Frogs and dogs.
Frogs and dogs.
I used to be such a snob.
I didn’t think Frederick Remington was a real artist because he painted cowboy themes. I was that peculiarly annoying thing: an East Coast snob. But I was young. One must forgive the young for their annoying stances — especially when it’s your own young past self!
Anyway, I was at the Museum of American Art last weekend with an agenda: I wanted to make a drawing after Childe Hassam’s painting “Tanagra, The Builders” (which I posted recently). While I was there I also did a certain amount of wandering around and encountered this tour de force by Remington. It stopped me in my tracks.
In all humility I made a rapid sketch of the main horse, rapid because by that time I was supposed to meet some other people, and I only had a few minutes to spare.
I’m glad that I make these fast drawings these days. I used to feel intimidated and it cost me some wonderful opportunities. There’s nothing to lose and much to gain in simply drawing the world around you.
Sometimes I want drawing to be my idleness. If I just draw, without expectation, choosing something I want to look at, to think about the vision with the pen making lines as I watch, that can be an unhurried, lazy drawing.
I decided that spending some time with pictures I love could be a good way to use this idle approach. I found Odilon Redon’s “Mystical Conversation” in a book and have made this little exploratory drawing of it. As you can see, it’s a good picture to relax with. Sometimes idleness can bring with it great freedom.
Today’s morning coffee drawing is composed of miscellaneous scribbles after Albrecht Durer. Imagine Durer working for Walt Disney — along with that imagine a delicious cup of coffee. You there?
Well, that’s where I was. These drawings were made (Bic Cristal in hand) from peering into the excellent exhibition catalog of a National Gallery of Art show on the artist that took place some years ago, called “Albrecht Durer: Master Drawings, Watercolors, and Prints from the Albertina.”
My drawing was a totally international endeavor — German Renaissance artist, American scribbler, pen manufactured in Mexico for a French company. The notebook was made in the USA — as was I — but I think I already mentioned that ….
You can’t of course. But why not just pretend that you can. There may not even be an everything to draw (philosophically speaking). Who is to say how much stuff there is in even a corner of a still life. All that notwithstanding, when you tell yourself that maybe you’ll just sit down and draw everything now — you free yourself from the need to first draw this, and then draw that, and find the center of interest, and make sure to get the half-tones, and blah, blah, blah.
This is a really neat still life. It’s a visual forest that a person’s eyes can wander around in for hours. It has twists and turns. It has passages of light and shade. It’s abundant in RED. There’s the black vase, too, with its patterns on the surface and its depths and reflections in the black — with the window reflection that takes you outside if you peer into it really deeply!
In the carnival glass compotier, as I was drawing, I saw a patch of white and wondered what it was. Looking closer I saw that it was the inverted, distorted reflection of the white creamer! In every centimeter there’s a wonder to behold. In such a visual jungle one cannot possibly draw everything and yet if you are, like me, too thrilled to choose, and must draw a bit of this and a bit of that, then you find splendors in every direction. Oh, to an ant it’s a palace of ineffable grandeur and beauty! (Well, that’s if ants’ sensibilities include enjoyment of the scenery.)
I’ll tell you a secret, though I buy the best artist materials I can afford for the works that I plan for sale, I also adore working with very cheap and common things — expressly because they are ubiquitous in our society. I bought this notebook at RiteAid. It’s cover caught my eye one day as I was leaving the pharmacy.
You can see how it has the busy bright design that I like. I’ve been drawing with Bic Cristal in this notebook this morning — that would be the world’s cheapest and absolutely most wonderful and expressive pen — ever!
My parents were survivors of the Great Depression and instilled in me (without their realizing) a great love for the common tools that are abundantly available. In regard to drawing, when I pick up simple dime store tools and draw, I feel like I’ll always be able to draw come what may. I sit here in the corner of a room like an oriental pasha with my wealth of colors and thrift store treasures, exploring the seemingly infinite reach of my territory!
I have long admired the fishes on the Chinese tea pot and I decided to zero in on one of them at the risk of having the shape of the pot go somewhat crazy on me. If you care about the pot’s shape, you draw that first, but if you care about the fish — sooner or later you have to make a wild lunge for the fish, pen in hand. If that puts the proportions out of whack, so be it.
After several drawings, I decided to draw with watercolor. It is similarly scattershot. But the brightness of the whole I find satisfying.
I’ve have drawn all afternoon en plein indoors sitting beside my still life table.
One more. This one in oil pastel.
I drew this one very fast and began with the reflection of the window because it had been so beautiful, really pearlescent! But the light changed so fast and I wasn’t actually able to observe the effect that had brought me in. Still it’s interesting that the whole drawing began with that reflection, like the axis of a wheel.