September 28, 2014

Woman Dancing With The Cosmic Slinky

The next drawing in my series of revisions of the sketches from my travel notebooks was completed yesterday. In case you’ve just tuned in to this blog series, I was once a traveling artist/educator. For decades my husband and I toured Asia, Europe and America. In the early years this was facilitated by working at various overseas institutes, traveling on weekends and vacations. On all these soujourns I kept illustrated journals.

Three years ago, when I became disabled, travel became out of the question. It still is problematic but I do get around on short jaunts. In my homebound time, which has most of the time, I turned to my travel journals, taking tours in memory and imagination. In my review, I discovered numerous sketches that could be reconfigured into complete drawings. For three years I have been slowly completing them, redoing some completely, merely restoring others.

The drawing at left was completed from a sketch I made of an eighteenth century French sculpture of a woman dancing wildly while swing large cymbals. Her purpose and meaning now elude me. This sketch evoked two memories; one of Hurricane Katrina, the other of a childhood toy.

I had used the original sketch as the basis for a painting on wood of this exotic creature. I painted her in red. The painting was collected by a patron in New Orleans and it was subsequently swept away by Hurricane Katrina. It is now in the permanent collection of the Gulf of Mexico.

When I made this sketch into a drawing I came up with the idea of expanding the cymbals into a series of circles and arcs. I had in mind a time lapsed movement, or perhaps the changes phases of two moons. The end result reminded me more of a childhood toy - the metal slinky.

Slinky was a simple toy made froma series of metal coils that could be trained to walk down a flight of stairs by flipping over itself. The metal coils made a beautiful cascading whir as the toy walked down the stairs ( A later, cheaper plastic version of slinky was manufactured without the characteristic sound which seemed to miss the point entirely).

Negligent children that we were, we invariably left slinky on the stairway to inevitably be tripper over by a hapless family member - usually my dad. His response was generally something like, "Who left that %$@($** slinky on the stairs!"

All of us kids being members of the silent conspiracy of the childhood mafia, the miscreant was never divulged. But we were always disheartened by the miss hap as it meant the death of slinky...its once pristine coils now mangled by the feet that tripped over it. Oh, we would try to resuscitate slinky by trying to hammer the bent coils flat again one by one but it left crooked gaps all the same and slinky would hobble down the stairs like a wounded warrior, ending in an abject heap at the base of the stairs. Eventually another slinky would take its place.

The drawing is of a woman, perhaps an allegorical self portrait, dancing with a cosmic slinky conjured up from the distant past.

September 27, 2014

A Piece of Fluff

The drawing at right is a piece of fluff. I found a sketch I had made earlier of a standing woman outlined pencil, holding a staff and accompanied by a goose. I believe that she was a sketch of a statue in a museum. It is the kind of drawing that may have best been completed in pen and ink, with crisp hard edge designs. But here she is in fluffy charcoals anyway. For this drawing I made use of my new tool, a white pencil. With this pencil I could add thin lines of white back onto the black and grey areas.

September 26, 2014

The Last of the Mama Terrors

I completed a charcoal and pastel drawing diptych called "Mama Terrors" based upon sketches I had made of actresses on a stage. I knew that I had made a third sketch of this scene with the son of one of the actresses seated at the front of the stage, his legs hanging over the edge. Luckily my hunt for this sketch yielded results right away, uncharacteristically finding it in the first place I looked. I spent part of my day making this into a charcoal and pastel art work. Now the diptych has become a triptych. The most recent addition should be a center panel, the boy flanked on either side by the matrons. He should be center not only because of the age and gender difference but because the whole composition is different from the other two. I’ve reproduced one of them again here at right for comparison. I call the new addition "Mama Terrors Plotting in Secrecy," so named for the female cluster at far left. The lonely empty chair reminds me of a throne with the matrons perchance vying with each other for the occupancy of it.

September 25, 2014

Aboriginal Cats Haves Lots of Spots

Yesterday I finally finished the revision of my illustration for the rhyme "Aboriginal Cats." I revised not only the illustration but the rhyme as well, further strengthening "The Book of Marvelous Cats." For comparison, I’ve shown at right the original illustration. For the revision I left out the details and focused only on the two cats. I juxtaposed them in such a way that their tales bore a yin yang relationship. As an avid didgeridoo player, I could not resist making one of the cats playing this instrument. For the background details, this time I consulted Australian Aboriginal paintings to get a better idea of how all the dots should be arranged. So many dots made this piece quite time consuming to create. It took nearly a week. This means that I’ll be posting quicker and more spontaneous pastel drawings for a few days.

