… to the blog, by way of notes about my drawing method:
(note to reader: always click on the masthead to return to the main menu)
In my day, Rule Number One at Art School always was: ‘don’t use photography as an in-between-medium, draw ‘live on location’ for its vital immediacy.’
I agree, so that’s what I do: I draw the subject to various degrees of completion on the spot but admit to sometimes adding full colour afterwards, at home in the studio. Like an anthropologist in the field, I’m fascinated by detail, but instead of taking notes, I document them in drawing. Working on location means that the act of drawing easily becomes a social event, too, where everyone can share the process. If all goes well, this takes the form of a ‘spotlight’ of enthusiasm, but it can also turn into heckling and outright boycott of the activity, and I have stories about that, too, in a later blog.
Inevitably for any artist, feelings of inhibition in dealing with the sitter or ‘the scene’ at hand arise. I, for one, thrive on this ‘social’ approach to drawing and find it essential to the authentic and vital portrayal of ‘real’ people in action. It’s the closest I’ve come to comparing what I do to those creating live music together, where an intricate interaction takes place between the players amongst themselves and with the audience: an unspoken language that creates a ‘product’ to be enjoyed by others. Sketching, for me, feels like ‘jazz’ sometimes – jazz is my other passion – where I begin to sway to the ‘rhythm of drawing.’ I’d like to think of it as a form of what the Spanish call ‘duende’ in flamenco, a way of mastering your medium to a point of being liberated from its technical challenges and thus, of completely forgetting yourself in what you’re doing. Any artist is perpetually critical of him or herself, so this doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s bliss.
Drawing allows various elements of the scene to be added over time, to depict the topic as comprehensively as possible. The beauty of drawing is that you can single out a specific action or tell its complete sequence, to become visual journalism. You can liven up architecture by ‘peopling’ the streets; find surprising angles with humour and juxtaposition; leave out irrelevant background ‘noise;’ group various drawings on one thematic page, or create text in and around them. My drawings are my ethnographic and journalistic field notes. These days, the genre of graphic novels is acknowledged as a legitimate form of reporting (Joe Sacco is a good example) or re-telling a work of classic literature such as Proust or Kafka (Stéphane Heuet and Réal Godbout, resp.; French illustrators seem to be particularly strong at portraying literature, diligently re-creating the look and feel of the novel’s period). It’s unfortunate that I never had the stick-to-it-ness to create a big graphic novel like they do, but I love the genre and wish it was me doing Sacco’s work as a war correspondent (or, for that matter, play the piano like Erroll Garner)! I’ll share my thoughts on varieties of purpose within the field of illustration in blogs-to-come.
As for editorial illustration: working alone in the studio, creating a fictitious illustration with its emphasis on style, technique and concept, is very different from drawing in the ‘real world’. I made a living as a newspaper editorial illustrator and I’ll tell you more about that, too, but discovered early on that I thrive on the ‘plein-air’ approach to drawing and illustration.
In retirement, this traveling artist-as-reporter continues to look for further adventures, temporarily suspended these days because of the Pandemic.
So this blog will look at memorable moments amongst my favorite activities of traveling, walking, reading, and listening to live music – often combined with drawing. Self-indulgent? But of course, and delightfully so, I think! Conversational, autobiographical journals by nature, that’s what non-commercial weblogs are about, aren’t they? To adapt the words of the poet James Merrill: (writing a personal blog) stems from ‘the dull need to make some kind of house/Out of the life lived, out of the love spent.’ Besides, my drawings are no good to anyone, the way they’ve been sitting unseen in drawers at home. But it’ll be fun to give you some context as to how and why the work came to be, relive some of the stories: the stuff you don’t get to hear about in art galleries where the work merely hangs on the walls for its ‘face-value,’ the silent end-product of a sometimes action-packed journey.