Thursday, February 25, 2010

More Bunnies

Pencil on paper by Jedsada Tangtrakulwong

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

If Computers Did the Drawing For Us

A list of perfect female statistics was fed into this artificial brain (the thing that looks like a vending machine in the corner) and the result was this drawing, titled "Miss Formula," 1964.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Drug Store Mannequin Digression

Business has taken me out of town and away from the blogosphere for a few days. Until I return, here is a post of the coolest thing I have ever seen (discovered at a Long Beach, Calif. collectibles shop Feb. 20, 2010):

It is an Italian mannequin made of resin in the 1950s and used as a drug store display for bandages. This fellow stands under 5 feet tall, and has a small, perfectly round hole straddling his upper and lower lip -- I suspect it was to hold a resin cigarette that fell off at some point.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Today's Drawing

Pencil, oil stick and turpentine on bristol, 11" X 14"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Line a la German Expressionism:

Kathe Kollwitz, self portrait 1924, charcoal on paper

Tuesday, February 16, 2010



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Anti-anti-art is a stance proposed by the Stuckists in their manifestos outlining their art. In it, they take a particularly strong position in opposition to what is known as "anti-art".
Stuckists claim that conceptual art is justified by the work of Marcel Duchamp, but that Duchamp's work is "anti-art by intent and effect". The Stuckists feel that "Duchamp's work was a protest against the stale, unthinking artistic establishment of his day", while "the great (but wholly unintentional) irony of postmodernism is that it is a direct equivalent of the conformist, unoriginal establishment that Duchamp attacked in the first place".

Monday, February 15, 2010

Line, Pt. 9

Let's look at two things together that we have so far explored separately: line and doodles. The following three drawings were discovered at random on a notepad in the lunch room of the pencil factory where I sometimes do freelance graphic work: 

Do these drawings tell a story? Are they maps of something? Are they somebody's daydream? Are they a continuous narrative? What can we tell from the line? Is it obvious the person who did these drawings was sourcing their imagination, or is there evidence of some reference material? Does the drawing use symbols honed in childhood to communicate information? Does it matter? Do you think these drawings are more interesting as mystery artifacts, or are you searching for their context to derive meaning? Submit your doodles to for future discussion.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mystery Artifact

I don't like the assumption that some people can draw and others can't. Anyone who can hold a pencil or a pen, or in some way create some sort of mark-making, can draw, just as anyone who can think can write. We are all artists and writers in that sense.

Witness the doodle or the tweet. Both of these are means of communicating in our culture, though the first is usually done in a semi-aware and private manner and the latter is designed to be a shout out to others. What they have in common is that they are both organic. They both indicate immediate process and execution and are windows into the doodler or tweeter's sensibilities. "Artists" are lauded for such behavior because of their specialness.

I found this doodle the other day and think it is worth sharing. Withhold judgment re: style or context, and it gains power as a mystery artifact:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Third Generation Pop Artist

I don't like hairy men, terrorists, scatological humor or the devil, but I LOVE the drawings of  William James Barminski:

11" X 17" colored pencil drawings mounted on wood, 2006

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Heart Snow

In respect of snow, and to wish well those affected by "Snowmaggedon" this week, here is what it looks like in Inyo County, looking west:

Gouache on paper, 3.5 X 5 inches

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Line, Pt. 8

A storm system moved in to the Eastern Sierras today. By the time I was walking the dog this afternoon along the canal, the clouds were a dense purple and grey edged in silver, and the mountains behind them were thick and white with a vein of gold. Barren trees and brush receded from red to grey, until they became ghostly thickets of smoke. Where had I seen this before? I kept wondering. Then I remembered.

These are large drawings by Anthony Goicolea, in which he uses semi-opaque mylar overlays to soften and obscure his otherwise strident mark-making. I think I know now how he came upon this imagery.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dessa Digression

If there is a hip-hop equivalent to the street artist Swoon, it is Dessa. She just released the amazing CD "A Badly Broken Code," and is being made a momentary big deal of because she is a white female who raps. White females do a lot of shit, brother.

I like this recent tweet of hers almost as much as I like her lyricising:

"The fan in my laptop turned on and I earnestly believed the noise was coming from my head. Now somewhat alarmed by my lack of concern."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Line, Pt. 7

Actual cat (left)
Line sketch of cat (above)

This is accomplished by ignoring the plaintive looks from the cat and focusing instead on its contours.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Line, Pt. 6

What we see as line is actually edge:

We use line to interpret things, even though "lines" as we perceive them do not really exist in nature. This is a revelation when ordinary people decide to do the extraordinary and draw what they see. The result is actually an attempt to trace the edges of things. People who draw, if they stick with it, will begin to develop a quality of line that better describes those edges and how they reflect light, plunge into shadow, soften or corrupt contours, etc. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Line, Pt. 5

The Swiss artist Paul Klee defined line as "a dot out for a walk."

Paul Klee,
"They're Biting," 1920,
drawing and oil
on paper,
31.1 x 23.5 cm.

Seriously, go get a dictionary and look up "line" (n.) as it applies to drawing. The definition doesn't begin to describe mark-making and its possible dimensions. Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, provides 36 definitions for line as a noun, but only one comes close: "...a very thin, threadlike mark; specif., a long, thin mark made by a pencil, pen, chalk, etc." Klee's definition is much more accurate.

