Amphitheater with Balloon

Here's the next drawing assignment that followed the monster assignment. We walked over to the music school and chose a view to draw. I chose the walkway that curves around the back of the seating area. We were to start the general scene one day, take it home and add an imaginary scene, and finish it on location during the next class meeting; it was the due the following class meeting in case we wanted to continue work some more.

The mother, the child, the lost balloon: Could I have found a rustier cliché? I don't think so.

Mob Rule

In the spirit of showing work as it's happening, and not just putting up my masterpieces (just in case you couldn't tell that from the previous posts - ha), here is some drawing homework. The assignment at the end of October was to draw a monster. It could be any kind of monster -- fairy-tale, institutional, cinematic, humorous, serious, whatever.

I've never been one for scary movies or Stephen King thrillers, but when I was in high school I regularly drove home on the weekends at midnight from a dinner theater gig. The narrow road twisted between two rivers, with just enough room on one side or the other for the occasional solitary house amongst the jungle of overgrowth. And the only thing on the radio at midnight was some kind of mystery theater program. It coincided exactly with my 30-minute trip, and I would arrive home terrified to get out of the car and go in the house. (Who knew what lurked in the carambola tree that shaded the front porch?)

The scariest episodes included a stranger and a case of mistaken identity carried by a mob mentality to the point of lynching. So that's what I drew. The 18" x 24" piece shows the hangman's noose against the darkness of the arch at the end of the street.

As usual, click on the thumbnail ...

Gandhi drawing

The assignment was to draw two public icons: one you love, and one you hate. We were to communicate our love and our hate in our choice of mark-marking, colors, pose, etc. I chose Gandhi for the public icon I love; I won't be showing the "other" public icon. I will say that she appears regularly on Fox News, and has expressed the sentiment that women should be armed but not allowed to vote, since they have "no capacity to understand how money is earned." That's enough of a hint, I think.

I had more trouble figuring out what to do about Gandhi, because I cared about whether I would like the outcome. I did an acrylic ink wash to start. Then I poured some acrylic matte medium into a squeeze bottle and drew the lines. I had planned to use composite (a.k.a fake) gold leaf on the matte medium lines, but it turned out that only 23K gold leaf would actually stick to the lines. Aargh! I gilded the outline of his head and did some other lines. The rest of the lines I overpainted in Schmincke pearl gold gouache. I am nothing if not persistent. If you click on the thumbnail for a closer look, you can see the two colors of gold. I think it's more obvious in the photo than in real life. The reason I gilded the outline was so that I could wash the outer world in a muddy outer-world color (which I also used on the other icon in a similar way for a different reason) without disturbing the outline.

Drawing I work — copying the masters

Making a drawing is nothing like, say, creating a worksheet detailing the journal entries of the merger of two companies.

In the latter case, the process is logical, orderly, comfortable, and and I know when it's done I know whether it's right. In the former case, all bets are off.

The assignment: to make a copy of a drawing by a master. My choice: a drawing of a bear foot by da Vinci (original shown here at The Royal Collection website). The blue sheet of charcoal paper stares me in the face, challenging me with its blankness. I wonder how in the world I can possibly end up with a 16" x 20" copy of his 5.4" x 6.3" drawing. But it's homework, and it's due, and that's beauty of it. Somehow it gets done. And it even works -- even if it takes awhile to be sure that it is finished, and even if it's not clear at first that it's successful. There are no reconciling figures or completed worksheet to signal the end of the drawing.

Some time after taking a week-long workshop with Ann Hechle, I attended her lecture at the 1990 Letterforum about the process of working on the piece about the first hexagram of the I Ching, The Creative. It was also a lecture about the nature of working creatively, which gave me insight into the stages of the creative process -- the new idea and all its possibilities, the first stages of work on the ideas and culling out/giving up extraneous ideas, advice and input from others, the chaos in the middle, knowing when it's finished, and letting it go. All very valuable wisdom ... which I completely forget every time 🙂

Stephen Wiltshire draws Rome

This video shows an amazing savant, Stephen Wiltshire, drawing a 5-1/2-foot mural of Rome from the memory of a 45-minute helicopter ride. It took him 3 days, and his perspective and detail are incredibly accurate, as revealed by an overlay of aerial photos.

We are an amazing variety of human beings, aren't we? I contrast this feat with my experience last week: After 3-1/2 hours of staring at and drawing just part of an arrangement of tricycle, open box and ladder, I was still seeing new details. And further contrast: the experience of my friend who finds stick figure representations of people simply daunting.

Drawing I — graytone drawing

We did this still twice -- although we were allowed to move around and find another view after the first one if we liked. The first one was a straight value drawing in charcoal. My first one went so badly that I never finished it. And no, I don't want to talk about it. On the second day, we started by covering our paper with a mid-tone gray and then "drew" in the highlights with a kneaded eraser. Only after all the highlights were lifted out did we go back in with charcoal and get the dark tones. I still have some work to do on the darkest shadows.

These things take so long! This was 2-1/2 hours.

Drawing I – latitude-longitude contour drawing

Another image from my Drawing I class, drawn on 18" x 24" paper. The Sharpies we used here fall more in my comfort zone than do charcoal or pencil. With a Sharpie (though I like Zig markers, which don't stink), a mark is a mark is a mark. It's not a shadow or a hint of a mark or a slightly darker tone, it's a mark. Never mind that we used marks to put in the shadows 🙂 and never mind that when you make a mark it's simply there and there's nothing you can do about it from then on. I was still more comfortable making this drawing than making any others we've done so far in class.

(In case you wonder about my contours on the swan, know that the swan is made of plywood, with a Styrofoam half-oval for a wing.)

Drawing I — gestural drawing

Drawing is one very good reason I'm a calligrapher. I mean it. This drawing class is like trying to walk after choosing to sit for decades. I leave every 2-1/2 hour class meeting simply exhausted. Which seems ridiculous, but how hard can it be to put on paper what you see with your eyes? Pretty hard, evidently.

Here is the first image of my first efforts in Drawing I. This one was a gestural drawing of an arrangement of really, really random things in the center of the classroom: a partially dismembered skeleton, a red tricycle, various fake flowers, and some Styrofoam balls.

We were given 1 minute, then 3 minutes, to get as much of the still life down on huge sheets of paper -- these sheets were about 24" x 36". Then we started on this fresh sheet and were told we had 5 minutes, but after the first 5 minutes we were given another 10 minutes to get in more detail.

Very stressful for me. I'm hoping this all starts to come a little easier as the semester wears on.