Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End Of The Year Art Blog Post

It's been a few years now that I started this blog. When I started it I was in a rut artistically. I had let go of my dreams and as a result I felt like I had neglected a part of my soul. I feel that I am a long way from when I started but still a long way from where I would like to be. It has however been a great if sometimes frustrating, humbling and challenging journey so far.

When I look back at the post I made when I started this blog I'm a bit embarrassed by some of the work, but we all start from that point of where we are. It's where we end up that matters.

Makes me think of one of my all time favorite art quotes from the Japanese Master Katsushika Hokusai,

“From the age of 6 I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was 50 I had published a universe of designs. But all I have done before the the age of 70 is not worth bothering with. At 75 I'll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am 80 you will see real progress. At 90 I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At 100, I shall be a marvelous artist. At 110, everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign my self 'The Old Man Mad About Drawing.” 

Looking forward to the New Year and working harder and better.

Please stop by Society 6 and take a look through Prints of my work as well as other sale items with my work on it. Your purchase's will help support my work.

Click HERE for Society 6

Monday, December 15, 2014

Drawing It Over 7 Times (Pen and Ink)

It's been a while since I've really focused on the Pen and Ink medium. I've done a bunch of sketches but this is the first time in a long time I reached for my steel nib dip pens. Not entirely happy with the results but I enjoyed doing this recent drawing.

I'm probably going to have another go at this. The image is too good and worth fighting to make a better drawing of it.

I remember a long time ago an art instructor told this story about an illustrator whose Art Director told him that if he did his drawing over 7 times that he would be more satisfied with the final drawing. At first the illustrator was angry and dismissive but eventually he did the 7 drawings and was happy with the result and made it a common practice after. The art instructor talked about how when he heard the story he did the something and his work was better for it.

I also remember having a conversation with the son of a teriffic watercolorist in which he told me that his father would reuse figures from previous paintings and each time he would refine the figure making it better and better.That watercolorist was David Levine. A great pen and ink artist as well.

Come to think of it I've done images of this person in different mediums in similar or different pose's.

The drawing at left is from my sketchbook done in a little (just a bit) loser or freer style. Maybe something to shoot for.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pen And Ink Sketchbook

One of the first mediums I was attracted to was Pen and Ink. As a kid I spent hours and late nights (sometimes sleepless nights) copying my favorite drawings from the pages of comic books. I used brush, pen and ink to copy the works or imitate the styles of John Busecema and Alfredo Alcala, Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, Frank Frazetta. Latter on I discovered the works of the great pen and ink artist of the Golden Age of American Illustration. Charles Dana Gibson, Franklin Booth, Joseph Clement Coll, Harrison Caddy, Etc.

Pen and Brush and Ink is the medium I turn to when I sketch from imagination. Its fun.
Lately I started doing an exercise using this medium. I collect refference from the internet on subjects I enjoy. I love history (not that I'm a history buff, I just like the romance of earlier times), I have collected some photos of Civil War and  Medieval reenactors, Roman reenactors. I use them to make warm up sketches in pen and ink. I play with it using several sources for one figure or face. Exaggerating or adding features like beards or aging the characters, etc. I also use refference photos that I have taken myself for earlier projects.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rethinking The Gouache Medium

Gouache was a medium widely used long ago but is so little respected nowadays. Great artists such as Albrecht Durer, Anders Zorn, Winslow Homer, J.M.W. Turner, Francois Boucher, etc. made terrific works in this medium. Illustrators have made works sometimes indistiguishable from oils when seen on the printed page.

On a recent visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City I saw a small piece executed in Gouache that made me think that I was not giving the medium the respect it deserves.

I have been looking at other artists work in this medium so that I can get a better understanding of how to work with it. I also looked up some illustrations done in Gouache.  The work thats out there really makes me wonder why the medium is not so widely used. In all honesty I would probably do more Oil painting if I had the room but because I like switching mediums I would still continue to use Gouache.

