July 20, 2014

Last Two Drawings to Tango

I had four more sketches left of musicians performing at a Milonga. I decided that I was scraping the bottom of the barrel on two of them so relegated them to the trash. It felt good to do so as some editing of my drawing collection is called for. The remaining two were not quite as dynamic as my previous sketches but worth finishing anyway. A few coats of grey, black and white pastels with a touch of charcoal brought them back to respectable life.

July 15, 2014

The Tango Singer: Milestone Number 2400

For some years now, I have been working on a digital archive of my work. Occasionally, I reach a milestone; The first one thousand works...the first two thousand works. Sometimes just even numbers are small events to celebrate. The drawing of the singer above marks entry number 2400. The drawing is full of a number of circles to mark the two zeros in my new number.

What is in a number? Is there a right number for an artist’s life work? Certainly other artists in history have made much more than 2400 works. Others less. Much depends on the size of the work and the speed of execution. I have a balance of quick work, slow work, small work and large work. So I would expect my lifetime of accumulation to be about average.

Most artists don’t painstakingly catalogue their work. Perhaps they are too successful in the here and now of marketing and exhibiting to be bothered by it. The cataloguing for me has certainly been time consuming. I also think that the catalogue is a contribution for a posterity that may never be but there if needed. It has helped benefit scholars who have written about my work.

I must confess that it was a hard sell for me when my brother, a scholar editor an archivist himself, first proposed the project. It would take too much time I whined. And there was this problem of having to confront mortality. When we first designed the archive and defined catagories for items (i.e. drawings, mosaics, paintings, paintings in series etc.) we had to agree upon an upper limit to a number. The limit was 999 for each category. In other words, I probably wouldn’t do more than 999 of any one type of art before I DIED. That is most likely correct but to see it in black and white was rather intimidating. Thus far I have not surpassed the 500 mark in any one category but with over 342 drawings and maybe a few more years left I suppose it would be possible.

For now, I’ll celebrate the number 2400 with a hope for many more to come.

July 14, 2014

The Keyboard Player

Having just finished my drawings of a bandoneon player I sketched at a Milonga in Columbia, South Carolina, I turned to finishing up my drawing of his fellow band player. The keyboard player pictured in the above drawing moved with lively histrionics, which I’ve hopefully captured in this charcoal impression. I had his business card at one time, but could not find it again. So the keyboard player will remain nameless for now. I could, and may, try to contact his partner and get a name.

July 13, 2014

The Bandoneon Player

Lately I have been revisiting the year I studied the Argentine Tango and finishing the drawings that I had started at that time. There were numerous sketches of dancers from that era. But at one of the evening Milongas I made sketches of the musicians. I recently revised the sketches of the bandoneon player Osvaldo Barrios. I sketched him live as he performed on his favorite bandoneon, a taped together old thing that he loved for its sound. On one of his breaks he explained that he had painstakingly kept this instrument alive because the sound was better than any of the new ones he tried to replace it with. That may have been so but when I watched him seem to merge with the instrument as he played I felt that it was an old familiar friend that he could not forsake.

The pictures were originally rough pencil line drawings but I have finished them in charcoals and pastels. The blackened background helps off set Osvaldo’s wiry white hair.

June 26, 2014

Massage Cat

I have a masseuse who trades art for massage. She has magic hands that go the distance in getting the knots out of my muscles. It helps keep my neuromuscular problems temporarily at bay. The therapeutic massage inspired the remake of my illustration of Massage Cat for my Book of Marvelous Cats. In my revised illustration, I incorporated the art of Ekphrasis - paying homage to an earlier illustration of Cosmic Cat in the composition. It seemed fitting that Massage Cat would have an eastern style scroll of a Hindu god on his wall. Note the tabby hair on the man receiving the massage.

June 25, 2014

Another Angle on an Old Drawing

I had always liked the conte crayon sketch I made of a man seated among easels. It was a composition based upon triangles. This was the latest sketch that I fleshed out with charcoal, chalk, and grey pastels into a complete little drawing. It was satisfying to finally finish this up.

