Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One Year of Sketching in the Park - More or Less

 'The sketch hunter has delightful days of drifting about among people, in and out of the city, going anywhere, everywhere, stopping as long as he likes- no need to reach any point, moving in any direction following the call of interests. He moves through life as he finds it, not passing negligently the things he loves, but stopping to know them, and to note them down in the shorthand of his sketchbook, a box of oils with a few panels, the fit of his pocket, or on his drawing pad. Like any hunter he hits or misses. He is looking for what he loves, he tries to capture it. It's found anywhere, everywhere. Those who are not hunters do not see these things. The hunter is learning to see and to understand- to enjoy.'
Robert Henri, (The Art Spirit, pg. 17)

It’s been about a year now that I started sketching in Battery Park on my lunch hour. It started off as a few days out of the week and turned into an everyday thing, (weather permitting and an occasional errand as well). There is not a lot I can do in under an hour but it has become the best part of my day. I look back and see that the sketches have gotten better and more ambitious.
It’s hard to notice that there has been much progress because every sketch presents a challenge, especially since I’m trying to do more than I really have time to do. Besides simply trying to improve on my drawing and painting I hope that the sketching will lead to even more ambitious work by way of finished paintings, but I have to make the time for that.
The watercolor at left is a recent sketch the wash drawing on the right is one of the first sketches I made at Battery Park.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

RIP Peter Falk / Gene Colan

Actor Peter Falk and cartoonist Gene Colan both passed away this week. I was only a kid when Columbo aired in the 70's. It was probably about the third season that I began watching it. I remember that I really liked this character that always appeared lost in thought, forgetful, a little sloppy and not to bright, but he fooled everyone. It was like he always pretended to be less than the clever and intelligent police detective that he was. He was so likable. Peter Falk was also an artist, his work can be seen on his website .
Funny thing was that two weeks ago I had picked up the first season of Columbo. I haven't had time to watch it since, this morning I made the time to do so and it was every bit as fun to watch as I remembered.
 Gene Colan  drew some of the best comics I have in my collection. I especially liked his work when he was paired with Tom Palmer as his inker. I remember when I was a kid visiting my cousin's house, his mother, my aunt,  used to get rid of stacks of his comic books by giving it to my brother and I, (I'm sure that's a sore spot for him to this day). When we got home we would pour over the books, I remember the Daredevils he did with Tom Palmer. Latter when I payed for my own books I would pick up Dr Strange, Dracula and, yes, Howard the Duck. I also liked seeing his un-inked pencil work in books  like Ragamuffin's and the Nathaniel Dusk series.
Its fun just to think about and remember those days and a great satisfaction to be able to open the pages of a comic drawn by Gene or watch Columbo and still feel the same way.
Thanks for the gifts you gave us Mr Falk and Mr Colan.
I did the drawing at left as a tribute to both. Columbo in Colan's style and I colored it in photoshop on top.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Sketching Habit / Lifeline

“Draw everywhere and all the time. An artist is a sketchbook with a person attached.”
Irwin Greenberg

Sometimes I have to remember to tell myself not to try and do to much. I’ve gone through a couple of weeks where sketching is all I can really get done because there’s not enough time to do anything beyond that.
Some day’s that hour lunch break was the only time I had to get anything done. Its important for me to do something everyday, to learn something, to continually strive to be better.  Some weeks are easier
than others to find the time, some nights I stay up late and pay for it the next day and because of fatigue I wind up not doing my best work anyway.
I made up my mind a long time ago to hoard my time, to decide what I absolutely must give away and to who and the remaining time belongs to painting, drawing and reading, doing whatever I can to advance what I know. For that reason  I do very little visiting or spending time with friends, (I’m not antisocial. I make friends and maintain relationships within a set time but what
time I set aside for painting I don’t give away- except, of course as my family has need of me).
This weekend looks to be a busy one, there are two draws on my time.
1- my son has his little league picnic on Saturday, (my son Jason participated in the challengers little league which was formed for children with special needs, mostly autism. This is his third year participating in the league and I’m very proud of him), and 2- on Sunday it’s off to church in the morning. Both events leave the evening open, so God willing I can get some work done then, but what I’m really looking forward to is the fourth of July weekend where I’m looking forward to more time then. Until then I need to be content with making more entries in my sketch book.

This one I painted based on the sketch above left.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Watercolor Sketches and Video Demos

Here is the sketch I did at Battery Park

Decided to use my imagination a bit hear. I took one of the sketches I made in Battery Park and used a tree as reference for the exercise on the left. Felt a little more relax doing this since it was mostly playing with the brush. I used an Isabey squirrel hair brush. The brush holds a lot of paint and water and makes beautiful broad washes, lines and marks. I did a video recording of the sketch in progress.

I had so much fun doing that one I couldn't stop there so I did another. I think I should have given a little more care to how I painted the house and fence on this one, but I was happy with the Broad washes of paint on this one and the marks made with a loaded brush.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Painting Outdoors

I purchased a french folding easel a couple of weeks ago and put to use recently at City Island in the Bronx. Best thing to do with my free time is to paint outdoors. I use my lunch hour to go to the park near work, on my return trip home I stop at the parkway near home and spend sometime painting, and then on the weekend I can take the french easel and paint in oils like in the picture at left.
Now the thing that I have to challenge my self to do is use this data I collected from painting outdoors and transfer that to making finished paintings.
The painting on the upper left is the one that I painted recently. The one on the right is from a trip to City Island I made last year. They are from the same spot the boats are either different or in a different order. I can't wait to go back and pick a different spot. These were fun to do but I guess I'm still looking for something in that area to do that would be less of a sketch, more of a finished piece.
The other two are watercolors done in Battery Park. I only had about 45 minutes on each. I think that these paintings I've been doing also need to be turned into something more finished. So my well spent time outdoors is beginning to lead into more ambitious painting. Now the hardest part about this is making the time and having the discipline to carry it through.
Here is one I put together from some of the other sketches
I made on my lunch hour. Not entirely happy with it but
I will paint some more using the sketches I've made as reference.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Painting Loose or Tight

