Spring Things and not so Spring-y Things (Self-Portrait)

Figgie 2014, ink and watercolor, 8x5.5 in

Figgie 2014, ink and watercolor, 8×5.5 in

This little fig tree has survived so much: being transplanted, then a killer frost, and then transplanting again after sewer line work. As soon as leaves sprouted this year so did two figs. Sadly the crows or squirrels (or the toddler next door?) took them before I could even post this.

Little Rose Studies, ink and watercolor, 7.5x5.5 in

Little Rose Studies, ink and watercolor, 7.5×5.5 in

I sat in the driveway and quickly sketched some roses but had to stop when the shadow of the house took away the light.

End of Journal Self-Portrait, graphite, 5x7.5 in

End of Journal Self-Portrait, graphite, 5×7.5 in

And then there’s my not so spring-y self, frowning into the mirror, with hat-head and something wrong with the mouth. And yes, it’s intentionally buried at the bottom of this post. It feels good to be drawing again, after what seems like months away from it. It’s also a little frustrating feeling rusty at it. But the only fix for that is more drawing!

NYC Part 3: Society of Illustrators and Hopper, Magritte, Calder at The Whitney and MoMA

Model and Artists at Society of Illustrators, NY, ink and watercolor 5.5x7.5"

Model and Artists at Society of Illustrators, NY, ink and watercolor 5.5×7.5″

My second day in New York started with visiting art museums (more about that in a minute) and ended upstairs at the Society of Illustrators for costumed figure drawing from 6:30 to 9:30.

Society of Illustrators Staircase

Society of Illustrators Staircase

Just walking through the red door, up the stairs and seeing the portraits of all the famous illustrator/members was awe-inspiring.

Models at Society of Illustrators, NY Figure Drawing, 7.5"x5.5"

Models at Society of Illustrators, NY Figure Drawing, 7.5″x5.5″

I didn’t find the models to be very inspiring; they repeated the same few poses and the thin one wore a strange headdress with a little floral jumpsuit; the voluptuous model wore painful looking bondage gear. Or maybe it was just me: I’d started getting a migraine before dinner and had taken migraine meds so was a little off kilter.

Upstairs Bar at the Society of Illustrators

Upstairs Bar at the Society of Illustrators

I would have been intimidated going to the Society of Illustrators by myself but Shirley is a regular, which helped newcomers Pat and I feel comfortable. According to Shirley there was a world-famous fashion illustrator at the bar (above) that evening. We sketched to a soundtrack of loud rock music from the 70s, including favorites from Led Zeppelin, the Eagles and John Lennon.

Model at Society of Illustrators, NY Figure Drawing, 7.5"x5.5"

Model at Society of Illustrators, NY Figure Drawing, 7.5″x5.5″

Please see Pat’s iPad drawings and her amusing story about the day and Shirley’s sketches here.

Hopper, Magritte, Calder

Edward Hopper is one of my favorite artists so I was excited to start NYC day 2  at the Whitney with Pat visiting the show of Hopper paintings and his preliminary drawings for them. What really struck me was how his drawings showed great skill in drawing and perspective and yet many of his paintings have awkward angles, wrong perspective and bodies in unnatural positions.

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A avorite Hopper painting on his homemade easel

I thought this note beside a painting might help to explain that dichotomy:

Hopper was a lifelong realist, committed to deriving his pictorial ideas from observed reality. His aim, however, was not to record outward appearances but to use his observations…as vehicles…to portray his inner life. Asked once what he was trying to achieve in a painting, he answered, “I’m after ME.”

Some favorite Hopper sketches in the show (click to enlarge):

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While at the Whitney we also visited American Legends: From Calder to O’Keefe (more Hopper…Yay! and some wonderfully whimsical Calder circus sculptures made of wire and miscellaneous detritus), then we went quickly through Robert Indiana: Beyond LOVE (meh).

Next we walked to MoMA where we met Shirley and went to the member’s preview day for Magritte: Mystery of the Ordinary.  None of us loved the Magritte. My favorite work in the show referenced painters painting, especially Clairvoyance where the artist’s still life setup is an egg but he’s painting a bird. While Shirley and Pat went off to sketch from paintings in the shows they’d already seen, I enjoyed American Modern: Hopper to O’Keefe show (Yay! even more Hopper!)

