carved this second block a few weeks ago so I'm not counting this one again in the 10,000.  This is Jesse beginning his roll by stretching out of his crouch.
 He goes into a full roll onto his back.
Drawing 2417.

He rolls back and forth, taking his time.  This is drawing 2418.  The block is complete but the print went off the paper in that one spot near his tail.
Drawing 2419

Drawing 2420

Finishing up.

A smoothed-out cat!

Drawing 2421.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Serious Babies

I want to make some clay child heads to scatter around our gardens.  I can't get out of my mind the strange children in artwork that I drew in Barcelona museums last month.  It's a commonplace that children were depicted as miniature adults in early art, and that must mean people actually saw children differently in earlier times.  I think it's true that when we're looking for something, when we value something, that is what we focus on.  And what we focus on increases.  So when an average human lifespan was a few decades long, there wasn't any time to waste on prolonged childhood, let alone adolescence of any length.  All the babies that I drew today seemed to have knotty little chins on top of several layers of under-chin pudge, strong noses, adult clothing, and serious expressions.  Lots of these were Baby Jesi;  hence the blessing fingers and halos.  But even the little Roman looks like a miniature senator.  Over in the lower right hand corner Maya reads herself to sleep while I copy babies from my old Janson's History of Art.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mapping My Walk

My brother told me about a phone app called Map My Walk.  As soon as I got my new phone I raced to put that app on it,  I love it because it draws a little map as you walk!  I can even use it to find myself when I go exploring and  can't find my way back to the trail.  This past couple of weeks I've been exploring a new area of the woods around here, and the drawing above shows where I walked this afternoon.  I did a 4.1 mile walk mainly following the river (you can see the trail, which begins at the upper right at the black outlined circle, the parking lot by the trail head.  When I got into the woods that did not follow the river, I followed a series of trails that I had never been on before.  At one point it felt like I had missed a turnoff, so I looked at the map and sure enough, it showed that I was heading off in the wrong direction.

The drawings above show the key to the various kinds of terrain I passed on or through or near.  This area is so interesting to me because the trail goes through farmland on one side of the trail and woods on the other for a long distance.  Meanwhile the river is constantly burbling and singing, cows are bellowing in farm fields, and occasional cars go whooshing by on the road, unseen but really quite close in places.  Wonderful smells of roses and honeysuckle, the blues of blue-eyed grass, and cool breeze with warm sun made this a perfect afternoon for a walk. 

You will not be interested in all the other information Map My Walk heaped on me:  my speed, calories burned, something called Blitz speed(???), varying altitudes I passed through, other similar walks in my area, an offer to find friends for me to share my walk information with, and the offer to upgrade to a paid version of the app that will tell me even more.  I could not be happier than I am with my free version and its miraculous little map that even shows when and where I deviated ten feet to check out some hammocks that were strung in a tree and in which students were napping.