The images on this post were made at a time when I am relearning and rethinking how to work in this medium. The painting on the bottom was done on a toned paper which was too thin . The painting above and at right were done with Strathmore 500 Bristol Board. The painting on the right was done on a 4-ply sheet (the thickness of four boards), The heavier the sheet the better. I've also used 300 Lb. cold pressed watercolor paper.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Free Online Sketching from the Model

Great news for those who find it difficult to find models to draw from. There are two YouTube channels that offer either still images of models  or filmed the model as he/she posed. You start out with a series of short poses leading to 10 minute poses.

The first Channel is On Air Video

This Channel records their models in real time doing 1, 2, and 5 minute poses.

The other channel is New Masters Academy

New Masters Academy offers still images of the models posing for 1, 2, 5 and 10 minute poses.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

More Sketches of my Mother

I had a discussion with someone about these paintings I've been doing of my Mother. I was asked why do I paint these pictures of her in her old age. It was suggested that I look for photos of her when she was younger and use those as reference.

My response was;

1- I paint these pictures of her when I visit her. Its a way of passing the time with her when she is at an age that I'm not sure if she recognizes me, not all the time anyway.
I help her with her food, I play her music and as she listens I sketch her and try to talk to her at the same time.
Painting her is an experience for me. It is just as much a memory, a good one, as when she was younger.

2- I find her just as lovable and worthy of painting in her old age as I did before.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Start Is Just As Important As the Finish

One of my biggest weaknesses is that I tend to rush to a finish. A long time ago an instructor asked me if I was trying to finish an oil painting in one sitting. It's taken me a long time to learn that a painting or a drawing needs to be built on a strong foundation, that what I'm painting needs to be carefully examined or all the drawing errors that I glossed over in the start will reappear and weaken the final image. Most of the important work is done at the beginning of a painting.

I made the pencil drawing (above left) with the intention of painting over it in gouache. I took the time to carefully map out where the lights and darks were to be placed. I scanned the drawing so that I would not lose it, just in case I need to start over on the painting. With the drawing scanned I thought it would also make a good under drawing for a digital painting. I opened the file in Sketchbook Pro and painted the monochrome self portrait above.

The painting went very smoothly because I already mapped out  and planned in my mind how I was going to paint the portrait. The time I took to make that careful drawing in the beginning carried me through the entire painting.

Bellow is a YouTube video I made showing and explaining how I made the digital portrait.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Advantages of Working In Gouache

Gouache is a medium that goes back a long way. The watercolors that were painted by Durer were actually done in Gouache which is opaque watercolor. The medium was used to illustrate manuscripts in the middle ages. It has been used by just about any artist you can mention,  Fran├žois Boucher, JMW Turner, George Innes, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, etc. When you hear the term body color (which was used in a great deal of studies by the painter Peter Paul Rubens) it is actually gouache the artist used.
I like the medium for several reasons.
 It is more forgiving than transparent water color. I also love working in transparent watercolor but sometimes I would rather work with the advantage of building the image without worrying about leaving areas white and dreading that irreversible mistake.
Because of its opacity I can build the image in the same way I would paint in oil but without the solvents and without the long drying time.
It's an easy medium to travel with. The set up would be the same as transparent watercolor.
You can read up on the history of the medium by clicking  here
There are some great examples of Gouache paintings at this link
A lot of golden age American Illustrators also used gouache. It would be a good idea to research those illustrations to examine how they used the medium and what is possible with it. Steven Dohanos and Harry Anderson are two illustrators who used the medium often.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why Drawing The Same Subject Never Gets Old


I filled up most of my sketchbook with drawings of my Mom. I don't get tired of doing them because  I try to make each one better than the last. Each time I draw her represents another chance to go at it again and get it right. I don't see myself getting tired of drawing her when There is so much to get right. It's always about making a better drawing. 
 Maybe I need to try to do a bit more, introduce some color or try to get more of the room she is in. But there is so much to get out of drawing her head. The expressions on her face, her hair, learning to simplify the drawing. Choosing only the lines  and marks that can give the image meaning. Its not just about the subject but also how you communicate visually  what and how you see. That way the drawing becomes more of an experience if I can just communicate those things I mentioned in the drawing.
Pursuing those things can take up many sketchbooks and never get old.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Drawing A Personal Subject, My Mom

A few times out of the week I visit my Mother, after taking care of her needs I sit down for a while and sketch her. When I was younger, in high school, my Mother would sit down and rest from her busy house work and pose for me. I wish I kept all those sketches of her, though I have a few from those days. Other family members posed for me too ( I use to draw my brother as he slept in the bed across from me), but Mom posed more often and she still does.

