I am very happy to announce that I am currently in a group exhibit of surrealist artists at Honey Jones Studio, an art gallery at 270 Concord Avenue in Cambridge, MA through the month of April.
Check the gallery website for the gallery hours and please come visit. Also note that there will be an Après Full Moon Closing on Wednesday April 28th from 2 – 6pm.
This is the artist statement I wrote for the paintings I have in the show:
I make art in attempt to create order out of all of the beauty and chaos that’s happening to us all at once, giving form and visual poetry to the onslaught of visual stimuli and conflicting emotions and absolute uncertainty.
The past five years, more or less, mark a return to my life as a surrealist painter. I paint images of contrasting elements: i.e. abstraction/realism, organic/geometric, dynamic/static, infinite/temporary, in order to get beyond the visual world and into the subconscious.
Much of realistic painting over the centuries has had the aim of capturing a moment in time, while most of what we see, and experience now seems to be the opposite. We’re constantly having our attention pulled one way then another, being interrupted by traffic, phones, people behaving unpredictably, Netflix, Amazon and constant advertising everywhere, all the time. And that’s just normal life.
Then comes the unexpected and often inexplicable: light bends so we see a ship floating in air above the sea, historical landmarks burn to the ground in bright orange flame under deep blue skies, and the streets of our mightiest cities stand stark in their emptiness as hospitals and cemeteries are overflowing.
I recently got an email from one of my painting students who asked me if she should continue in the class “since everyone else is so much better”.
To say that’s a common emotion is not to say it doesn’t suck when you feel that way. I know because I’ve done it and probably still do, without realizing it. But it’s also bullshit and left unchecked can be very damaging.
It’s very difficult for most of us to tell how good we are as we’re developing and growing as artists. Practically the only metric that’s available for us is to compare our artwork to what others are doing, and comparing yourself with others is a terrible way to assess such a subjective and emotional undertaking as learning to make art.
The exception to that would be your relationship with your heroes, to whom we can look to for guidance. For instance: “what color combo might Degas have used?” or “How might Georgia O’Keefe have drawn this?” or “How might Beuys have thought about this?” We’ll always fall short if we compare ourselves to them, which is ok. It’s not a bad thing to reach for something you’ll never get if you like the reaching.
Another useful analogy might be: as you’re driving, you can use a stationary object to judge your distance behind the car in front of you (counting “one thousand one, one thousand two” is considered a safe distance). You can’t use something moving to measure against, you need something that’s a fixed point. Comparing yourself to other artists around you is like using a moving object trying to judge your distance from them.
Just about everyone thinks they’re worse than somebody. Some don’t care, some use it as motivation, and some succumb to the pressure of trying to keep up, as they see it, usually to somebody else’s definition of art. It’s really about whether you enjoy painting. Yes it’s very frustrating at times, which is why exercises that teach you to work without expectations are important. Embracing failure for what we learn from it crucial to progressing as an artist, but what is true failure is not painting honestly, meaning you’re painting what others want you to paint, or you’re letting what others think be how you gauge success. To quote Mother Teresa: “In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
A 3-day workshop on different ways of drawing the human figure. There are endless ways to define the figure, and we’ll look at a few methods and approaches that illustrate some of the fundamental approaches we can use. Using photographs and drawings, we’ll be looking at how to see the human body so that it becomes something we can draw and paint. We will identify the gesture of the movement and the specific dynamics of the pose, and then add the parts: arms, legs, head, feet, etc., so they stay connected to each other. We will explore traditional drawing methods to create 3 dimensional forms: blending and shading, overlapping, contrasts, and context, using mostly, but not limited to charcoal, pencils and erasures.
Materials list: Charcoal, Ebony pencils, Erasure, Drawing pads: 1 pad of newsprint, 1 pad of heavier drawing paper for extended drawings
An ongoing Wednesday evening online workshop on drawing the human figure.
There are endless ways to define the figure, and we’ll look at a few methods and approaches that illustrate some of the fundamental approaches we can use. Using photographs and drawings, we’ll be looking at how to see the human body so that it becomes something we can draw and paint.
First, by identifying the gesture of the movement and the specific dynamics of the pose. Then, adding the parts as simple geometric volumes: arms, legs, head, feet, nose, etc., making certain that they connected to each other.
