Pre-Trip Errata

Getting on plane tomorrow so here are some quick sketches and thoughts in between closing up stateside studio:

I just finished the biography on Alexander Calder by Jed Perl. I had not been into Calder beforehand but developed a new appreciation for him after finishing. I have shelves of books on biographies/histories of Paris during different eras which include all the artists that where then on the scene.

For modern art eras, Calder was often featured. He was portrayed in a sort of often parroted shorthand, as an impish figure who artists in all the various movements liked (surrealists, futurists, cubists et al) even though he was never formally a member of anything.

Marcel Duchamp too was embraced by key figures in many movements which he purposely never joined. Duchamp had the glamour of enigma and an obvious influence to varying degrees on many artists who came after him for generations.

After reading this wonderful book the two had more in common than would be apparent from other books. Duchamp’s mien was always sphinx like which lent a sort of gravitas to whatever he was doing.  Calder was serious about his work but had a joyous disposition. If he did not get along with somebody, then he just did not bother with them. He had artistic theories & philosophy but he was reticent and never pontificated about  them. This lent a sort of playful veneer to all that he did to casual gallery & museum goers. There was a joy to what he did, but a serious joy.

This is the second book I have read by Perl on an artist to whom I was initially indifferent. It underscores that no matter how much one knows about art or how well formed their aesthetic sense, there is always room for more exploration and to pull new things into oneself.  And as I have often said, with certain non-fiction authors, it is well worth reading anything that they put out. Jed Perl definitely falls into this category.

 

9×12 quick sketch Calder

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It was just Duke Ellington’s birthday.  To people not well versed in jazz Duke Ellington is “Take the  A Train” or that sort of sludge of sound behind really old cartoons which utilized swing music before Carl Stalling came on the scene with his innovative sonic madness.

There was always forward thinking elements to what Duke & his orchestra were doing. He was constantly evolving and adding to his vision and sonic palette.

He composed in so many forms that it’s bittersweet to think of the years where he was lumped in with other, mere entertainers. Publicly, he never seemed to complain about this. In his final decade or so when he was starting to truly get his due,  in performance he still would often include medleys of the hits as to please the crowd. Remnants of when  this  American Mozart, despite his skill land ambition had to set toes to tapping.

For beginners to his oeuvre the best place to start are his later recordings. These works are more easily acceptable to someone  used to post bop jazz (used to be called “Modern” ). In his final years, Duke seemed to be allowed to record whatever he wanted. It runs the gambit in diversity. From Tone poems to suites, to soundtracks to trios and sacred concerts to teaming up with musicians young and old that he admired but had not worked with in small ensembles (John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong)

I first got into his work by delving into the later stuff. I enjoyed that so much i started looking backwards. Years ago I would not have been open to it, but now i treasure all Duke.

There is probably at least one of his albums to fit no matter where you are in the world and what you are doing. All around the globe, my pencil in hand and the rich coloration as envisioned by Duke wafting up out of the speakers.

Sir Duke Quick Sketch 9×12

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Boogie

Honey Child wanted me to touch her face, the lines of her body, memorization as a blind man might.

I took one of the rooms higher up as I felt it safer. The trade off was that unlike some of the better rooms, my one window did not look out into the courtyard.

At night when not actively pursuing anything, the Hyenas walked softly, their paws crunched on the sand as if it were snow.

This did not seem to bother anyone but myself. To my shame, when the  sun was at its most brilliant a pair of little boys would get the disregarded scraps of leather from the cobbler.  They would then almost completely bury them in the sand, leaving them there until the end of the day.

They would then go back and dig up their treasure. Over the course of the day the sand became hotter and hotter. Each grain burnt the leather so that it became dimpled like a more expensive version of itself.

While drinking mint tea these would then be made into wallets to sell to tourists at the medina.

I had my pen and paper to keep me company but sometimes that was not enough. I would play my records but not too much as i worried of some misfortune befalling the player for which i knew I would not be able to get parts easily.

