Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Scarcity of Snow Shovels

View out the bedroom window this morning (my studio is beyond the table)

It snows in Oracle every year, or so I'm told. And as nearly two-year residents of Oracle, it has indeed snowed each winter. The thing is, it snows, it goes away, and it's hard to believe it's ever going to happen again. Today, we woke up to snow. It's really quite pretty, and I'm not complaining (too much),after all, this is nothing compared to what the people on the East coast and in the Midwest have had to deal with.

View out the window in our TV room

One thing, though. I bet they all have snow shovels galore. And even those neat little snow plows. Granted, we should have investigated the issue of the snow shovel before this latest snow event. Neither one of us did. So Jim got on the phone this morning. We discovered that obtaining a snow shovel in this part of the world is quite an elusive endeavor. Jim started with the logical place, our local hardware store. Alas, they had some kind of big shovel for the removal of horse manure, but no snow shovel. On to the hardware store in Catalina (about 10 miles down the hill from us). Nope, no snow shovels there either. Ever persistent, Jim tried the closest Home Depot, located close to Tucson. He was told that they never ever carry snow shovels.

A vast expanse of driveway, and this is only part of it

I suppose we could drive up to Flagstaff (about 4 hours away) and be certain to be able to buy as many varieties of snow shovels as exist in the world. Or, perhaps the most logical thing would be to order one online. Of course, by the time we get it, the snow will be long gone. But at least then we'll have it for the inevitable next time.

Meanwhile, a warning to visitors: watch your step. We'll be having lots of snow and ice on the driveway for the next few days!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Studio PS and A Book About Death

Patricia Sahartian is a Phoenix based artist with a lot going on. In addition to creating wonderful hand-constructed books, creative collages, and films, Patricia has a knack for getting involved in interesting projects. Her most recent book, now on it's way to a show in Italy, can be seen here. Be sure to watch the short video; it's great to get to see each page and listening to the music puts you right in the mood. What a creative way to exhibit a book online! More information about the contents of the book and the research that went into it can be seen here.

Currently, in addition to her own work, she is hosting a show called A Book About Death. This is a postcard show that anyone can get involved in. The idea originated in New York City at the Emily Harvey Foundation in 2009 and a series of postcard shows have been produced all over the world since then. Patricia has created a blog with information on how to participate. She's also posting images of the work as it's received. The Willo North Gallery in Central Phoenix will be the place in which the work will be shown, May 23-28, 2011.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Stack of Figure Drawings and Aching Feet

My Saturday afternoons have been reserved for figure drawing sessions with a group of artists in Oracle. A lot of hard work, aching feet, and a pile of figure drawings are the result. And what is the point, you might ask?

Well, I view this as an exercise in training my eye, brain and hand to cooperate. It's really the process that's important to me, more than the actual product. When I do figure drawings, I stand at my easel and work with my whole body engaged in capturing the movement in the model's pose.

The process works best when I'm not worrying about the outcome. When I get back to my studio, I look at the results of the three hours of drawing. Above are a couple of examples of gesture drawings from last Saturday's efforts. Below are several examples of drawings from longer poses. 15 minutes each, I think. All the drawings from this session were done in compressed charcoal.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Figure Drawing: A Nude Human is in Front of Me...What Next?

A 30 second gesture drawing using a graphite stick

A one minute gesture drawing using conte crayon

Another one minute drawing, using compressed charcoal

As I mentioned in my last post, I started figure drawing years ago. After taking a series of classes in art school, I've continued the practice intermittently over the years. It's a great way to challenge yourself. The human figure is infinitely complex.

Having a good model helps the process. Good models are people who have graceful and fluid motion and conversely, are able to hold a pose without moving. Try it sometime. Find a position and try not to move an iota for a whole minute. You may find it feels like a lifetime. Then imagine sitting/standing/laying in the same pose for 20 or 30 minutes. Just thinking about it makes me start to itch.

Warming up is usually the first step for the artist in any figure drawing session, starting with gesture drawings. A good model is able to make a fluid gesture and hold it for anywhere from 10 seconds to a couple minutes and then change to a new pose without pausing between. It's a bit like a cross between dancing and that old statue game, where you freeze in mid-motion. The idea is to draw quickly and capture the sense of movement. Gesture drawing is also used to loosen up (kind of like stretching before going for a long run). It's hard to worry about how the drawing is coming out when you're basically scribbling like crazy on your paper. And that helps, too, because the minute you get self conscious about what you're drawing, you tighten up and can no longer capture the gesture.