I will show how to create traditional drawing of 3 dimensional forms by blending and shading, creating form, overlapping, contrasts, and context. Materials will be primarily, but not limited to charcoal, pencils, erasures, ink, wash, collage, and paint.
Bring to the first class: 1. Pencils: soft graphite: 2B, 3B, 4B Ebony pencils by Prismacolor are my preference. 2. Charcoal: Several sticks of soft and hard vine charcoal, Compressed charcoal such as Conte or the long square sticks. They give a deeper, darker, more permanent mark than vine charcoal.
3. A pad of newsprint or a stack of cheap, throwaway paper such as typing or copier paper for gesture drawings. Done quickly, they are meant for practice, not for reworking.
4. An 18” x 24” drawing pad for extended studies.
A kneaded erasure, a gum erasure, a few brushes, and a container of water.
In keeping with the times and current state of affairs, I’m offering online classes in painting and drawing.
The format will be that I provide a subject we’ll both paint from, usually either a still life I’ve photographed or a painting or drawing to copy. I begin the classes with a demonstration of what we’re going to paint or draw. I explain how to begin, what materials to use: pencils, brushes and colors, and what to think about as you enhance your skills and learn some tricks of the trade.
Class times vary. Lessons are available at 1 – 2 hour lengths for individuals and 2 – 3 hour lengths for groups of 2 or more.
Last post I wrote about the practice of blind contour drawing, and I thought I would post a couple of blind contour drawings that I did for this project. Plus I’ve added a few more how-to’s and why’s.
Using an Ebony pencil by Prismacolor for these, on a cheap 11″‘ x 14″ drawing pad. A soft leaded pencil is the best tool to use because it responds to the pressure you use pressing into the page: to make a dark line indicating where you see dark in your subject press harder, and where it’s light use less pressure. This trains your hand and eye to respond in synch with each other, and it carries over to the responsive pressure you use with a paint brush as well as a pencil. A ball point pen won’t give the range of expression you get from a 2B or 3B pencil.
This is the subject of all three of the drawings I’ve included:
For these drawings I followed what I absorbed from reading and practicing Nicolade’s The Natural Way to Draw: Start with your pencil on a point on the paper, and focus your eyes on a single point on the object you’re drawing. Now, going slowly, start moving your gaze, keeping it focused on the object and move your pencil in sync with your gaze so that the pencil touches the paper as your eye touches the object. In my example of the cup, scissors and pens I focused on the top most point of the left handle of the scissors and started down to my left.
Going slowly, allow your eye to wander, as long you keep responding and recording with your hand where your eye is touching. Notice every little thing, from the curve of the handle of the scissor to the shadows under the cup handle, around the lip of the cup into the rise of the orange pen, over to the ball point pen pointing up to the right.
This method of drawing is more for training your eye than to deliver a finished product. It is a discipline, like a musician practicing scales repeatedly or an athlete running drills: to sharpen their skills, in our case our observation skills. Practice builds muscle-memory that allows you to perform what you’ve practiced without having to think about it conciously. drawing without control in this way is the best method for achieving true control. Once you realize that you can make a beautiful drawing without the anxiety and fear that your drawing won’t be “good” by inappropriate and insane standards imposed by others, you’ll see your drawing improve with focus, not struggle.
The only way to make a bad bc drawing is to not respond with feeling to what you’re seeing. In learning to see shapes -I’m not drawing pens in a cup, I’m drawing the shapes that exist as edges, shadows and reflections (part of what you’re focusing on in the exercise) – you can then learn to use those shapes to create form and volume, texture, and the negative spaces between objects.
In the drawing below I did look at the drawing a few times, when I reached a dead end or felt irretrievably off course, but not as I was drawing. You can see the lines that just end – the 2 hooked lines midway on the right side, where I stopped to reset my pencil to begin again.
Looking at the drawings of Ingres, Degas, Matisse, Ellsworth Kelly, Gustav Klimt or Egon Schiele you’ll find how they each developed a style derived from blind contour drawing while not necessarily sticking to the “rule” of not looking or lifting their pencil.
All of my students have heard me go on about, or they will, “blind contour drawing” as the best drawing exercise you can do. Now they don’t have to just take my word for it. Imagine my pleasure this morning to see the lead to Austin Kleon‘s* latest newsletter : “My favorite thing lately has been warming up my diary with blind contour drawings.”