Sleeping Guy at MoMa, NY, pencil and watercolor, 7x5.5"

Sleeping Guy at MoMa, NY, pencil and watercolor, 7×5.5″

Finally, exhausted, I found Shirley sketching in a comfy chair beside the man above who was sound asleep. I drew him while she finished her sketch. Then we had dinner at a diner and walked to the Society of Illustrators for figure drawing.

New York City Part 2: Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Figures al Fresco

Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, ink and watercolor, 5.5x7.5"

View from Battery Park, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, ink and watercolor, 5.5×7.5″

My first morning in Manhattan I woke to sun streaming through the trees and hurried to get ready for a day of sketching in Battery Park with Shirley Levine and Pat Gaignat. Above is my first sketch of the day: the view from Battery Park of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where my grandfathers first arrived in the U.S. from Russia. It seemed like a perfect way to mark my arrival too.

Pat had created a multi-media iBook titled “Way to Go, Jana!” with directions for finding my way to the park at the other end of Manhattan. I downloaded it to my iPhone and headed out the door.

At my first intersection I stepped off the curb at a green light and BAM! a truck hit a motorcycle right in front of me. The bike went down but the rider didn’t seem injured. The drivers began their negotiations and I scurried across the street.

Below are a couple of screenshots from Pat’s e-book that I literally would have been lost without!

Pat's guide map page

Pat’s guide map page

Pat's guide  featuring Shirley with video and audio instructions

Pat’s guide starring Shirley

In the afternoon we joined a dozen artists on benches around a small plaza for the start of “Figures al Fresco,” a weekly, free, clothed figure-drawing session sponsored by the city, complete with teacher. She drove up in an electric cart filled with art supplies to use during the session, including drawing boards, paper pads, watercolors, charcoal and pencils. I did most of my figure drawings on a newsprint pad from the cart. The last one (below) I did in my journal with my new Pentel Tradio Stylo water-soluble pen and a water brush.

Battery Park Figure Sketching, ink, 7.5x5.5"

Battery Park Figure Sketching, ink, 7.5×5.5″

John, the model was excellent, with many interesting poses that simulated working in fields and other kinds of manual labor. The teacher requested he remove his shoes so we could draw his feet. He took off the shoes, but wouldn’t remove his socks.

Me sketching in Battery Park

Pat’s photo of me sketching in Battery Park

When the session ended at 4:30,  in a hurry I returned my drawing pad to the cart, forgetting to remove my sketches. Then I joined Pat to walk the High Line, a public park built on a former elevated railroad line, as part of our journey back uptown.

You can see Shirley’s drawings here and Pat’s here. Shirley’s figure drawings show such sensitivity for the human form and Pat’s work is strong and unique. She draws on an iPad using a digital tool meant for drawing and filling shapes, not making lines. It seems extra challenging to me, but gives her line work a really dynamic look.

One funny thing about Pat who I only knew through our blogs…I didn’t realize until I saw her gentle face that I had pictured her looking the way she draws people, with thick, edgy, sharp, black outlines!

To be continued….

New York City Trip Part 1: Three planes for the price of one

OAK to NYC-Flight In, ink and watercolor , 7.5 x 11" spread

OAK to NYC-Flight In, ink and watercolor , 7.5 x 11″ spread

I’m back from New York, happy to be home but a little sad to leave New York behind, and even sadder to have the sniffles, thanks to all the sneezing, coughing people on my planes. Next time I fly I’m wearing a mask. The flight to New York on Southwest was the only bummer part of the trip.

Seat Back Tray Still Life, ink and watercolor

Seat Back Tray Still Life, ink and watercolor

My flight was supposed to have a quick stop in Chicago but no plane change. I sketched my instant coffee (in a tea bag!) and swizzle stick on my seat-back tray (above). Later I added people waiting in the airport to the page.

Chopped salad with swizzle stick chop stick

Chopped salad with swizzle stick chop stick

(The swizzle stick came in handy when I went to eat the chopped vege and chicken salad I’d brought and discovered that Southwest has no silverware on board. The flight attendant suggested using two swizzle sticks like chopsticks. That’s one way to eat more slowly!)

So there we sit on the Chicago runway with doors closed….and wait…and wait. The woman sitting next to me is sneezing and coughing. I ask her if she’s contagious and she says no, she’s been sick for days already (ugh). I was about to change seats when they announce there’s a problem with the plane and we have to return to the terminal while they find us another plane. 

Waiting at Chicago Airport, ink and watercolor 5.5 x 7.5"

Waiting at Chicago Airport, ink and watercolor 5.5 x 7.5″\

Trying to be positive, I figure that’s better than flying with a bad plane, and now I have more time to draw. An elegant young man in a gray-green suit with his hair in a top knot played beautiful music on a lute while I sketched him and a Hasidic young father with his big hat and side curls.

