Amusement, whimsy & lines

Drew some faces rapidly with a pen for amusement

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and practice.

I made several versions of an image based on a photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, the Victorian era photographer. (Above and below)  Each one is different, but all are based on the same photo.

Other faces come from other historical photos that I’ve found on the internet.

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They decorate a journal that I keep. They entertain me while I’m relaxing, watching tv, in my idle moments. And they are very freedom inspiring. You can’t undo a pen line (though I did use oil pastel to soften some passages) so I am swashbuckling in my use of the pen. It’s a wonderfully expressive tool. Built for exaggeration and impulse.

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I like to be often scribbling. I love the appearance of even just the ink on the paper. Pen ink is such a beautiful thing.

When I was a child learning cursive, I loved the shapes of letters and the shiny beauty of ink. That love has stayed with me across the many years.

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A gestural line, dense hatchings: I find them endlessly fascinating. The energy of cross-hatching can be exhilarating and yet also relaxing because it is both dynamic and repetitive.

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A pond’s surface has no up or down

I dug some large drawings out of storage to have a new look at them.  Old koi more scribbly than their more recent cousins.  These were made one fish removed from the real, abstractions formed of abstractions.  What can I say?  I like to scribble.  In these exercises in thought fish, it’s hard to identify the top of the picture, so it doesn’t strictly speaking have an “up.”  I made these somewhat like my old Aussie pal, the late Emily Kame Kngwarreye, my teacher I never met — anyway, I sat on the floor and drew with the fishes spreading out horizontally (as fishes should).

And so I compared the scribbly with their firmer finned friends — all this taking place, of course, at my secret studio in the capital of the USA.

Very Orange

 

Once you decide it’s going to be orange, there’s just no turning back.

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Complementary colors are ones that appear especially intense because they contain opposite frequencies of light.  Blue and orange, red and green, yellow and violet are all color opposites. One subject that I portray often in my art — the koi pond — has a natural blue/orange opposition since many of the fish are orange and the water, reflecting the sky, is blue. But the sea shells I collect have strong passages of orange too and placed against a blue cloth they stand out very boldly.

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Exploration of color is one of the principle motives of my artwork. So I try to understand color, making a particular effort to explore different colors and different color combinations. Toward that end I collect objects from different color groups. The orange vase that sits nestled among the objects on my still life table is one such example.

I have also learned about the color orange by looking at how other artists use it, as in this copy of Bonnard’s orange jug that I made in front of his still life using oil pastel.

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In Bonnard’s picture you find orange and blue together: the orange of the jug and blue from its shadow cast by the sunlight coming through a window.

Something doesn’t have to be exactly orange to create the dynamic of blue/orange opposition. Something that is almost orange will do it too.  There’s enough red and yellow in the blue compotier against the jade green cloth to create a lot of blue/orange signal in the light. The warm/cool contrasts and the general bouncing around of red and yellow light against bluish color does something similar.

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The subjects can be very dissimilar but orange has a mood it brings along, and objects that are orange colored pull that sensibility from our minds. I feel like these things are connected simply because they are the same color, whether they are fish or vases or fruits or something else. They all participate in the essence of orangeness.

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One ought to study all the colors to learn their meanings.

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Why crayons are wonderful

The close up view of the drawing reveals the hatching and cross-hatching that I wrote about a few posts ago.  The technique is a lot like what you get from traditional pastels except that there is no dust. 

This is like your traditional kids’ Crayola crayons except with a very rich, heavily pigmented and highly workable texture.  As a drawing medium it is extremely responsive and flexible.  As a consequence you can fully enter into your idea without any hassle about the medium.  And you can find a kid-like joy in this portable, scribbly crayon. 

They’re a little on the expensive side, though.  If one rolls under the couch, it’s worth diving under there to retrieve it!

Drawing the Koi

I’ve gone back to a drawing that I began back in July, and I’ve been working on it some more.  It helps me think through the painting I’m making of the same motif.  Drawing adds another level of intimacy since each line and each scribble takes me into the image is such small and close steps. 

Colors take on an entirely different character when they are the effects of hatching.  “Hatching” refers to the parallel lines that artists sometimes use to create tones in drawing, and with a colored drawing like this one above (made with Caran d’ache water soluable crayons), the hatch marks can be used to create “transparent” color effects — where one set of colored parallel lines overlays a different set until the several layers produce a color mixture that is the sum of all the combinations.

The fish are very abstract still.  They dart here and there.  They are too intent on their travel to be stilled in our gaze.  They streak through the pond and leave beautiful, shining waves and ripples behind their path.

Colored Pencils (Shell fossil)

Colored pencils are something that you love for themselves.  Even before you draw.  They look so great sitting there colorfully arrayed, row upon row, in their neat little box. Traveling has awaked my appreciation of this studio in a box. 

Of course you have to think a little differently when you’re making your picture with these.  Everything becomes a line.  You cannot work the masses of an image with the big dollop of color.  Or, let’s say, you can dollop, but you’ll do it with lines.  You can scribble a mass, you can rub the color into a continuous tone, but you will have massed it particle by particle.

So, of course hatching is what you do.  I love hatching.  You can lay line beside line in a wonderfully monotonous way.  It’s hypnotic — like mowing the lawn or washing the dishes, except more colorful.

This subject lent itself to colored pencils as it seemed to have been composed of lines itself!  Lines of calcium threaded together, in three dimensional contours, that rolling in upon each other formed — poof! — a fossil shell.

The legislators of my state have managed our lovely Maryland so marvelously that they have hardly anything to do now, and so they’ve gone way beyond state flowers and state birds.  We’ve got a state fossil.  And it’s at the top of the post.

[Top of the post:  Maryland’s State Fossil: Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae by Aletha Kuschan]