This flickr slideshow collects some of the better results of the last five years or so of my working in pastel, charcoal, ink, watercolor and digital.
And this one collects some of the better photographs I’ve made over the last two years. (There are photos that I’ve flagged as “moderate” as they contain some nudity, and those don’t show up in this embedded slide show, but I’m pretty sure if you click through to it and don’t have safe-search enabled in flickr or live in Singapore you’ll be able to see those as well.)
It’s time to wrap up this stage of work. Starting about five years ago I began hiring models to pose and just working on figure drawings with no purpose other than recreation and practice. My job ate up most of my energy and this was something I could do to keep some creative resonance and benefit from the meditative quality of the act of drawing without the pressure of performance. Which is to say the drawings were for their own sake and have no ambition. They aren’t about anything. Except my sanity. Which was important to me at the time.
That time is slipping.
I’d like to start a Journeyman phase. At least that’s how it makes sense to me to think about it. Starting in 2014, for the three years that follow, I’d like to make some increasingly significant work, that is about something, or feels substantial.
So this year I need to wrap up the above. Put up a show of it. Sell some of it. Bring it to a conclusion. Graduate.
This is me beginning to think about how to do that. If you find this work at all interesting I’d love to hear what about it you like.
Tonight’s work. Let me walk through my process.
When working with a model, I’ll generally schedule a 4 hour session. Starting with very quick poses, like a minute or two minutes, I draw over and over quick scribbles to get a sense of shapes and weight and movement. I call these things scribblesheets – they don’t look like much to anyone but me, but I find bits in them.
Then I’ll move on to five or ten minute poses and use botches of watercolor with ink to do slightly more realized sketches. These also are not usually for public consumption, but they help me start to get a sense of features, the unique quirks of presence in bodies. These I call splattersketches.
Finally, I’ll turn to full pastel drawings. These are generally done in a sequence of 20 minute poses, often doing 20 minutes, and taking a break, then going back to the same pose. Sometimes I’ll alternate and do two or three different poses, and thread them so the model doesn’t cramp up keeping the exact same position over and over. It can take multiple days of sittings to get these to come together. Here is the very rough beginning of one of these. This is about a half hour’s attack.
The first picture in the post is another one from tonight, a little further along, probably a bit more than an hour or so of work.
So that’s the way it works. By late summer I should have another set of 6 or so finished pieces.
Moving again, to a new apartment, so the website redesign and all the other projects are going to be a little delayed. Here is a sneak peak of the upcoming new layout:
(The Fibonacci spiral apocalypse in there is just for planning – they won’t be in the finished layout.)
Started a 365 project on Flickr:
So, keeping busy. More to come. Happy New Year!
On the drawing board tonight, some letters.
These are going to be the font of the logo I’m designing for the big web-presence remake, in anticipation of transforming my online identity next year.
Self-reinvention is a thing I can’t stop doing. I’ve never really figured out how to be myself. In many ways I don’t know who I am at all. I keep refining the character, like an art director with an impossible brief.
2011 will be defined by activity and outward directed engagement. Maybe I’m out there, somewhere.
Here is what’s on the drawing board today. This creature is probably about 5 hours of work so far, but spread out over a year. It’s been accreting. Persistence is over half the key to getting anything done for me. Some day this will be done, and it will kick ass.
Or, I guess an octopus can’t really kick.
Some day it will slap ass.
I’m in a sketch posting mood, and also a thinking about old, unfinished projects mood.
Back in 1999 through 2001 I had worked pretty hard on the conceptual phases of mounting a stage production of Shakespeare’s the Tempest. It’s an odd, thoughtful play in which very little actually happens, but there is great beauty in the spaces between sparse action. I did a close reading and fell in love with it’s heart full of forgiveness, disillusionment and surrender to the crushing wheel of time.