Two of these paintings were done outdoors the other one at home, (I don't have a studio, just a little corner in my living room where I keep a drawing table and supplies).
The one I did at home, (left), is a lot tighter, I had the time to render the painting and as a result learn how to handle the medium a little better, (I hope). I also learned about the paper I was using which was Saunders cold press 140lbs. The painting was a lot of fun to do but took a few days to complete because I could only work on it in the mornings before going to work and sometimes in the evening as well.
The other paintings were done more quickly the one on the left middle being done in my sketchbook and took less than an hour.  It was done on my lunch hour as I sat in Battery Park. That one is of course a lot loser. I actually spent a few more minutes on that one as I added some touches after I came home, but most of it was painted on the spot. This was a lot of fun too, maybe more fun because of the experience of working outdoors. I like both extremes, the looseness in the one and the tight rendering in the other.

The last one is a tiny little sketch I did while waiting for a bus. I had just got off the train and was transferring to a bus, I don't remember but maybe I was disappointed that I didn't sketch on the train and wanted to do something before I got home. It was done on a small watercolor block that fit in my pocket.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Habit Of Great Painters /John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer

“Habit is stronger than will.”.(Irwin Greenberg)
I like to read accounts of how certain artist worked. I like to get an idea of their intensity and their habits when they paint.
On Watercolor:
The following are some observations that were made of the painter John Singer Sargent.
His only piece of painting equipment was a folding tin box of colors. “I find box color very useful and I use a great many different brushes, keeping my fist full when I work.’
(Richard Ormond, Sargent, Harper and Row 1970)

To see one of Sargent's water colours in the making always reminded me of the first chapter of Genesis, when the evening and the morning were the first day, order developed from chaos, and one thing after another was created of its kind. Having chosen his subject and settled himself with the sunshade, hat and paraphernalia all to his liking, he would make moan over the difficulty of the subject and say, "I can't do it," or "It's unpaintable," and finally, "Well, let's have a whack at it."
Perfect absorption would follow, and after what looked like a shorthand formula in pencil was on the block, the most risky and adventurous

technique would come into play, great washes of colour would go on the paper with huge brushes or sponges, and muttering of "Demons! Demons!" or "The devils own!" would be heard at intervals. All the time the picture was growing surely, swiftly; he worked through to the end, only stopping when it was a subject where light and tide changed before he could get it all in, and two "goes" were necessary. (Mary Newbold Patterson Hale)

Adrian Stokes, who was with him in Austria in 1914, described him painting rocks:
His hands seemed to move with the same agility as when playing over the keys of a piano. That is a minor matter; what was really marvelous was the rightness of every touch. I knew those rocks- I have been struggling with them for days… All was rendered, or suggested, with the utmost fidelity. Parts were loaded, parts were painted clear and smooth, every touch was individual and conveyed a quick unerring message from the brain. It was- if you will- a kind of shorthand, but it was magical!
(Richard Ormond, Sargent, Harper and Row 1970)

The following is an observation on Winslow Homer:

"Once into his forties, Homer rarely went anywhere without rag paper, sable brushes and little pans of color. He took his working vacations in places he knew would give him subjects-the New England coast, the Adirondacks, the tumultuous rivers of Quebec, the Florida Keys and the dark palmetto-fringed pools of Homosassa, the bays and whitewashed coral walls of the Bermudas.

Unfortunately Homer was not as sociable as Sargent, a loner, he never entertained company as he worked. Consequently it is harder to find observations of him as he worked

Thursday, June 2, 2011

On Being Self Critical

As a student a t the High School of Art and Design, in Irwin (Greeny) Greenberg’s class, I was introduced to a lot of artist from the past and the present. Inbetween the model posing in Greeny’s paint class he would give a short lecture on some artist using a book of that artist work for illustration. At the time Burt Silverman and Harvey Dinnerstein had books out on their methods of work . I remember Greeny talking about how one of the most important things to note about Silverman’s commentary on his work method was how he critiqued and evaluated his work as he went a long, or as Greeny would put it, “be your own toughest critic”.In Robert Henri’s “The Art Spirit” he tells his students,
“ Get up and walk back and judge your drawing. Put the drawing over near the model, or on the wall, return to your place and judge it. Take it out in the next room, or put it along side something  you know is good. If it is a painting put it in a frame on the wall. See how it looks. Judge it. Keep doing these things and you will have as you go along some idea of what you are doing.”This is the attitude that I strive for as I’m working. Someone had suggested that I hate my work, I don’t even know if that would matter, I love doing it and I want to get better at it. There are going to be things that I do that would show progress and that is pleasing, but the climb is still before me. Another favorite quote, this one from Hokusai on his death bed,
“If heaven could only grant me ten more years! Only five and I would have become a real painter.” Also from Greeny,
“The secret ingredient in development is just plain guts - the courage to continue despite disappointments, to grit your teeth and begin again, to examine a failure until it yields its flaws, and then swing back into battle. That's how we develop the confidence that tells us we can work out any answer.”These works that I post here are my continuing struggle with paint, both in technique and expression.