Still more about line tomorrow...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Flying Thing

Pencil and oil stick with turpentine on bristol. 
Because I had one in my sketchbook.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Drawing Flies

The origin of these drawings is almost unknown.  They arrived this morning in my e-mailbox from a friend, who credits them only to her ADHD. I think they are utterly amazing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Line, Pt. 4

Detail of large drawing, oil and graphite on paper by Jenny Saville

More than any other element of a drawing, the quality of its line has the ability to simplify forms, distort perspective, add rhythm, define and emphasize shapes, focus the eye, deceive it, add spontaneity, create atmosphere, decorate and describe.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Line, Pt. 3

In skiing, there is a concept called the "fall line" that is described as the natural line of descent between two points on a slope. If you have ever been out on a mountain with a slippery implement beneath you (skis or a snowboard or even one of those plastic discs,) the fall line is something you can actually feel. You want to throw yourself into your sight line with all your weight and just enjoy the ride.

To me, that is drawing. Finding the line is like surrendering to gravity. And once you find it, you have to commit to it, or suffer the consequences.

John Singer Sargent, "At the Forge," about 1911, charcoal on paper.

When you approach a representational drawing, whether or not you are using a live model, try to find the fall line and begin there. In the above example by Sargent, it is easy to see it -- it is the line that begins at the model's left wrist and travels down to his left hip. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Line Pt. 2:

Line is probably most commonly understood in terms of contour, or, the outline of a shape. Most lessons in drawing start there. Students are told to take up their pencils, look at an object, and trace its outline in space onto a piece of paper. It's an adequate way to begin drawing. More than that, it's an excellent way to begin seeing.

My own first-year college attempt at drawing a live model in pencil.

Most of these first efforts are characterized by a quality of line that shows little confidence. My brother, a geologist, only took up drawing this year.

As he trains his hand to record what his eye sees, the quality of his line improves. It is beginning to lose that sketchiness that shows a lack of commitment. Check out the hair:

That hair is a turning point. It shows a bold leap forward in terms of commitment. You can see it in the line -- a continuous tangle and flow that no doubt reflects the shape and rhythm of the object my brother saw in drawing class. No self-consciousness about hairline or individual strands, just a gestural form.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Drawing the Line

In middle school, when art class was still a viable part of the curriculum for kids,  we followed along with a  teacher as she drew upon a large pad of newsprint set on an easel. She clutched a black felt marker between her thumb and the palm of her hand at a unique angle -- not because she was demonstrating a secret way to draw, but because she had severe scoliosis that warped her body and twisted her fingers so that only one hand was usable while the other wrist came to rest on her hip. The image of this less-than-5-foot-tall, elderly and acerbic woman standing at the easel was spectacular and scary for me as a sixth grader.

When Mrs. Burton drew the  weathered planks of a shack, the shingles on a roof or the bricks in a wall, I learned about the essence of a thing. It was, she told us, The Line that mattered, and we should never neglect it. I am certain she used source material, because what I did NOT learn in Mrs. Burton's class was how to conjure things to draw merely from my imagination. She taught us to see line everywhere. When Mrs. Burton drew the trunk of a tree and, even more thrillingly, its leaves, I also learned it was the absence of Line that revealed just as much visual information as its presence.

Lines, drawn with an Ebony pencil, jet black - extra smooth.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Process, Cont.

Chicago artist Jeff London contributes this statement, by New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss, to our discussion on different approaches to drawing. I would label this "content over representation: 
"What I try to convey in my panels is a human truth. Rarely do I begin with a caption or idea. I begin by drawing something -- anything, say, a couple watching TV. Maybe there's a dog on the floor and the couple is arguing -- pretty common, right? Next, I try to imagine a narrative which led up to this 'frame.' Perhaps, even a narrative beyond what I've drawn. What are these two people fighting about? Politics? Love? Sex? Children? A Mother-in-law? What is the motivation for their actions? In short, what's the story behind the drawing? Investigating the characters both before the drawn panel and after will fuel potential for dialogue. One or both of these narratives will inform a caption. If this doesn't work, I get my girlfriend, Sofi to write a caption -- she's very good."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Dead Writer Digression

I had a bet going once about who would eventually be responsible for what J.D. Salinger would think the most serious of transgressions: The unauthorized production of a blockbuster movie based on his book "The Catcher in the Rye." Jerry Lewis and Steven Spielberg have already tried. The man without a genre - James Cameron - is probably salivating over Salinger's death last night. Perhaps there is a distant cousin who is going to pull a Widow Seuss-like move and cash in on the hermetic writer's work. Maybe we will see Holden Caulfield greeting cards soon ("I hear you hurt like hell. Get well and stuff.") Gross.

Here's a story from The Onion about Salinger's sensibilities as a literary artist. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Polke on Drawing

Sigmar Polke has said he relies on drawing "to fix an idea."

"Mostly drawings are things I make for myself — I do them in sketchbooks... They are mental experiments — private inner thoughts when I'm not sure what will come out." 

"Why Can't I Stop Smoking?" 1964

66 15/16" x 47 7/16", dispersion and charcoal on canvas

These last two images are very large works on paper (gouache and acrylic) that Polke created during the 1970s, when he was a part of a satiric movement in Germany called "Capitalist Realism." Many of these drawings are like overlapped transparencies on spot color fields, and are a commentary on consumerism, politics in postwar Europe, and conventions in artmaking (because art is always about art, but I repeat myself). David Salle capitalized on this technique in many of his classic paintings: