Seahorse

Working on a new series. I've never liked drawing animals, but I love to draw patterns. The other day one of my doodles looked like a seahorse to me, which was the inspiration for this drawing (and more to come). 

seahorse

Exhibition - Skokie Illinois

Anyone in the Chicagoland area is welcome to visit for the last two weeks of my show at the Ethical Humanist Society. It's a really lovely little space. They're open every Sunday, or a private viewing can be scheduled by calling their office. The show was hung in the middle of Januar, and will (tentatively) be taken down the evening of Sunday, March 21st

My hanging helper Hannah

My hanging helper Hannah

My good friend Hannah made the drive down there with me. Super grateful to her for the assistance in hanging the show! 

Wall one (pre-cleanup)  

Wall one (pre-cleanup)  

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15-Ball

Over the last year, I have gotten heavily involved in playing pool.

I actually got a job editing and writing for a billiards website/magazine, which has been really rewarding.

So, I've decided I want to do a series of drawings with a billiards theme, and this is the first one. It's a quick sketch (about 20 minutes) of a 15-ball from an antique set of balls my mother owns. 

Hello again!

Wow. I have been completely absent for a month. I've just been enjoying not doing anything at all, but I'm starting to get bored with it. I'm planning on jumping back into my art, and updating this blog (I have tons of work to put up, I've just been too lazy to photograph it!). 

For now I'm going to share an article written by Lucas Durham, a graduate of my school. I found it in a 2008 copy of Abstraction, a yearly publication put out by the joint efforts of faculty and student from the Academy. This piece spoke to me in a very direct and personal way, and I know many artists feel the same way. Take a moment to read this (very well-written) article whether you're an artist or not, it might open your eyes a bit!

"No Apologies"

Here’s a scenario that’s all too familiar. Maybe you can relate. I’m hanging with a bunch of friends home from college. Someone outside the old gang – someone’s girlfriend, a parent, or worse, a friend of one of your parents – begins the icebreaker chatter, “So guys, where’s everyone going to school? What’s your major?” The flow of the conversation is predictable:

            “I’m studying engineering at University of Illinois.”

            ––  “Impressive!” The head nods in affirmation.

            “Notre Dame, Pre-med.”

            –– “Nice!” The gaze looks admiring.

            “Harvard for Law.”

            –– “Wow! I’m sure your parents are very proud.” The voice is enthusiastic.

            “I go to the American Academy of Art in Chicago. I’m studying to be an artist.”

            –– “Oh… well… isn’t that… nice…” The air hisses out of the balloon.

As the speaker’s eyes flood with confusion, self-righteous judgment and pity, I watch them struggle to find the politically correct words to change the topic. I know full well that they are dying to blurt out those damn questions, “What the hell are you going to do with that degree? How are you going to make any money?”

I should be used to these reactions. They started as early as second grade. I always answered, “artist,” when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Adults would nod indulgently with the expectation that I would “grow out of it.”

By middle school, the career advice began. Comments always related to making “real” money in a “real” job for a “real” future. At the end of my senior year in high school, my honors classes’ teachers pressed their opinions about my academic potential. They tried to steer me toward a liberal arts education. They were confident that I would come to my senses and change my art major to something more worthwhile during my first year in college.

Providentially, I grew up in an environment that nurtured my creative passions. During high school, I was also introduced to professional artists and designers who were associates of my parents. Those experiences generally help me to deflect the cynicism of well-meaning, but clueless individuals, but the continuous stream of negativity can be exhausting.

It’s unfortunate that peoples’ perceptions of art seem to have been arrested during their pre-school years when they dabbled in finger paints. And careers in art? Ingrained prejudices revolve around the “starving artist” stereotype. Their fixation with moneymaking capabilities leads to other unspoken assumptions: 

            “How hard can art classes be?”

–– What a sloth. Art classes equal craft classes. Popsicle sticks anyone?

“Art is not ‘real’ work.”

            –– Sitting in a gray cubicle staring at a computer screen for 40 years is.

            “Famous artists are all dead before their work is recognized.”

            –– You’ll be sponging off your parents or spouse for the rest of your life.

Granted. Grunt work by artists laboring in design layout, illustration, and various other branches of media help produce this impression, but people’s shallow perceptions turn it into a permanent mold. I have to remember that the mindset that defines artists as losers springs from the minds of the uninformed, under-educated and uncouth.

Those superficial views are breathtakingly ironic. Since the beginning of civilization, artists have been a subtle, but undeniably, dramatic force in people’s day-to-day life. Art has shaped cultures and helped define societies. According to anthropologist, Dr. Nigel Spivey, in his documentary series, “How Art Made the World,” art was the main source of conquering and maintaining structure in ancient societies. It was through artistic propaganda that kings were able to persuade the conquered subjects of newly occupied territories that their new leaders were near-deities. It fostered the belief that it was in their best interest to be cooperative.

Even in today’s society, everything people encounter, at some point, has been influenced through an artist’s eyes. Marketers have estimated that we view at least 30,000 messages each day. Every contact, whether through a graphic, color or type font, springs from a visual source. Product designers invent and refurbish products. Advertising images influence our purchase decisions. Illustrators, designers, and animators breathe life into the stories, ideas, and philosophies of others. Graphics chisel political opinions. Landscape and building architects, as well as, industrial designers enhance our environments and literally construct the world around us. Through the centuries, artists have even designed the icons of the gods we worship. The stamps of artists’ souls on the psyches of civilizations are limitless.

Artists see “the big picture” beyond the narrow confines of thought embraced by the masses. Too many people are bound by the “tyranny of shoulds” – they should stifle nonconformist passions for more acceptable pursuits; they should have acceptable moneymaking professions; they should live out their lives in acceptable cookie-cutter patterns.

Artists see and experience the same world differently. Holistically, artists help shape the world we live in. We stimulate and influence peoples’ perceptions. We control the hearts. The minds follow.

That kind of power demands the responsibility of every artist to continually broaden horizons, to bring new ideas to the table. Comic artist, R. Crumb, said it best, “We’re bohemian. We don’t subscribe to the standard bourgeois values; we see the possibility of life being open. Things are open-ended.”

Every piece that artists produce have the possibility to challenge and open new realms of thought. It’s mind-boggling, but artists have the power to change the world, culture, and history through expressions of their mediums, even through one single piece.

People reading this article might say that my passion for art makes me melodramatic; that I exaggerate to mitigate my insecurities; that I over-romanticize my vocation. Fellow art students may even laugh and remark, “It takes years to build up skills and reputation. No one could change the world with a single painting, especially an art student. It’s just not possible!”

Incredibly … it has been a reality.

In 1971, an advertising design student named Caroline Davidson fashioned a logo for an accounting teacher at her university. He paid her a measly $35 for her time and effort. Over 35 years later, the Nike swoosh is the one of the most recognizable, sought after, and worn symbols worldwide. It represents a sub-culture; it represents the United States; it represents money.

The swoosh is just one of thousands of images we see everyday. And an artist or a team of designers imagined and created every single one of them. That fact may not be acknowledged or even recognized by many people outside my discipline, but it gives me satisfaction and encouragement to know that we artists and our influence are pervasive. We have the potential to change their world … and they won’t even know it.

Ink Wash Drawings

Still life with coke bottle, orange, and oil pot

Still life with coke bottle, orange, and oil pot

Just playing around with ink washes. You draw with water soluble ink, then go over it with water... ends up looking like a mix between a painting and a drawing. The thing I HATE about it is you can't erase ink... so you have to deal with however your drawing looks the first time. No do-overs!

figure, hand, and shoe with pitcher

figure, hand, and shoe with pitcher

Still life with gourd and pyramid 

Still life with gourd and pyramid 

Sam

For this piece, I decided to work larger (18x18) and to use a limited pallet.

I've been attempting to get my colors in check for months, haven't managed it yet, but I'm trying! I've decided to not let myself use most of the colors on my pallet for a while, and try to stick to  for each piece. This one has... 4 colors. 

Sam. 18x18 on gessoed bristol paper

I'm pretty pleased with how it came out I guess... I don't know, something about it just isn't working for me still. I like the composition, it felt nice to draw a nearly complete figure after so many months of doing close-ups, and I feel like the background is working really well... I just don't think the colors or values are working within the figure itself. 

Moving on.

Bricks...

I decided to try this one on watercolor paper, with a watercolor under painting that I would then go back in and draw on top of...

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And then I went over it with pastels....

Complete?

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Not super satisfied with it... The colors are all too similar and I don't really like the cold-press watercolor paper. So I decided to start over completely, on gessoed paper this time:

I started over, didn't like the colors again, so I wiped it all down and bought some new (nu!)  pastels to try to solve this problem.

done...

And it's "done". STILL not happy with it. Something about the colors and value structure is just not clicking on this one. 

I'm abandoning it.

I now have two drawings of the same subject, neither of which quite hits the spot. Time to move on to new endeavors. I love the subject, I'm just not executing it  to my satisfaction. Maybe I will try again later on... we'll see!

Wooden Feet

I don't have much to say about this one... I'm happy with it. It's obviously black and white, which is I suppose a bit out of my norm recently.

I think the feet look slightly odd, I may go back in to them later. This is 12x12, charcoal on gessoed paper.

I Don't Know How I'm Going To Do This

This is a self portrait I did in watercolor. It's a mixed-media piece, watercolor and matte medium (which is basically like clear plastic....) and collage. I've never used matte medium before, it was so strange! Basically what you do is put down a layer and paint on top of it. The nice thing about it is it creates really cool textures, and since it's plastic you can wipe the paint right off if you want, or put on another layer to seal what you have down already. You can also mix the paint with the matter medium, which makes it almost like painting with acrylics (textured, opaque.) I did the face just with watercolor on paper, and the hair with matte medium.

The text reads "je ne sais pas comment je vais cette faire", which is French, and means "I don't know how I'm going to do this." Read into that what you will.

Feet

This week, I had serious problems deciding exactly which composition to choose, there were just so many great options! I ended up choosing this one because I really liked the shadow pattern; notice how it moves across the page from dark to light to dark to light to dark... and so on. I was also drawn by the solidness of her feet on the floor in contrast to all the light shapes, which feel to me that they're reaching up...

Stage one.

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I have all the shapes and lights and darks blocked in, with the underlying colors, but the colors are WAY too intense. They definitely need to be neutralized.

Stage two.

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Now that I've neutralized some of the colors and messed around with my value structure a little bit more, it's finished! Time to start another one...

Annnd done!

RIP Todd

So I decided to do a "portrait" of my friend's plant that died last summer. His name was Todd. I left my camera at school that weekend so I couldn't take WIP pictures... it's ok though.

Todd

Todd

I'm really happy with how this turned out! This drawing just kind of flew out of me, I didn't struggle with it at all... I love the colors, and the value structure wasn't a problem this time either. I think a big part it is I finally found the right paper to work on, the colors just go down so much better now!

Week Seven Life Drawing.

I got super excited about this pose immediately. The space and shadows were just amazing from every angle. It took me a while to decide on my composition because there were just so many great options. I ended up choosing this one because I really liked the slashing diagonal shadows and the many triangles in the limbs and the negative space. For this one I also decided to work a bit larger because I wanted to be able to take full advantage of this pose. I've been working 12x12, but this one is 14x14.

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To start, I just blocked in in one flat tone for the light shapes and another for the darks.

Stage one.

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Now I've rendered more of the form, but (again) my value structure isn't too strong; the lights are all too similar. Also, my shadow edges are too uniformly hard, and the colors are all just a little too red.

Stage two.