The drawing never gets boring, even if its a similar pose or angle, I try to improve from what I did last time. Sometimes I'm surprised that somehow there seems to be something sad about the drawing and I don't know if that's more her or me. One time, though, she surprised me. My Mother is now 91 years old, her eye sight is all but gone, she see's very little out of one eye and the other she is blind. She has dementia so her memory seems to come and go and I can hardly understand her speech. Sometimes I can catch a few words so I know there is meaning behind what she say's. But she surprised me once as I was drawing her, she looked straight at me and said, "Hey. What are you doing?" and then she began to laugh out loud!. I wish I could've froze that moment and drew her laughing, would have been like one of Rembrandt's final self portrait where he painted himself in his old age laughing- as my teacher Irwin Greenberg put it, He laughed as if to say he took the worst that laugh could throw at him and he won, he made to his old age unbroken.

For these drawing's I continue to use the water soluble pencil along with a water brush. I have a raw sienna, sepia and black pencil. If I want to add color I use a small travel set of watercolors. These are the things that I take with me everyday to sketch on the train ride to and from work and whenever I see an opportunity in between and after that time.

Bellow is a sample of one of the sketches I did of my Mom, this would have been around my senior year in high school or my first year of college.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Don't be Afraid To Mess It Up

It really helps to not be afraid to mess things up. I did my best not to worry and splash paint around- it did help to have a strategy though. I made a careful drawing and then went to bed for the night all the while plotting at how I was going to paint the picture.

I enjoyed pushing the water around, applying a cool blue wash over the warm colors of his face, deepening the dark areas by applying washes of color. It turned out to be fun because I wasn't afraid to mess it up and have to throw it away.

Not that there aren't still some things that bother me. I should have placed the figure better on the paper so that his left elbow doesn't run off the page and I'm not sure about the rendering of his left hand. But overall I'm pretty happy with the painting.

Another painting I did recently was a landscape. I took my brand new pochade box outside. My son Jason came with me and painted alongside me. Initially I liked the painting but as I began to live with it I kept wanting to change things in it. One morning I woke up and looked at it and began applying paint with a palette knife. I decided that I did not like the painting as it was so I was either going to make some bold changes or throw it out. Again, just not being afraid to mess it up made all the difference.

Detail of landscape painting.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sketching With Watercolor Pencils

“Get the few main lines and see what lines they call out.”
Robert Henri

Lately I’ve been sketching with these water soluble pencil’s like a kid who discovered a new toy.

I like being able to work back and forth from a watercolor wash to putting some pencil lines back into the drawing once it dries sufficiently. All though once in a while I render a bit more than I think I should, working this way is helping me to work quicker, jotting down only what is important. Sometimes I rework the drawing a bit later on but what I actually start out with is a bit of a line drawing with some wash, the drawings of my Mother (on the left and below) I have a little more time to work on. The quote by Robert Henri above is a handy reminder of finding and starting with the  few important lines, getting down what is essential first. The watercolor pencils help me to put these things down quicker.

“The sketch hunter 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.”
Robert Henri

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sketching With Water Soluble Pencils

Water brush
I had used water soluble pencils before, but after purchasing a video by Artist James Gurney called Watercolor In The Wild I started using them again.

I use them on the subway and when I visit my Mom. All I need is a couple of pencils and a Niji Water brush. Sometimes I use a small watercolor set. I have a Windsor and Newton Field Box With 12 half pan's. It's small but I want to try to find something even smaller especially for when I'm sketching in the subway.

