April, 2010 Archives

I’ll miss drawing in this old ledger book.  I started doodlin’ in the old horse July 25th, 2009. The book, a 200 page  ledger book, The Policy Register of the County Fire Insurance Company of Philadelphia,  was a gift from a pal and had contained some 64 pages of entries in graphite, of groceries and expenses  between January 1932 and 1946. I flipped the book and began drawing from the rear. At a certain point,  our entries collided. However, I’m leaving 2 pages of the previous authors’ writings untouched. The old book has seen a lot of wear and tear, literally. Lard knows how old the book really is, but I can tell you them 16 1/2″ by 11″ sheets are brittle and easily torn and tattered. On some of the scans from the book you can see flecks of dislodged paper that have fallen on the scanners’ glass plate. Have a close look at the  neck of the model in the 3rd column 4th row of this post and the young boy’s hair in the 4th row 2nd column of March 9th’s entry, “Chicago Commuter Portraits in Ink”. The more I work thru it, and the more I let others browse it, the more it sheds and tears.

Any chronology I may have been establishing has been muddied by my reluctance to move on. I go back to make use of sparsely worked pages ( column 3 row 4 ), jam a head study into a crevice in row 5 column 2, or dove tail a studious Marko from a live session at the P & C in between someone hammering away on a laptop in a coffee shop and the sinuous echo of a tree branch. On pages where I’ve amassed speed study spaghetti, I love to reclaim some crowded real estate as with the seated figure row 5 column 1 or the composite head column 3 row 5. I began drawing a bus riders’  brow, eye, and nose who then disembarked. When the next commuter took his seat, I finished the head with rider #2’s mouth, chin, jaw, ear, collar and ski cap. Love doing that. Haven’t attached a woman’s French braid to the face of a swarthy old man yet but I’m hoping…

While most of the drawings in this book are observed from life or out of my head I do still draw from other references. Always have. The diaphanous, winged head in bonnet, row 3 column 3, is after a portrait by Hans Holbein and the back to back female and male nudes in row 3 column 2 are copies of  life drawings by Canadian great, Clive Powsey.

Only 14 of these beautiful oat meal colored pages remain in this ledger book and then it’s on to a lakota papered sketchbook less than half this size. And though I intend to range back thru these pages to amend and violate prior efforts; I’d be stealing the breath from some of the sheets if my OCD gets the better of me.

I don’t know what to call it. An Epiphany, a Change of Heart, New Stratagems, I Fired the Old Coach, Regime Change. But, I’ve been thinking about sketching, doodling, if you will, quick sketching in particular. You know, warm up exercises, gesturals. Who doesn’t have the need to do ’em at least a few thousand times over the course of your life. Well I do reams of  ’em. The idea is to quickly and economically capture a pose, it’s balance, the gestural sweep and flow of a figure, don’t sweat the details…. Anyhow, I may have stated in an earlier post how one of the open sessions where I go draw from the figure, opens up the night with 45 minutes to an hour of  20 second poses, 40 second poses, then minute long to 2 minute poses. This is supposed to get us all good and loose. The drawings in the first row, column 1 and column 2, and the bottom row, column 1 are some examples of sub 2 minute doodles. The odd thing, for me, is, to get really effective quickies, I need to be already warmed up or relaxed and open to it. To capture something in 20 seconds you have to have a mission. What do I wanna say with these few seconds? Where’s the emphasis? People like to use terms like “essence”, “flow”, “sweep.” The spine is a good architectural structure and a simple description can go a long way to indicate the figures’ posture. The important relationships of head to shoulders to chest to pelvis to knees to feet… them seconds are flying by. You can hear people exhale as the timer goes off and the pose changes, only to switch again another 18-25 heartbeats later; depending on how much you want to rip out the page and send it flying in a balled up wad. And these poses are often really exciting, with some of the models displaying their intimidating athleticism. All that juicy information, those fabulous contours and the twisted body throwing form-draping shadows on itself. ZZZZZZZZ! Next pose. Dayumn! Sometimes I can barely get my head out of the last pose and I’m already halfway thru the next. There are nights when that frustration carries over into the longer poses and I never seem to find a groove. The grey seated figures in column 1 row 2 and the blue figures in column 1 row 5 are some clunkers that best illustrate what I’m talking about.  I take my everyday sketchbook, which is usually one of many beautiful old ledger books that go with me everywhere and contain transit doodles and head studies, notes about articles I read in various media, concepts for future pieces and studies and working drawings for current projects. I could just eat up scores of those gorgeous pages with an army of crappy scribbles. Hey, that’s the risk, I don’t fuckin’ like drawing on that shitty newsprint anymore. Later, for amusement and exercise I may go back to the more disappointing quickies and “doctor” ’em up. I’ve posted a number of those pages in the past. Refer to the guy in the barrel 1st row 2nd column and the “Hey Mutha-Fukka!” drawing 2nd row 1st column from the October 14th, 2009 post titled Good Days, Bad Days and you’ll see just such  amended drawings that began as 20 seconds of tangled pubic hairs. Other times I’m so disgusted with the way things are going that I’ll just layer my “warm-ups” on top of other embarrassing doodles. Take a look at the drawing above in the 2nd row of the 2nd column. Saves paper.

