Equipment

As much as I say & feel that I do not watch much television, being in Europe makes me start to suspect my assessment is a little off. This is reinforced by the amount of books that  I go through away from the states. Halfway through my Parisian residency I always need to restock my bedside pile.

There are certain publishers which one can not go wrong in choosing almost anything by them such as NYRB and Green Intenger. The same goes in non fiction  for certain authors. For art writing & biographies, it does not matter if you know or like the artists, anything by Jed Perl, Richard Ellman, Ross King and John Richardson is worth delving into.

To almost zero notice John Richardson passed away recently. He had become a gallerist, putting together some amazing Picasso shows, often in conjunction with the artist’s family. He wrote articles for such magazines as vanity fair. His earlier years he had sat at collector Douglas Cooper’s side, moving through (art) history, bearing witness to important events and also the behind the scenes dynamics. He wrote several fantastic books on this which shows the all too human side of great artists without ever lapsing into mere salacious gossip.

Perhaps the most important thing John Richardson did was the massive multi volume set on the life of Picasso. He was working on the fourth, final volume when he died. These volumes get into meticulous detail about the artist’s life, those around him and the times he lived in. Impressively, over the course of all the volumes Richardson manages to write without agenda, neither praising Picasso to the sky nor trying to tear him down. The artist as a talented yet imperfect man is presented.

Picasso is sometimes talked about as a magician for the protean way he seemed to conjure up new genres. He was mercurial in his ability to shift styles, often creating his own new ones before dropping them to birth a new phase. However, a point Richardson goes into and one which has become more public knowledge was that he did not spontaneously create from nothing. Picasso was a bit of a magpie. Direct contemporaries used to tell each other not to have works on display when he came to visit the studio or he would borrow ideas that he liked, making them his own. Many opted to turn unfinished canvas around to face the wall like an ill behaved child.

All artists wear masks out in public. Piccasso’s public persona was that of a sui generous, fully formed at birth. There is no disputing that the talent was there from the get go but like even the most individualized genius, he took from and was inspired by ideas from outside of himself. According to  him, all his then radical ideas which freed up generations of painters were solely of his invention. There seemed to be a feeling that he would be a lesser titan were sources to be cited. Oceanic art, Matisse et al were kept hidden ingredients in his recipe book.   Great trouble was taken on his part to hide or camouflage the sources not his own which he turned to gold.

To me, this always seemed oddly tragic as much time and energy was wasted on trying to cover up that which has become common knowledge. Even some of the poorer written biographies on Picasso now easily trace some of what ideas from others went into radically new and important works.

I am paraphrasing here but towards the end of the third volume it was said that he still possessed a virtuoso’s voice but with very little to say. I think part of this was that he was existing outside of the stream of life. The vitality of being in competition with his peers or if not that then at least among them at cafes, parties and studios serves as stimulation. Being surrounded by a crowd who hangs on your every word and who in one way or another are dependent upon you is not the same.  On the first flush of huge fame it was more important to him that he keep his secrets. After that, that he not be wrong, corrected or not the alpha.

By comparison, artists like Renoir, Matisse, Calder and Giacometti even once famous and older, would make it a point to still put in appearances  at cafes and studios to see what was new with the upcoming generations while chatting of their latest works.

All this inspired me. I would never waste any time nor effort in being secretive. If someone created an effect in one of their works which I do not know how to do, unashamed, I will ask “how?”. If anyone asks me about what equipment I use/used on a piece, i will gladly tel them.  Much to my surprise, not all my peers are like this. Asking a slightly older painter how she achieved an effect, what she had used, I received a curt “watercolors”. When I politely asked for specifics it became clear she did not want to tell me. This is absurd as two people can have same recipe and ingredients yet when the dish is made they will be different from one another.

We should all feel free to ask away as none of us are Picasso.

When back in Europe I always have my painting kit & my sketch kit. Over the years the painting one is largely unchanged. A few colors added, a few taken out of the palette. My sketching kit is ever in flux. The Blackwing pencil & Kuro Toga .5 MM pencil being the two constants.

 

2019 Sketch Kit for the Road:

(Left to right )

Sharpener, .5 MM Kuro Toga, Staedler 2MM Lead Clutch, blender, two writing pen refills Waterman & Parker) Tombow Mono Zero eraser, two sided Faber Castell Lead extender, BlackWing Palomino w/Blackinwing Point Cap, Faber Castell 2B pencil w/Blackwing Point Cap, Faber Castell 7B w/Blackwing Point Cap, Staedler Eraser, two blenders Faber Castell HB Pencil, gum eraser, 2x 5MM Pentel  Lead refills 4B & 2B, Pad of Sandpiper to custom hone Lead Clutch point, Rubber eraser (bottom)

 

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Black Eye

I had the pleasure semi-recently of seeing a fantastic show in Paris of Tintoretto at the Musée du Luxembourg.

His mannerist style emphasized emotion over perfect harmonious proportions which had been the de rigueur template for (early) Renaissance painters. Some of his self portraits are among my favorite paintings. He showed himself, warts and all so to speak.

In this social media-Instagram  age, everyone goes for presenting an idealized version of themselves in self portrait. Or a faux-playful imperfection such as the pretty girl with her tongue sticking out.

My mantra has always been that truth is beauty and that truth is always in service to emotion. Emotion being  my personal raison d’etre for all my work.

When I do a self portrait, i do not look to send a message via symbols or program but stick to my raw reportage. It is me, as I am which is real, which is interesting.

 

“Black Eye” 5.5 x 8.5 Watercolor & Paper

blackeye Continue reading “Black Eye”

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

brel

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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Return to France

Before heading to my home in Paris, I was down in the south of France doing research for an essay of French gastronomy of a bygone era.

It was not conducive for my painting but I did sketch non stop. I utilized my ever present midori passport pocket pad.

I enjoyed the challange of such small size, 3×5 to create fully realized pieces.

Some of my reading inspired me to shake things up as I had long been familiar with the size. I started using both sides of the page, holding the pad vertically (so that what were the books edges became the too and bottom).

It was interesting ng in that more space does not necessarily equate to easier .

One has to think of compositional balance differently.

Back in paris. First morning in studio started a painting 5×8. The weather going from overcast to rain has not facilitated progress so I am back to sketching.

I find myself now also combining my own texts to pieces.

Even with the rain, it is great fun adding to myself in a way which shall remain with me.

 

 

 

 

 

Charcoal

I have just started experimenting with charcoal. I am sure as I use it more, I will become even better but right away I feel it a successful medium for me.

There is a looseness to charcoal which lends itself to an emotional expressionism. When I do a charcoal piece, i do not use pencil first. To utilize the safety net of being able to erase is to miss the point of what charcoal has to offer.

Here are my very first tries. With the portraits i have done, there is a sort of gauze like effect. For myself, i generally work fast. Charcoal seems to want the speed of hand as to offer up more organic depth.

“Miles” 9×12 “Left Bank,Paris” 9×12