Taking an ant walk with your eyes along the porous surface of the veil of light that hangs perpetually before your eyes. That’s my idea about what realism is. I speak of that veil of light that coalesces to form the image of things inside the mind. Wake up, open the eyes, and there’s the world, waiting.
A meticulous realism can be many things. For some it’s a virtuoso performance of throwing down lines one at a time . They assemble like a magic act to make recognizable objects, captured in what we count as amazing detail, while the audience responds with gasps and childlike clapping. But realism can also be the felt-out path, as much the muddle of true reality as the persuasive life-like picture. True reality comes with contradictions and stereo vision and some assembly is required. In reality, any line is both here and here, depending upon which eye you consult, left or right. True reality is also your unfolding attention, the fact that you notice one thing before another. A true picture of one’s perceptions includes all the lies as well as the truths that God knows. True reality is as much what I think as what’s actually present, for who is to referee? In truth we cannot quite make out sometimes what reality is when perception is so elusive and experience so unfinished. Time rolls along continuously bringing more and more reality to bear upon us.
So I take my ant walk with a pencil. The ant walk describes with line the path an imaginary ant travels chaotically across the surfaces the artist draws. If my watching follows the footfalls of those most delicate and quiet padded feet, what will I discover? The drawing is a log of a journey in intimacy, and the world is my apple. That ant of imagination chooses the path by desires too arcane for comprehension. I choose only to watch and record, being the amanuensis of a mystery. A docile pencil, a companionable creature of imagination.
Today’s “ant” walked to the frog pond, drawing the contours of this odd tea pot. I like to get into the small aspects of the object where planes turn on a tiny pivot, where a line bends, where many shades of light and dark converge.
What I did with the creamer, I thought to do with my flowers on a larger sheet of paper. These drawings are made on Strathmore 400 series 18 x 24 sheets. It’s difficult to work as fast on the larger sheet — though I haven’t given up. Without switching to other media, staying with my sharp and steady Dixon Ticonderoga pencils, I want to gain a greater ease and freedom with the larger scale drawing — approaching the subject in the same manner, with a point-and-shoot, see-it, draw-it swiftness only doing it bigger.
This size sheet is too small for me to do this particular still life at actual size. If I got a vase of flowers that fit into the 18 x 24 format, that might speed things up further. (Let’s see, do I have any admirers who could send me flowers?)
Anyway, the first attempt is rather pointedly out of scale — a problem that would be fixed by switching to something smaller that I can fit into the sheet without downsizing (and we thought only corporations downsized). In the second drawing, I was more self-consciously determined to deal with the proportions before scribbling into separate passages. Nevertheless, mistakes or no, it matters not. The point of this whole foray into drawing is that I shall have no fear, feel no scrupples, and draw until I drop.
I had a third drawing that I began last night under different illumination, and I would display it here — except — I dropped.
As advised by her union, Doll has taken another day off. In her absence I turned my attention to my creamy colored creamer.
The great artist Edgar Degas once said, “il faut refaire la même chose dix fois cent fois” (you must redo the same thing ten times, a hundred times), but hopefully Doll won’t be gone that long.
I don’t know whether or not another French expression applies here.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (The more things change, the more they stay the same.)
Or whether my creamer metamorphoses or stays the same.
I gave it the most loving attention that could be fixed upon a little creamer.
I even drew what it feels like, drawing without looking at it, drawing with the sense of touch.
I drew it many times, and still it has secrets to share.
Let’s have a nice round of applause for the star of the show, the Creamer!
I drew the doll all day yesterday and was so pleased with the results. I fully expected to continue the theme, but the doll would have none of it. So I drew this potted plant instead. At least Doll left me this clementine.
Did a little warm up before I took on the whole plant.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Well, what can I say? We were listening to Stuff Smith. The doll really let her hair down, the big hair.
And she’s got some really big hair.
Hey! This isn’t the same doll! How’d she sneak in here!?
Here’s the doll with big hair.
We got back from our trip, and now I’m faced with the prospect of steadily working again. How quickly time flies!
Casting about for a subject as I stumble back into the realms of line, I found my daughter’s doll peeking from behind furniture. I have been known to borrow my daughter’s camera now that her supermacro out wow’s mine tenfold. So, forgive me for indulging the temptation to peer into the details of my pen lines. I am not narcissistic, I just love close-up optics.
(I’m never going to be narcissistic — I vow never to be anything that I need a dictionary to know how to spell.)
This is a doll with an attitude.
The birds are flying south for a while. I’ll still be drawing a day, but won’t be posting until I return. Hope your New Year’s Resolutions are coming along mightily!
The woman is from an exercise in a drawing book, Bert Dodson’s Keys to Drawing.
The second is a draw-anything-that’s-right-in-front-of-you in five minutes kind of drawing exercise (I took the suggestion in this instance from Dodson’s book as well, where he calls it colorfully the “five minute burn.”)
Lastly is another rose from my scheme of drawing my still life one corner at a time. (This is the same rose as I’ve drawn and posted before — it’s becoming a subject of enduring fascination.)
So, what do my pictures add up to? I’m beginning to wonder if my mind is telling a story. The sultry young woman, the couch, the rose — could she be looking for a story to inhabit? If there’s a story, I’ll probably never know. I just draw the pictures.