Its been a while since I took my sketchbook outdoors. The park near my job has been closed for over two years while they work on what I can only guess are repairs of damages from the last big storm in the area. When time permits I will make some trips to City Island and then the Botanical Gardens, both in the Bronx.

Recently I took my oils and my new pochade box and went out to the parkway near my home with my son and painted some trees there. My son used a set of watercolors and painted alongside me. But that's a story for another post.

Bellow I included the link to James Gurney's website as well as the link to his post on his video and where you can purchase it.

Windsor and Newton Field Box

James Gurney's blog Gurney Journey

Blog post on Watercolor In The Wild Video

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Paintings and Drawings for Sale On Etsy

I've been thinking about this for sometime and I finally got around to opening an Etsy account to sell my work.

Selling or promoting myself is not something I'm particularly good at so this is going to be learning experiance for me.

For thing is to keep prices fair and reasonable. I remember getting advice from an older artist, he said to do a bunch of small works so that people who can't afford to buy the larger ones can have something in their price range to purchase. I'm going to have a mixed range of sizes of course. Some of the work is sold matted and ready for framing.

Please have a look at my store front, the link is here ArtInABusyWorld

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Struggling and Growing

Day 1

“Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do.”
Edgar Degas

There are times where all my faults seem to show up as I'm painting. It feels like I don't know what the heck I'm doing. That's about where I am with the things that I am currently working on- It's been a struggle.

"Paintings that you work hardest at are the ones you learn the most from, and are often your favorites." (Irwin Greenberg)

Day 2

I've started a number of paintings over the past couple of weeks and all have been a fight to resolve drawing and value and color, sometimes it seemed I knew little about any of those things.

The way I see it this struggle is frustrating, but good. I have to get past this sinking feeling of failure, hoping that as I strive to get past my shortcomings my work will be the better for it.

"Give yourself room to fail and fight like hell to achieve." (Irwin Greenberg)

Right now it's a bit deflating though.

Day 1. A start I have to get back to.

This struggle brings to mind a story Irwin (Greeny) Greeberg told his students (of which I was one). He said that when he was in school he noticed another kid making a drawing of a man and a donkey. He talked about how he was so impressed with the drawing, it seemed so perfectly executed, flawless. He was amazed by that students talent. A couple of years went by and Greeny struggled through art class' and matured in his work. He saw real personal growth as he tried his best to go beyond his ability. Later he saw that same kid again drawing the same man and donkey. He had never gone beyond what he knew.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My In-Between Weekends Sketches

Gouache painting done in my sketchbook

The hardest thing about starting a painting is knowing I only have a short amount of time to paint. It’s very difficult to break away from the work and go on with the rest of my day. I wish this was something I could do seven days a week.

On the week days, if I manage to get up early in the morning, (about 3 A.M.) I’ll have 3 hours in which to work before I head out for my 9 to 5. In the evening I can steal a couple of hours, but in either case it’s hard to do an oil painting or watercolor knowing I have to leave or stop soon. So during the week I try to fill that time with in between stuff. Little gouache sketches, pen and ink, pencil drawings, etc. Sometimes they may be things I want to paint latter but mostly random stuff most of which gets tossed out.

Gouache painting done in my sketchbook
This self portrait in oil I did on the weekend
The main goal of these in-between sketches is to keep me prepared for the weekend where I can devote more time to painting. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Comedy Of Art College

From a college sketchbook

I read an article recently that pointed out how useless art colleges are in turning out artist who can make a living from their art. The article was not talking about graphic designers, or animators but about the fine art that hangs in galleries.

This did not come as a surprise to me having experienced first hand the misery of art college. It was however a shock back then because I had come from an art high school, Art and Design, and had the opportunity to have been taught by some excellent teachers. The highlight of those years was the early morning painting group that I attended with Irwin Greenberg and Max Ginsburg . We gathered together every morning before the start of the school day and painted from the model for about 2 hours. Greeny and Max would work along side the students and after some time had gone by would make their rounds to offer instruction to each student.