So…to wind my way to the point of this post. Would you go out cold on a field and start running wind sprints? When I was involved in athletics a few decades ago, we warmed up by gentle stretching and/or jogging around the track before we turned on the jets. Now, I’m a fellow who draws in public with great frequency. I spend 6-12 hours per week on public transit and a few more hours/week in cafes, where I take full advantage of drawing that and them which are around me. You’ve no idea how long someone is going to hold still, few do for any lenght of time. So I’m prepared to make haste when trying to capture a likeness or setting.  The drawings in column 2 row 3, column 3 row 3, column 2 row 5 were done in just such settings and I guarantee that some of those folks were squirming like they had ants in their pants. The studies in column 1 row 4 were done while watching a friend’s son working out in his karate class. I don’t care to have gesture drawings and quickies all boil down to  slashing mid-lines, boxed torsos, hemispheres with latitudes and longitudes, or snake tornadoes. And that’s part of the rub for me. Even when I’m moving quickly with the last grains of sand draining from the hourglass, I try to make note of light and shade and suggest volume.  It’s just where I’m at at this point. In the drawings I did from a balconey of the Windy City Roller Derby gals, column 2 row 7, I was moved by the uniforms, their equipment, posture, perspective, and the sheen on their hair and helmets.  In the few minutes when these women were taking a breather with all hell breakin’ loose before them, I wanted some of all that eye candy. Some studies from life are gratis the generousity of friends who pose for me as did Geza with his accordian in column 1 row 3 and Mark in the yellow page in column 3 row 4. I feel especially pressed to knock it out in a hurry but the whole point of their holding the pose in the first place is to help me with a figure I’m developing and how light hits those forms. In those instances, I use brush pens so I can work up linear and tonal areas as rapidly and fluidly as possible. I dispense with all those measuring lines and blocking in of forms and angles. I’m not looking to frame in a bloody house after all. My objective here is to draw as intuitvely and economically as possible given an empathetic concern for my friends’ creakin joints and quivering muscles. When I’m good and warmed up, this is more likely to yield useful results. On my way to life drawing sessions I’m trying to cop some time on the train drawing commuters to get the grease flowing. When I get into the studio where the models are darting about at a frantic pace from the get-go and I’m walking in cold having had no time to draw beforehand; the effect of an hours’ worth of speed drawing is to tighten me up. And that fuckin’ timer is the equivalent of Chinese water tourture.

There is a 4 hour session on Friday nites at the Palette and Chisel that begins with 2 half-hour poses wherein the model is fully clothed. You can choose to bang in your angles, catch a little likeness, render some shadows, and I find that the drapery of the clothes lets me play loose and breezy with some brushwork. After an hour, when the model disrobes and begins quick poses, I’m feeling a bit more settled in and have a sense of what’s working for me, or not. And if I had some fun on the train or at a cafe before I go straddle the bench at the P&C then I’m totally up for a half hour’s worth of 1 minute, 2 minute and 5 minute sprints. I also find as I look back thru my sketcbooks that those particular drawings have more snap. I can sense more trust in my line as well. On nights like those, I may start a drawing, as I did on colunm 1 row 6, and column 2 row 6, column 2 row 7, and column 3 row 7, with an exploratory line or 2 or circle in the head region, but, when the feeling’s there, you just say fuggit and lay the marks in with confidence.

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