September 15, 2014

Those Last Minutes of Sunlight

I have been slowly "retiring" the sketches from my travel books by making them into complete drawings. I am calling them "retired" because so many of them served as blueprints for paintings. But many, such as the one above, never did acquire oil painting status. Had I run out of time, or interest? Or perhaps there just was not enough information in the sketch to base a painting upon.

Although the drawing featured here was never used for painting, it now has an interesting life as a work on paper. These figures were hastily sketched as the sun was setting, consequently they were in shadows with their features undelineated. I often created paintings with the halos of the sun set, or sun rise around them, but in this case there was evidently not enough information to base a painting upon. There was a mystery to the dark figures squeezing a ball or badminton game into the few remaining minutes of the day, just as I was using those few minutes to make one last drawing of the day. A drawing of two men and a woman in a park in Italy. A nice moment to have revisited.

September 13, 2014

A Store Front in North

It was time to consider art work to submit for the South Carolina State Fair. Those pesky rules about two dimensional art work having to be at least sixteen inches long and completed within the last two years was a challenge for me. I had created well over a hundred pieces in the last two years, probably two hundred - all under sixteen inches. The logical thing to have done was matt and frame one of the 11" x 14" drawings. But I chose to register a painting anyway, giving it the generic title of "Remembrances," so that anything would do. I had one 18" x 22" panel left. I also registered a "ceramic ocarina," of which I have loads from which to choose.

I set to work painting a store front from North, South Carolina on the 18" x 22" panel. I had to work so slowly on account of illness that the paint dried faster than I was able to blend. This created a harder edge to the forms than I would have liked. But I decided to live with that. It now looks a bit like a folk art piece with all the flat expanses of color without texture. This will either become my new style or I’ll switch to slow drying oil paints. The finished painting would not quite fit on my 11" x 17" scanner so I had to float it on the surface - hence the fuzzy look. But this is the gist of the piece.

I have been working on a larger work with better texture but most likely this won’t be ready for the South Carolina State Fair - better for next year perhaps. Or it might be ready in time for the Orangeburg County Fair a few weeks later.

As to the ceramic ocarina, I chose one that looks great but doesn’t actually play. I’ll either have to take the dremel to the mouthpiece and see if I can fix it, or just hope that the juror doesn’t decide to try to play it.

September 9, 2014

Mama Terrors

To my great delight, I found another incomplete sketch of the two actresses from SCSU. Another idea to make into an artwork and a sequel to the first work. The first work I named "Mama Terror." Since there are two formidable women in this picture I have named this one "Mama Terrors." In rendering these actresses, I included the lower half of the stage for its geometry and also to keep the setting in the context of the imagined life. The two contrapuntal spirals were not a part of the original sketch but added later. The facial expressions were something most definitely embellished upon as well.

September 7, 2014

Man Warming His Hands

Today I had a headache. That’s nothing new. I have a headache every day. It is part of my ongoing struggle with chronic illness. But today’s pain was such that it caused the making of art to be rather a strain. Yet I painted, made drawings and exercised despite everything. I was told recently to try to continue to do the things I enjoy despite a life of unremitting pain. This sounds like the kind of advice a person without chronic headaches might liberally dispense. Can joy of any kind puncture a headache, I wonder?

To the sometimes fruitless search for joy I submit a drawing that was done without a thought to beauty or to marketability. In short, nothing that involved too much concentration. It is a drawing of a man warming his hands in front of a space heater. I made him merge with the background in one abstract array of triangles, stripes and rectangles. It is not a particularly joyful drawing but it did serve as a distraction.

September 5, 2014

Drawing of a Man who Became a Boy

When I sketched an adult male model some years ago, for some reason I made his body too diminutive. This gave him the physical characteristics of a young boy. I almost discarded the sketch when I decided instead to complete it and claim it as a back view of a boy. I added some patterning in the fabrics and darkened the background. With highlights of chalk to bring out greater contrast it became a drawing to keep. One more addition to my collection.

September 3, 2014

Memory Sketch of Leland Bell

While in graduate school, I studied with a fine man and inspirational artist, Leland Bell. He was very sick in his last year of teaching and I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to be under his tutelage. I rediscovered a sketch that I made of him in the rural countryside of Beemerville New Jersey. He was quite weak but made the outing anyway. I sketched him as he was lying down to rest. As his body failed his mind never did as evinced by his hands gesturing into the sky as he talked about art.

This drawing was completed today using my creamy pastels and charcoals. I believe I had used the sketch to make a painting or two and now this too is retired into my portfolio.