At that time, (I don't know if they do the same now) The High School of Art and Design allowed you to pick your major (Illustration, cartooning, photography, fashion, etc.) and with  Greeny's help I was even able to manage getting into his class. The memory of that time continues to inspire me today.

Then I went to college.
From a college sketchbook

First I majored in illustration, which wasn't too bad and If I stuck with that, who knows I might have graduated. But I switched my major to fine art and entered the "Twilight Zone." let me share some highlights......

In one class while the model was posing the instructor played classical music (nice) and said that he wanted us to draw more from the music than the model in front of us (okay)  and then he turned out the lights. It was pitch black in the room. The model was posing, I couldn't see the model, I couldn't see my paper, I couldn't see my hand. If I could see the instructor I would've thrown my charcoal at him .

Another time I was asked to make a very careful drawing from the model. Which I did. When we were done the instructor asked us to rip the drawing into pieces then arrange the pieces randomly to form a new image. I failed her class.

Then there was the model who was also a performance artist and decided to combine the two as he posed for the class. Somewhere during the performance he found his way underneath the model stand, carrying it upon his back as he crawled on his hands and knees like a turtle across the room.

Oil sketch done while in college
If I could think of one thing I was most bothered by it would be the time I brought an art book to class on the work of John Singer Sargent. The instructor asked If I liked Sargents work and I told her that I very much did. She smiled and continued with the class. The next session she came with copies of articles about Sargent. She gave them to me and asked me to read them. They were all negative articles. At another session she gave me another article comparing  Alex Katz to Sargent???  Their work couldn't be father apart. What bothered me was that she wasn't trying to build on what inspired me or on my tastes but trying to change my mind and direction altogether. But then I guess that is a big problem with how art is taught in college, you should be able to pick instructors who you would want to learn from and usually if there is a good instructor space is limited and you get whatever else is left to fulfill your credit requirement.

 At one time French academies  (I know that's a bad word for some) were where you got instruction in everything but painting. To learn to paint you would have to be accepted in to a painters studio (atelier).  It would be nice if art colleges would work with artists ateliers so that students could get the instruction they prefer. There should be some program with art schools and local art galleries as well. A show once a year in a local gallery promoting new talent in their senior year would be a good way to introduce the artist to the art world.

In my humble opinion of course. 

Bellow is a video that was attached to the article I read.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Painting Isn't Always Fun

 "Don't call yourself an artist. Let others name you that. 'Artist' is a title of great weight." (Irwin Greenberg)

 I read an article recently about being a professional artist. The author said that if you, as an artist don’t enjoy the process of painting then you are doomed as an artist. I don’t know if I agree with that. 

The process of painting isn’t always fun. It’s a challenge to push yourself beyond what you know or what you’re used to. The results are often deflating. You start out with such high hopes and sometimes the final result is less than what you were aiming, but it can still be an advancement because you set out to do more than what you’ve previously done even if it’s just hoping to raise your skill level. In the midst of striving to be better you’re going to encounter frustration. It’s going to be difficult, but the fruit of that struggle is that you do in fact grow and so does your confidence. Like exercise you push yourself every inch of the way and though it’s possible to enjoy what you’re doing as you’re doing it, the big payoff is the results.

"Aim high, beyond your capacity." (Irwin Greenberg)

In that same article I read, and I wholeheartedly disagreed with, the authors opinion that in order to be a professional artist you have to concentrate and specialize in one medium. So many artist come to mind, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Rembrandt, Sargent, Degas, Daumier, etc. All worked in more than one medium. Why wouldn’t you want to? It’s nice to be able to choose the best medium to create your image.  It seems to me the comment was more about marketing yourself than being creative or being a professional artist.

In my opinion I would rather strive to be better and be open to new possibilities. Stay curious and don’t settle. And that sounds like fun at the very least, rewarding too.

"Grit and guts are the magic ingredients to your success." (Irwin Greenberg)