Putting the fish back into the water

I dug out my watercolor papers and tools this morning.  Found a koi drawing I had done in watercolor, and seeing it made me want to do them in watercolor again.  Fish should be wet.

Revisiting your old drawings is a wonderful way to get started on new ones.  Ideas that fascinated you in the past come back to you with powerful emotions.

And it’s a fine feeling to be heeding the siren call of my own prior ideas.


thrill of the lines

It will sound strange.  But that thrill is why one draws.  I was looking at the crystal creamer and finding myself thoroughly confused.  What with its complicated transparencies and my bi-focal befuddlements, I couldn’t tell what was where.  My drawing makes it seem simple when the real object and the real sensation is utterly mind boggling.  The crystal creamer is a labyrinth of lozenges and fond patterns.

Perhaps in other drawings I can get at the confusions and portray them.  For now I want to hold fast to the thrill of making this drawing — this drawing that I made just five minutes ago –because the ball point pen’s delicacy makes these lines, as you draw them, feel like glass.  How the medium and the object seem well suited!

I cannot say enough good things about this pen, this common dime store pen.

Early morning catch

I rose early and began my koi scribbling.  The kinds of lines that the ball point pen makes are more various than I’d ever have guessed.  It turns out to be a capacious and sensitive instrument.  I refer to the very cheap Bic Cristal pen that you buy in a pack of ten.  Here’s an advantage of the modern era.  Wouldn’t Rubens be jealous?

Not only is the instrument subtle and supple.  But the reference photo reveals so many possibilities to me.  I repeat these motifs again and again and find them endlessly fascinating.

These are my scales that I play on my pen in the morning making koi songs.

flowers in boxes

I was thinking about making a still life using pictures of flowers from a calendar.  And I took it a bit literally.  I kept the flowers inside the pages of the calendar and imagined the pages laid out above the vase.  Makes prisoners of the flowers.  And yet a drawing on a sheet of paper with the square edges is a little bit like this idea.  To see the world around you as material for drawing.  Everything being laid down into the square edges of the page.  Lines around everything.  And the pen lines being like thoughts that put them there.

Off white

I’m painting the kitchen.  The walls will be white.  The colors here are effects of the camera and the photo editing software.  But you can see the texture.

This is the blank wall, like the blank sheet of paper.  Only this blank sheet is much larger than a sheet of paper and I won’t be putting any pictures onto it — not any permanent ones anyway.  I might look at it and imagine my drawings.  Or I might daydream about some other summer day.  It’s my personal movie theatre upon which I can screen the films I have inside my head as I work.

I think it’s good to imagine something there.  To project.  And it can be the beginning of the impulse to draw.

In the moment

The ball point pen’s ink gives off a sheen.  Sometimes it looks faintly purplish.  The paper I draw on has it’s own sheen.  It feels smooth like a similitude of water.  My hand is not steady, nor is my brain steady, late at night while I gaze at my invented pond.  I can watch the pen produce the marks and fish appear, and except for the fact that of course these fish don’t swim away, each line forming — while it forms — has inside it some of the uncertainty of watching the real pond.

Then to darken the shadows, I make these hatch marks that are not water.  And the pond becomes a drawing.  The make believe of it swims in front of my face.

I like its being a drawing.  I like the difference between the reality and a picture.  I like its being flat.  The sheen of the ink, the wavy unsteadiness of the lines, unsteady echos of the uncertainty in my head.  Scribbles that are like innocent moments of time suspended and hanging in memory.

Flowing Blue

The river flows with water, but here flows with blue.  Smeary blue crayon.  Sky catching. Some of the blue gathers over the entire space, flowing from the river into the sky, from the sky as reflections into parts of the trees.  The blue that is air, the blue that is H2O, true blue that has flowed into my brains.

Thought management for artists

pencil drawing after Bonnard


You have to find out what works for you — sometimes down to the very fine detail.  Should you stay up at night and draw into the late hours?  Should you get to bed early and rise with the dawn?  Do you need coffee to get started or a very cold bottle of water?  What kinds of notebooks are appealing?  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend a day going round with a small notebook drawing random sights?

Or perhaps you do that all the time, and what you need is to choose some very complex image and work at it relentlessly.  Do you work from life?  Make drawings from memory?  Have you investigated things that artists did in history and apply them to contemporary motifs?  Do plans and schedules keep you on track?  Or are you the sort of person who needs to feel spontaneous?

Whenever something isn’t working for me, I try something else.  Sometimes I just start drawing in medias res because I’ve lost the thread of my ideas.  Then I find that just moving my hands jump starts some thought process, like a dream remembered, and I rediscover the thing hidden in my mind.

First Go

I got this far and stopped.  For one thing, I had to get to bed.  It was late.  But I felt that something special had begun to happen.  I have to get back to this drawing, but I stopped at the threshold of the moment when I first saw whatever magic it is that I long for.

Looking at it this morning, it looks familiar to me in a new way.  When I first drew this motif large, I had stopped in a similar place.

I have drawn these guys before several times.  And I am getting at something.  I don’t know what it is.  But big or small, it intrigues me.

I had done a large practice drawing (above).  I had done a small practice drawing (below).

I had got this far with a large one.

Then there was another large version.

And now I revisit it again.  I never get tired of repeating these same motifs.  And just making the lines holds a fascination for me that I cannot describe.

Doing this motif now small again, nearly the same size as the reference photo, drawing all these little blues lines, and watching the fish emerge — it has such a quiet beguiling charm over me.  The lines themselves are so mesmerizing.

Who invented the ballpoint pen?  Oh, I would embrace you — whoever you are — that you have brought me such joy!  God bless you …

On teaching art to children

I am discussing ideas from Mona Brookes’s inestimable book “Drawing with Children.”  The first part of the discussion can be found HERE.

Brookes has this wonderful advice for art teachers that ought to be etched on the lintel of the door to the art classroom; in the section entitled “How to use this book,” she gives this sage advice:  “If you are going to be teaching children, don’t introduce them to the lessons until you have dealt with the majority of your own drawing blocks and confusions.”

How much of most people’s reluctance to draw stems from the discouragement they learned at school from teachers who projected their own discouragement outwards?  Lots of kids enter the building with a love for drawing only to leave with the dejected feeling of “can’t.”