The colors in this picture aren't quite true to life! I diversified my shadow edges, leaving cast shadows with a hard edge and softening the rest. I also refined the value structure, giving the drawing a lot more midtones which makes the lights on the shin the breast stand out more. I decided to leave the background the grey of the paper, and cooled down a lot of the darks.

Complete!

Selfie

The other day I was bored and needed something to do while I waited for paint to dry, so I decided to do a self portrait. I had never drawn myself with straight hair and hadn't yet had time to try out the homemade charcoal sticks my mom gave me for Christmas, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to do both...

Transient

Week Five Life Drawing

At this point I've decided to severely crop all my drawings from the model. This is pastel on gessoed paper.

Early in the drawing I've just laid down the underlying colors and large forms.

Early in the drawing I've just laid down the underlying colors and large forms.

Here I've gotten a little more specific with the shadow shapes, but I'm not happy with the colors or the value. The lights and darks are far too similar.

Here I've gotten a little more specific with the shadow shapes, but I'm not happy with the colors or the value. The lights and darks are far too similar.

Finally nailed the value structure! I also toned down the colors so they look more natural.

Finally nailed the value structure! I also toned down the colors so they look more natural.

Watercolor

Although I usually work in dry media, I definitely enjoy dabbling in watercolor. It's relatively new to me and I don't feel confident yet, but I'm having fun playing with it. This is a still life on cold-press paper.

Mainly flat washes so far, just getting in the basic shadows and some texture on the book.

Mainly flat washes so far, just getting in the basic shadows and some texture on the book.

Detailed the spoons and cup, started to attack the drapery a bit.

Detailed the spoons and cup, started to attack the drapery a bit.

And done...

And done...

All in all I'm pretty pleased with this painting. I really like how the book and the cup/spoons turned out, I'm just not 100% on the drapery... the only part I really struggled with was the upper right-hand corner.

Week Three Life Drawing

I was really pleased with the effect of cropping my last piece, so I decided to do it more purposefully in this next one. I took a moment to look at the pose and see what about drew me, and then focused on that. Here it was the shadow shapes in the knees and stomach. I chose to work in pastel on gessoed paper.

Pastel is much like charcoal in the fact that you first block in the shadow shapes and then define your mid tones, with the difference that you are of course also laying down the underlying colors.

Stage one.

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Here I have layered much more color, bringing out the lights and adding the background. The value structure is still a little weak (the darks are too similar to the mid tones mainly) and I'm not very happy with the background or the arm....

Stage two.

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So I got rid of them! I also darkened my shadows and tightened up my midtones.

Stage three.

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I put the arm back in, refining the shape and deciding to the leave the background as a mid tone gray. These pictures are very bad in terms of the color... The actual drawing has a much warmer (less "dead" tone.)

Stage four.

Thematic One

Working without a model gives me the opportunity to concentrate even more heavily on composition, which I love. This drawing is of my drafting table against the window in my studio. It's pastel on gessoed paper.

Laying out my shapes and blocking in the darkest darks.

Laying out my shapes and blocking in the darkest darks.

Moving in with a bit of color,

Moving in with a bit of color,

And finishing touches...

And finishing touches...

I'm not overly pleased with how this turned out. The value structure is poor and I probably should have used some kind of straight edge for the longer lines. I actually ended up doing a black and white version of this, just to explore the values further...

Week One Life Drawing

For this drawing I decided to use charcoal on toned paper and to concentrate on the upper half of the figure. What originally struck me about this pose was the shadow on the breast bone and ribs. I really liked how upright the model was standing, with her shoulders just slightly pulled back.

At the first stage of the drawing, I just lay out the figure and block in the shadows, concentrating on describing the forms as simply but accurately as possible.

Stage one.

Now I've started to pull out some of the lights and define the darks and the mid tones in the torso and background, but not in the head.

Stage two.

Now I've tightened up the value structure and rendered the form. I decided to crop the picture, leaving out the head, since what really interested me about the drawing was the shadow-shape in the torso.

Stage three.