Mostly I played James Johnson, Willie the Lion, Fatha Hines. Their looping frenzy seemed of another world to the locals.  No one ever complained as they were sure that it was part of some incantation similar to that of the men up in the mountains with their rams horn instruments.

“What do you call it?”

“Boogie.”

To them, the word had a deeper, primal,  meaning and i think it was better.

Fini

 

“Boogie” (1st painting new studio) 5×8 watercolor & paper

 

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songs About Women:Song Two: To The Na

Second piece in ongoing series:

 

Song Two: To The Na:
She initially endeared herself to me when I discovered that if she or someone in her life were going on a trip (flying) she always said her goodbye as if it could be for the last time. The same mistrust of planes as I, acted upon.

She had a thing for feet which she insisted was not sexual, when I suggested it might be otherwise w/her male social media pals, she became incensed.
In short order, I was proven correct as most of us, especially on social media, are dogs.

In her anger & embarrassment, we didn’t talk for a year and a half.

Something about her eyes and the real estate around it reminds me of a Vasquez piece I once saw. Of course she is my kind of beautiful.

Halfway around the world, she popped into my head unexpectedly when late one night when Mar-Mar wanted to paint my toe nails. I said no and we all prowled the bars around Montparnasse ,eating olives and salted almonds out of tiny white dishes in between drinks, until becoming on the verge of queasy.
W.Wolfson ’18

 

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What the Eye Sees

Where ever I am, I draw & sketch. Even more so if I do not have time/space to paint. My pencil musings are not all meant to be formal accomplishments ready to frame.

Sometimes they are just personal references to what I am doing or seeing, done in my 3×5 pocket pad.

After years of doing this, I find myself going to some of the same places which are now part of my life. It made it tricky in that, i can only sketch same rooftops etc so many times.

Without any forethought, I found a way to keep it fresh. I now sometimes indirectly record things.

I was in a little bar, the air thick with sausage smoke, that and Parisian sandwiches being their only fare. The owner had two cats which come and go as they please, all the regulars saying hello as they take over empty stools.

He had a penchant for playing Jacques Brel. The bar is located between my place and favorite record store so I found myself stopping in often on my way home. Either to celebrate a new purchase or to console myself for coming back empty handed.

Now when i hear Brel, for half a second I smell the fragrant sausage and regardless of lyrics, feel a mellow warmness.

W.Wolfson Paris ’18

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Trumpets

I am near on obsessive in exploring properties of different equipment & materials I use for my art. This is one way of avoiding repeating myself or having the process, which in itself brings me great joy, from becoming mechanical.

There is the preferred equipment & materials I use but i constantly break things up. I utilize paper & pencils of drastically different quality over the course of my weekly woodshedding. The challenge of working with not so great paper or pencils makes it so that when i use my ideal it is easier. It also allows me to work under any conditions and to even improvise at a moment (in a bar, cafe or party) when I had no intention of doing so to good results.

The most important aspect for me in not being rigidly locked down in how i create is that I want a recognizable voice but to never slip merely into mannerism(s).

With my painting, for every piece i switch off the size and style of paper. It keeps me engaged in the work and far from mannerisms.

With Miles, he sounded great regardless of which of his trumpets he used. However, he did have certain trumpets he would use for specific pieces.  Of course he could have used any trumpet for any song and sounded great but he felt that although his voice was ever present when playing, each trumpet had its own properties which it injected into the overall feel of the song.

So it is for me with the paper I use for painting. Different paper has inherent properties which add a component to the work. My voice is always there but effected to a certain degree by the medium.

Even with knowing this, I do not change my method of which paper I use. There is specific rotation regardless of which I feel is best for portraying flesh etc. This too is a nice challenge and discipline which I find invaluable.

 

 

“Hommage John Lurie” 9×12 Canson Multi Media Papper 98LB

“Foot Brace” 7×10 French Cotton Paper

Hot House

People have forgotten how to look at figurative art.