I like to use a variety of media during this process because I'm never sure what's going to work for me at any given time (if anything does). Yes, there are days when nothing works well. That can be frustrating to say the least, but it's like anything else. There are good days and bad days. Just as with everything else in life...

P.S. A reader sent me a link to his website, which lists various figure drawing venues all over the country. Here 'tis– Thanks, Andrew, for the great tip.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Figure Drawing? One Time and I Was Hooked

The ongoing or sometimes occasional foray into figure drawing is something many artists do. Surrounded by myth and mystery, I daresay the ordinary (that is non-artist) person on the street would find the practice of drawing live, unclothed human figures unsettling, to say the least. And I'm sure that to the uninitiated it would be.

My first encounter with figure drawing happened oh lo those many years ago, during my first studio art class at U.C. Santa Barbara. Although prepared for what was happening, it was still something of a shock to set up my easel and have a male model drop his robe. I think this was a first for just about everyone in the class.

After a few instructions from the teacher, we all started drawing. First, are the gesture drawings. They can be anything from 10 second to one minute drawings wherein the artist strives to capture a sense of movement in the figure. It's hard work to look and draw that fast. Next comes longer, 2 or 3 minute poses. After that, a series of longer, 5 or 10 minute poses. Within a few minutes, I was totally absorbed in drawing. The next thing I knew, the three hour studio class was over. I was hooked. And totally exhausted.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Amos Lee at the Rialto Theater in Tucson

The crowd lining up at the Rialto Theater in downtown Tucson.

Amos Lee surrounded by the band.

Vusi Mahlesela (in the light colored shirt) with Amos Lee on his right side, singing together.

Jim and I had an afternoon and evening on the town last Sunday. We don't go to concerts often, so this was something I'd been looking forward to.

In order to make the trip into Tucson multipurpose, we decided to stop by Tohono Chul Park to see a couple of art exhibits. Of particular interest was the Family Ties exhibit, which runs through April 3. It was interesting to see the way in which the relationships between husband and wife, father and son, etc. influenced each person's work. A number of the artists in the show live in Oracle.

From there, to the Tucson Museum of Art, where we planned to see the Lewis and Clark exhibit. It helps to check the calendar. The show was gone and most of the museum was closed for new installations. Since we're members, we went in anyway and spent a little time roaming around. Sure is a lot of neat stuff in the gift shop. Way too many temptations.

Hunger struck, and we proceeded to El Charro, the oldest continuously family run Mexican food establishment in the country. The food is really good and the atmosphere is great. Always a treat.

We decided to cruise by the Rialto Theater to check out the scene before going to get a bit of dessert. Lo and behold, there was already a line at 6:30 (show scheduled to open at 8 pm). So we cashed in the idea of dessert (probably not a bad thing anyway), found parking, got our tickets and got in line. Fun people watching. I dare say we were among, if not, the oldest people in line.
The doors opened at 7 pm and in we went. As I said, we don't go to concerts very often. Things change. I have no idea if this is standard or not, but the theater was set up with a handful of chairs in the back and lots of open (standing room) space in the front. Since we'd toughed out the wait, we got seats. Not that most people seemed to want to sit. Lots of toing and frowing of the audience, moving about, jockeying for position, all in a most friendly way.

At last the concert started with the opening act, a man from Africa, Vusi Mahlesela, with a great voice and interesting things to say about his part in the political scene in South Africa.

Then Amos Lee came on stage. I was enthralled. We really do miss out when we don't see live performances. It's good to be reminded of this. Kind of like looking at art on the internet versus looking in person. So much is lost in the translation. Anyway, it was a wonderful experience. I felt like I was transported to another place. Of course, I couldn't leave without buying his latest album. I proceeded to give myself a concert of all four of his albums yesterday while painting in my studio. I'm sure my work was brilliant as a result.

So you see, Tucson is a great place to live near. A short drive from sleepy Oracle gets us to a vibrant city with plenty of interesting cultural opportunities. All located on US Route 89!