I was so taken with a picture by Frederick Remington, great cowboy painter, that I saw recently in the museum. I was wondering how he managed to capture the horses’ movements. It got me wondering how much of a role memory played in his understanding of equine motion.
The animals I have around me, that I see daily, whose forms I know best, are our dogs Lucy and Zoomie. Zoomie as his name suggests is a creature of motion. Being a terrier, he loves defying gravity. He is often found aloft — if only for brief bursts of time.
When he jumps up, what I principally see are teeth and piercing glances. The teeth rise up from the floor with dog attached. So I tried to remember a bit of it. A far cry from Remington’s masterful portrayal of horses, but a start toward understanding the teeth that fly.
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.
Jules Breton was famous for his portrayal of peasants.
I found Jules Breton’s painting of a peasant woman at Hoakley’s The Eclectic Light Company blog. I made a quick drawing of the woman’s head on a sheet where earlier I had made a little drawing after a face by Ingres.
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 ….
Durer wrote about drawing from memory, enjoining artists to use their memories and imaginations to create images. I can’t remember the whole quote, just the last (as I know it in English — he was German of course) … “drawn from the heart he gives them form.” He saw the great artist as being someone who is “inwardly full of figures.” Durer was himself inwardly FULL to overflowing with figures!
Well, I’m working on it. Not inwardly full quite yet, though I do draw from memory more and more often these days as part of my regular discipline.
But this drawing of seashells was made sur le motif. I have a bunch of seashells on the table. I paint them again and again. I draw them again and again. I love the shells because they are so complex. They offer the artist so many lines, textures, shadows, angles. You can turn the shell and see something totally different. Drawing and redrawing them aids in painting them because I grow better at understanding their forms. Ah, the clever conch who makes these objects doesn’t have to work half so hard at his task!
Another fun thing about a drawing like this is that I don’t do all the drawing in one sitting. It is, instead, my thing that I can pick up and put down. I nibble away at it. Adding a bit more now and again.
I thought this one was complete now, but as I look at it again I see more things to draw such as the large ginger jar on the left which is only barely indicated here — and the foreground of the table offers many possibilities …. So many things remain for delight …
So one’s seashell thoughts stretch out over days and occasions. I find my enchantment again and again.
I made a first drawing of the lion’s head. It’s a decoration on a vase in the picture. And the lion’s head has deep, echoing meanings for me. I dreamt about a path guarded by lion statues once, eons ago. And of course everyone’s favorite artist Johannes Vermeer has lion’s head finials in two of his paintings.
The lion vase is one feature of the painting that I’m joyfully anticipating. I will think my way through it many times, in various drawings. I merely whet my appetite here.
Today’s morning coffee drawing is a watercolor. I don’t know whether I’ll work on it more today or not. I drank all the coffee, and I need to begin today’s session with the big painting for which this is another practice.
Before I began the watercolor, I drew the two things a little in a notebook where many of the ideas for the painting develop.
I am redrawing the same features again and again. It’s like music that I’m striving to learn. The objects are the music.
In a careless drawing like the one above, you can really think aloud. The contour of the green fish vase goes right through the frog tea pot. And the tea pot’s spout was originally about a half inch to the left. I simply put the lines down where they seem to go. This drawing records random thoughts about lines and their positions and about passages of light and dark, though the tones don’t conform to the scene overall — that would mean too much drawing. I’d run out of ink. My wrist would be killing me!
I got the frog’s face in one of these studies. I think this is the first time the frog’s face has materialized so clearly. Hopefully everything will appear at last — in the painting for which these are the rehearsals.
Here’s the objects that sit on the semi-permanent still life table (this set up has stayed quite a while). In the drawing below, they sit behind another temporary still life that I set up this week for a special purpose.
I like drawing and redrawing these objects. They form many a meditation on color and shape that I contemplate, pen in hand. Here’s some earlier iterations.
I get to know these objects by drawing them over and over. I will really know these objects well someday.
If you read this blog regularly you’ll recognize them from these drawings.