This largely is on account of the always present phones in our lives. Ever present and ever ready to capture whatever we deem important or interesting. The ability to now document the minutia of our lives has made it so that the “merely” representational images seem “off”, wrong or not impressive, so used to the availability of actual photos have we become.

Now, if you draw a person, it needs to be hyper real to be appreciated by the casual art peruser.

It is all right for a portrait to look like the subject but also like a painting/drawing.

We treasure the paintings of Matisse and while when he portrays a woman on a couch we know what we are seeing, no one is going to ever use it to do a technical anatomical study from. The emotion resonating from his work not technical portrayal is where the joy is to be found.

Another aspect which seems largely forgotten are the dynamics between artist & model. While most artists want to convey the likeness of their subject, ultimately it is as if the artist is describing the model using their words, words in this case being their style (technique).

A final important component in portraying a subject is that none of us look the same all the time. Mood, health, ambient surroundings all dictates changes on our faces, bodies and even body language.

I often use same people over the course of many works, each time there are little differences. This is not imperfection of technique nor chops operating only at a certain skill level.

Doing it right, a series of pieces using same subject is not dissimilar to Bird & Diz riffing off of Hot House. The basic structure remains familiar but with changes built off the initial theme, always slightly different but containing recognizable components.

 

Here is informal series I did. I never think of what I want to portray, I just execute what I see without agenda. After the first piece, this series showed a playfulness along with a bemused surprise at a until then, thought secret vulnerability.

Music Addict Paris ’18

 

Jam session

Anytime one sees Paris on television or in the movies, as a character passes by a window or stops in front of one to gaze out and ponder some plot point, the Eiffel tower can be seen.

More often than not, this is not geographically accurate for where the action is taking place.

That aside, not a bad view to be sure. But I think there are more inspiring views which would have less ambient noise of tourists etc which can distract from living one’s life (working) in the city of lights.

Year after year I live in the same place, same arrondissement, in Paris. It is  a working neighborhood, meaning no tourists.

However, every other door which is not a residance seems to be a bar or boulangerie.

I am ten minute walk from places to sketch like the Luxembourg gardens.

I have, after all these years become a part of my neighborhood.

When I am elsewhere in the world, I dream of being back. I have decades long relationship with my wine merchant, butcher, greengrocer and baker.

There is established level of comfortability that I know I can sit in a bar sketching on the sly and not be perceived akin to one of those people with their laptops “writing” to be found in every Starbucks stateside.

It kept raining off and on…steady rain would be all right people would click clack down the wet cobblestone streets holding a newspaper or their jacket, cape like, over their heads.

Sporadic rain, it got humid. Clothes got wet, then you find yourself cold, followed by a type of sticky as body heat working over time dries away the rain.

Stop-start of the skies festivities,  people are just staying wherever they are at.

I am in one of the little intimate bars which despite my now having a studio, serves as an unofficial office.

There is a tall brown haired girl sitting alone at the bar. She wears a still wet dress whose true color is slowly being revealed as it dries.

I am at my usual table, stealing pieces of her with my pencil.

A guitarist is in the corner playing.

At first he is playing for her…his fingers conjure up abstractions which encapsulates something that could make one happy to be blue.

She is forgotten, now he plays for himself.

Her change on the counter, the cymbal fall, the end of a song.

He sees me, I nod.

I hold two fingers up to the bartender. He has never cared about busy versus dead nights so long as he sees the familiar faces of regulars over the course of the week.

We Klink our glasses.

I see him look at my sketchpad. Without hesitation I hand it to him to inspect.

He had originally wanted to be a poet using language and words as to convey the emotions which are now brought forth via his fingers. Words to make people feel.

I had wanted to, in my youth be a musician .

We had both found our way, just not in the manner originally envisioned.

Paris May ’18

 

Quick sketch

 

 

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