He links to an article in the New York Times written by Sam Anderson: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-blind-contour-drawing.html. “The goal of blind drawing is to really see the thing you’re looking at, to almost spiritually merge with it, rather than retreat into your mental image of it. Our brains are designed to simplify — to reduce the tumult of the world into order. Blind drawing trains us to stare at the chaos, to honor it. It is an act of meditation, as much as it is an artistic practice — a gateway to pure being.”
That is a pretty good synopsis of Kimon Nicolades‘ book “The Natural Way To Draw,” which is where I learned the practice, and Kleon talks about and quotes from. I discovered it when I was nineteen and becoming serious about making art. It was tremendously, wonderfully liberating and without a doubt helped me become better at drawing. I had always tried to draw things perfectly, with the only goal being to create a “finished product”. Even though I had practiced and learned the skills of creating forms and volumes and textures, my drawings didn’t look alive the way the drawings I admired did, and I didn’t know why.
So when I read a respected teacher say that you not only could but should draw without regard for achieving a finished drawing, I tried it. It was fun, and the more I practiced the more I learned to see and the more I enjoyed it and the better I got at drawing what I was looking at. It turned out that slowing down in order to see and draw at the same time was what I needed to get more life into my drawings; to do blind contour drawings you have to be disciplined and really look at the life you’re drawing. With practice that focus becomes easier to slide into and out of. Then you can look at your drawing as you are developing it and on the go and retain your focus as your hand goes where the eye goes.
*Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) is a writer who draws. He’s the bestselling author of Steal Like An Artist, which I consider essential for anyone who is learning to be creative, or is in the midst of the struggle to be creative. And other books. I follow his newsletter, where he writes about a variety of art related stuff – writing, music, art, film – that’s smart, fun and insightful. His excitement for the subjects in his newsletter is infectious. And other books.
I will be teaching 2 one-day workshops in January in the new decade, aka next month. The first one will be Saturday, January 11, 2020, 10 AM – 4 PM at my studio 144 Moody Str, Waltham.* The topic of the workshop will be Painting Drapery. This will be a reprisal of the December 7 workshop, true, but that’s because the first was such a success I vowed to do another one. Plus I had several people ask for another chance to attend the painting drapery subject specifically, so I figured why wait? The cost will be $110. Please use the comment section below to let me know you’re coming, or write to me at email@example.com
The second workshop on Saturday, January 25 atThe Weston Arts and Innovation Center and I’m very excited about it. Titled From Realism To Abstraction, it’s for people who want to learn to create abstract paintings based upon the recognizable world without entirely leaving that world behind, and aren’t quite sure how to begin. To register for the workshop please visit: https://westonaic.org/program/realism-to-abstraction-2/
The workshop will be held at The Weston Arts and Innovation Center (WAIC) a new venue for me, and for just about everyone else. A group of dedicated citizens have recently transformed the old Weston library (an excellent example of how beautifully that era cared for the aesthetics of a building and how the look affected the people who entered and used it: with respect. Where else but a library, church, temple or mosque, can a person be expected to sit quietly and will be reprimanded if they don’t?) into an exciting center for arts, ideas, and activities. You’ll be hearing from me that hopefully, I’ll be hosting further workshops at the WAIC, and hopefully, eventually, a “paint’n’sip” night.
*The complete address is : 144 Moody Street, Building 4, Second floor (Artists WestAssociation), Waltham, MA 02453. For further assistance text me at 617-851-7945. For the Google map to my studio building click here
I will run a one-day workshop at my studio on painting drapery and fabric, Saturday, Dec. 7 at 144 Moody Street, my studio in Waltham. The cost will be $110. Please use the comment section to let me know you’re coming, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Simply put, painting drapery and fabrics is beginning with modified simple forms in rhythmic combination. Specifically the cylinders, cubes and cones that make up the bulk of how fabric folds and bends.
Next is building those simple shapes into dimensional forms by adding a light source and shadows. In the workshop we’ll be learning to see shapes (2D) and develop them into forms (3D). Shading and blending show how the light hits a form and describes how it exists in space.
Complex forms are made by combining simple forms, and overlapping forms create palpable space. A soft flowing form bends and changes direction, which both terry cloth and silk do, yet they are very different from each other. In order to describe different fabrics, we will study painting textures, which is all about which brushes to use, how to handle the brush to blend values and colors, finding the right viscosity of the paint for your image, and more.