June 19, 2014

Vainly Made Art

The illustrations I have been working on are time-consuming and detailed. Although on a good run I could finish two in a day, generally these pencil drawings take one to three days to complete. Therefore, I’ve taken a short hiatus from those and worked on drawings that yield quicker results. For these I used charcoals and pastels.

The last two finished drawings were reworked from old sketches made my more vigorous youth. I was very prolific albeit easily distracted and impatient. That is why I have a veritable plethora of sketches but few complete drawings. The one above that I just reworked and completed brings to mind an interesting but cautionary tale of vanity galleries. The goat on a pathway was a sketch for a large painting that was exhibited in a gallery in Washington D.C. It was a vanity gallery and I had to pay a fee to exhibit there. That was back in the day when it was difficult for an emerging artist such as myself to obtain exhibition opportunities. The gallery shipped back the work only after persistent nagging on my part. It was shipped via UPS and for some reason there was a hole punched through the box and right through the canvas. I reported this to the gallery and they filed a claim. UPS paid the shipper, the gallery owner, and then came to collect my damaged painting. The gallery kept the money and I lost a painting. Eventually I did win a small claims suit against the gallery using the Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts but the owner of the gallery slipped out of his responsibilities by closing his gallery and declaring bankruptcy. After making off with other artist’s money as well, said gallery owner then had the nerve to write an article for a local newspaper about his failed business, complaining about how vain and demanding artists are. I recall the article was called “Bonfire of the Vanities.” I’ve avoided using galleries that ask for money up front ever since. I’ve often wondered whether my experience is also what helped change UPS policies in refusing to insure paintings or art behind glass!

The drawing below is a reworked charcoal of a model I sketched during graduate school.

June 18, 2014

Another Generation of Cave Cats and Tomb Cats

Continuing with my revisions for my illustrated book of cats, I’ve just finished two more. The Cave Cats is an updated version of my previous illustration. The new version varies the sizes of the cats to give an impression of atmospheric perspective. Added are the details of fossil shells and arrow heads.

These days, when I revise a drawing, I sometimes find that the revisions spawn new illustrations and poems. This is what happened with the Cave Cat revision. My first remake was patterned after the cave paintings in Chinese Han tombs. But when that drawing was finished, I realized that it no longer went with the “paleolithic” poem. So I wrote a new kitty ditty to go with this drawing and called it “Tomb Cats.” It goes like this:

In sacred spaces where spirits loom

flying cats protect a tomb

filled with objects for veneration

from ages past to the present generation

June 14, 2014

The Food Not Eaten

I recently curated an on line exhibition for Etsy called “Cakes and Pies Before Our Eyes,” featuring artist’s paintings of this subject. I am now reading Phyllis Bober’s book on ancient and medieval gastronomy, Art Culture and Cuisine, a highly readable feast of fantastic historical practices surrounding food.

Perhaps I look at these pictures of desserts and read history books about food because I am on a liquid diet after an affront to my precarious digestive system. Interestingly, now that one sense is not stimulated by the visual impact of food I can appreciate it for its form alone. I am no stranger to the art of making pictures of food not eaten. There was a time in England when my stomach gave out for a while and I was obliged to look at food but not partake. The drawing above dates from that time, when I was served a plate of dumplings that I could only look at. I made this drawing in appreciation of the aesthetic form of the dumplings carefully arranged on their oblong serving tray. A second drawing, not pictured, followed of my husband eating the dumplings. By making the drawings I need not enjoy food solely in a vicarious way.

AT the time I made the food drawings the only tool I had on hand was a black ink pen in my purse. In order to make them more appealing as drawings I recently resurfaced them with grey, black and white pastels.

June 9, 2014

The Cat of Mardi Gras

The latest in my ongoing revisions of drawings for my Book of Marvelous Cats is the illustration for Mardi Gras Cat. A quick look at the original drawing at right shows that my second try brought forth some nice detailing in the human mask that the cat wears. I thought it would be interesting to surround the cat with empty animal masks while the cat sports a human face. This time, the revisions were selective refinements rather than additional details. Indeed, there are fewer masks in the new version.