Finally Southwest instructed us to walk to the other end of the terminal to board our new plane. We hustled across the terminal, lined up, slowly boarded and crammed luggage in the overhead bins again. And then waited. Again.

Southwest is known for being funny so I thought it was a joke when the flight attendant announced she was really sorry, but this plane also had a problem and we had to get off again and return to the terminal. But it wasn’t a joke.

Back in the airport they said they would find another plane and bring it to us. Twenty minutes later they told us to walk back to our original gate at the other end of the terminal to board what was hopefully a different plane (or the original plane, now fixed?). It was 10:00 PM, the time we were supposed to be arriving in New York.

That plane flew! Yay! I took a taxi from the dark, mostly closed Newark airport and arrived at the Upper West Side apartment I rented via AirBnB after 1:00 a.m. and went right to sleep.

(To be continued.)

End of Journal Self Portraits

Self Portrait, Oil on panel, 6x6"

Self Portrait, Oil on panel, 6×6″

I wasn’t satisfied with the two ink and watercolor end-of-journal self-portraits (below) that completed the 8×10″ Moleskine I was working in back in June. Rose Frantzen had told me during my workshop with her that I had wonderful skin to paint and should be doing lots of self-portraits from life in oil. So I decided to give it a try.

I only had couple of hours left in the day for painting so chose a small 6×6″ panel that already had a dark background from wiping off a previous failed painting. I turned off most of the lights in the studio except for one pointing at my face from the left and one overhead light behind me. I clamped a mirror to the easel and started painting. What a surprise: after a couple of hours I’d made my most favorite self-portrait ever.

I know it’s not perfect but I don’t think it calls for perfecting; it’s just a moment in time and a record of a very enjoyable but short painting session.

Below are the two in my sketchbook. I was in a really grumpy mood and struggling with the drawing on the first one and it shows (below):

Grumpy Strained Self-Portrait, ink & watercolor, 10x8"

Grumpy Strained Self-Portrait, ink & watercolor, 10×8″

A few days later I tried again:

Self-Portrait with Birthday Bouquet

Self-Portrait with Birthday Bouquet, ink & watercolor, 10×8″

I was in a much better mood. I put my birthday bouquet on the table between me and the mirror and started drawing. It was confusing trying to combine what was real and what was mirror image. It’s a dorky drawing of me but I like the flowers.

Isn’t it amazing how emotions and mood show in a drawing or painting? It’s like there are two different people in these two sketches: mean, tense, bossy-lady and sweet, flowery, dorky girl.

San Francisco Sketchcrawl Part 2: Ferry Building, Ferries & Ladies Room Lines

Ferry Building Clock Tower, ink & watercolor, 7x5"

Ferry Building Clock Tower, ink & watercolor, 7×5″

While I waited for the Sketchcrawl to begin I started drawing the Ferry Building clock tower. The clocks weren’t really set for different times. It looks that way because I drew what I saw: by the time I got to the right clock it was 7 minutes later.

Sketchers Sketching on the Embarcadero

Sketchers Sketching on the Embarcadero

Next I tried to draw the sketchers on the little plaza across from the Ferry Building (above). My perspective got way wonky on the street on the right. Although there are many hills in San Francisco, this street is actually quite flat.

Marin Ferry, ink & watercolor 5x14"

Marin Ferry, ink & watercolor 5×14″

Behind the Ferry Building I watched the huge Marin ferry arrive. I knew I only had about ten minutes to draw it while passengers got off and on. I nearly finished the drawing before it headed back out so added the colors I remembered afterward.

Standing in Line for the Ferry Building Restrooms, ink & watercolor 7x5"

Standing in Line for the Ferry Building Restrooms, ink & watercolor 7×5″

I’m glad I didn’t wait until the last minute to use the restroom in the Ferry Building. There were 35 women in line for the ladies’ room and only about 3 for the men’s. Why? It was interesting drawing the women right in front of me because of the odd foreshortening I perceived looking down their backsides. Next time you’re waiting in line, try to draw the person right in front of you and you’ll see what I mean.

Later someone gave me a valuable tip I’ll share with you: there’s a little used ladies room on the second floor of the building. I wonder why the Ferry Building management doesn’t include that information in the signage directing people where to stand in line for the downstairs restrooms.

 

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