Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Drawing and Probity

Drawing is the probity of art - Jean Dominique Ingres. I had to look up probity: uncompromising adherence to the highest principles and ideals. That could have more than one meaning.  

One is, you can't fake it in drawing. In painting, you can dress things up with color, texture, showie brushwork, etc. But in drawing its just you, your pencil and the paper. You are somewhat naked to the world showing all your strengths and your faults. 

This is good in at least 2 ways. First, it reveals what you need to work on. But more importantly, it gives you the most direct form of expressing your ideas and perceptions. 

Milton Glaser tells a wonderful story.* His wife brought home a gift, a new turntable for his classical records. The store owner said it was the best you could buy. It was just a slab of wood with a turn table and the stylus arm. No automatic retraction of the arm, no dials or controls except for an on and off switch. 

"What did you pay for this"?

"A thousand dollars".

Milton went back to the store and asked the owner what was up with this simple device costing $1000?

"Did you swindle my wife?"

"Did you try playing it?"


"Go try it and then come back."

Of course, when Glaser played it, his records sounded better than ever. When he went back to the store, the owner explained that for the best sound, you want as little interference between the initial signal and the final sound. Every time you add a spring for automatic retraction of the arm, a dial for this, a knob for that, you create interference.

In drawing, its just pencil and paper, dark and light. Straight from your perception to the final image with minimal interference. Probity.

*I can't find the original story so this is best as I can remember it. Details may be off but the basic idea is accurate.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Working Out A Painting II

Here is the latest development of the painting I've been working on. Since the last post, I put a deep yellow glaze over the whole painting and then began painting in the areas around the marquee. I'm generally pleased with how it is progressing. Some things that need work are the marquee itself; I want to find a different movie title. Also, the cast shadow shape is bothering me a litlle. I need to glaze and soften edges on the curved sign to the right and finish the building above and then of course the buildings in the background and the traffic light. It is a little too bulky right now. More to come next week.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wiles of Mass Distraction

In her wonderful book The Language of Drawing, Sherrie McGraw coined the term, "Wiles of Mass Distraction". Among other things, she is referring to the superficial details that get in the way of seeing the underlying forms. The drawings I've posted here are just a few examples of how an artist can look at form.

I've been reading (actually, mostly looking at pictures) in a book my good friend Martin loaned to me. It is the Drawings of Antonio Lopez Garcia. Garcia is a Spanish hyperrealist. Here is an example of his drawing.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog about Richard Estes and photorealism, I often am not terribly attracted to hyperrealism. But as with Estes, Garcia is an exception. I will post later about his paintings and show why I like him so much. But for now, I just want to point out something in his drawing.

Masked by the high degree of finish in his final work is the fundamental, simple shapes that he is thinking about as he draws his forms. In this study of hands, look how he initially comprehends the fingers as simple circular cylinders. He then comes in with his contour lines and shading to bring the image to a higher level of resolution.

We see Pontormo, conceiving the fingers in a similar way, with blocks rather than cylinders.

Finally, Cambioso.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Getting Back To Painting

I am finally starting some larger paintings. For 2 years I have been so wrapped up with the book I was illustrating, along with teaching, that all I have had time and energy for is small plein aires. It is always hard to get back into it. I find all kinds of resistance. I start asking myself, is it really worth the time? Aren't there more worthy pusuits? Is this going to be worth the investment? It's a terrible and unproductive way to feel. I finally slug through and start with small steps. I go through sketches and photos and make more sketches. Finally, something starts to emerge. I would like to pick up this painting at that stage and share my process with you as I progress.

This is a photo I shot in LA back in 2013. I've worked with it a few times feeling like there is something there but, until now, never got the juice going.


After doing these sketches, I felt there were some possibilities. I then did a small 4 x 5 color sketch.

I liked what was happening but was still feeling a little iffy. I finally decided to do a section of it as a study, although a relatively large study that would stand on it's own.

So this is one of the 2 paintings I am working on. It is 22" x 28". This is the first pass. When doing a larger painting I usually do quite a bit of changing, scraping out, glazing, repainting all of which gives a lot of texture and depth. So over the next few weeks, I will show the progress and talk about process to the final painting.

Here it is in a little bit earlier stage.

I will be posting my progress in the coming weeks.
Happy New Year.