These sketches were a joy to make. I dug through two wonderful Renaissance woodcut and 18th Century illustration reproduction books, Vecellio’s and Lechevallier-Chevignard’s, imagining up the looks of all the characters and trying to make some detailed, evocative pencil sketches. There are several more of them than I am posting, I’ve done all but one or two individuals from the play. I keep expecting to do something with this work someday, but what, exactly, I haven’t been able to resolve.
In addition to all the design work I wrote a very large set of incredibly detailed notes about what I thought the history of these characters was, and what their lives became after the events of the play. I found connections in them to other classic literature. I tried in these exercises to stay as true to the characters as written as possible. Too often, I think, people will approach a play like this and bring too much of their own politics or convictions, and disrupt what is a carefully balanced mix of personalities with grafted polemic. Caliban, for example, is surely oppressed, but he is not a noble savage, though it is often tempting for a modern production to portray him so.
I made a physical map of the island in the play and did several illustrations of scene-scapes. I didn’t think they would be built for stage exactly as drawn, but thought the work of drawing them would invite surprises in my thinking about how to arrange the sets.
As the geography started coming together, the whole story started coming together, and some real momentum was building.
Like splitting the logs in a seemingly endless woodpile, all these small acts of thought and drawing were reducing a mountain of chaos into a stack of ordered and useful ideas.
Unfortunately, in the end the steam ran out and I never got a solid thing completed. But this body of effort remains in sketchbooks and notes, and I come back and raid it occasionally for ideas in other projects. The final project for a CGI class. The subject for a sculpture.
Now, as I’m looking at what to do here in the coming year, I’m thinking there is still some life in here, and may be expanding on this work. What’s in it? A book maybe. A gallery show. It could go in several directions.
Easily the most frustrating thing about having a restless imagination is not being able to settle on any one project to see through to the end. I’ve found I work best under the management of someone else, or as one member of a collaborative group. Without the fact of a project outside of my full control I am mostly unable to do the mental triage necessary to keep work focused on serving the project in a timely manner. All my self motivated endeavors stretch out endlessly and get big and unmanageable.
But I’m also generally unable to find collaborators I can work with. Either their ideas don’t inspire me or I don’t respect the quality of their work. I’m sure my ego is obstructing my growth as an artist here, but it’s a fact I need to learn to deal with. There are only two people I’ve been able to repeatedly collaborate with.
One is a friend I used to do comedy with, we’ve made short films, live performances and multi-media things together and they’ve always been decent. With him it works, only when it revolves around comedy, because I find him incredibly funny, and so can almost always turn my work to serving his vision. I trust he’ll have better instincts than me in that way.
The other is someone I produced a play with once, and later have done artwork under the direction of. She is a graphic designer with a really acute eye, and though I generally wouldn’t go myself in the directions she generally goes, or maybe because of that, I also trust her judgment in following artwork down the paths she wants to take it.
I guess I do my best work partially blind, under the guidance of someone I trust can see the road. If you leave me to try the roads myself, I’ll go part way up and down all the ones that look interesting to me, but I’ll never decide which to follow all the way.
That flaw is what I need to work on this year.
We haven’t had a drawing post in a while. Here is some recent sketch work.
I’ve been working with ink, watercolors and gouache lately, after having done mostly ink work in a class I took last year:
James Jean’s sketchbooks are full of these great layered drawings, faces on top of faces and everything just obsessively drawn right on top of other drawings, sometimes several layers deep. I’ve been looking at those a lot lately, and wanted to try something like that. This one isn’t finished, but it’s coming along:
This is just an ink/watercolor sketch that came together nicely:
And finally, I went to a fashion show last weekend and, though I took a few pictures:
Most of the time there I tried just sketching on one small page in a moleskine notebook, just people in the club, objects, architecture, impressions of motion, anything that caught my eye while I sat there. I ended up with this:
I’ll try posting at least one drawing update a week. I’ve been doing quite a lot of this recently, but haven’t been scanning or photographing it enough.