Lyra water soluble graphite sticks have become one of my favorite mediums. That with a brush and pocket pad and i can do painterly pieces even when sitting at a cafe table. And I need not sprawl out taking over the table. I am also able to maintain discretion as I would hate to be like one of those people stateside who feel it necessary to go to Starbucks to show everyone that they are “writing”.
Aside from fully realized works, i continue to woodshed, hands, feet, whatever is in front of me. It is akin to a musician practicing scales. Both Renoir and Matisse when in the twilight of their years said something along the lines of it being a shame that they did not have a few more years left as they both felt that they were finally starting to get it. Coltrane before and after a concert or recording session would still put in time practicing. This has been my overall approach too. Regardless of how my day is spent, an hour or two at night woodshedding.
I do not go for the outwardly dramatic thing in my sketching. I let the organic truth of whatever the thing is create the emotion. A sort of raw reportage without any preconceived agenda. All pieces are either 3×5 pocket pad or 4×4 pocket pad. My 3×5 pad has circled the globe with me more ties than I can count and is always besides my bed or in my pocket during the day no matter where I am in the world.
This season, I was really able to trim down the amount of equipment I brought with me. For painting, I had my custom cut 4×4 in both standard white watercolor paper & brown multi media paper. The plan was to buy a standard block once here.
I actually enjoyed challenge working small, and people liked the weird hanging chads too. So I decided to stick with it, forgoing other paper.
With smaller paper you have less space to create tension & release. The density I prefer in my compositions also trickier to achieve.
Here is my portrayal of flesh which I never tire of doing, a night scene trying to show shadow without blatantly showing darkness of a room and detail from a favorite statue in The Luxemburg gardens. All are 4×4
Finally able to get back to my Paris studio. In general I’m always tweeking my road gear. Post pandemic, I’ve done some shorter trips but nothing with logistics of returning to Europe. I had no idea what to expect of others in regards to behavior while en route. With this in mind the lighter I could make my bags the better.
I have a great new notebook. It’s refillable and utilizes the disc system. What’s different about it is that the discs are inside the cover, so I can put it in my pocket. I bought a cutter which allows me to refill it with any paper I choose. I saved space by creating good sized pad comprised of watercolor paper, regular sketch and tan multi media.
I have several great arts stores around me so I will eventually get normal sized paper too. This is my first painting. 4×4.
While getting here, there were times of great crowds of people but thats nothing new for international travel. I didn’t find the vibe any different than normal. Regardless of rules, many people masked up. As the tips of the plane’s wings sliced off the edges of Grey silver clouds, I mused to myself. Masks.For me,it’s not about political affiliations, what happened to the concept of sometimes having to do a thing you don’t want to. That’s called being an adult. Truly, your life has not been too bad if having to mask up is the worst thing that has ever happened to you.
“You made me beautiful” she said upon seeing the finished piece.
It was, but I just painted what I saw. With all my portraiture I go for a sort of raw reportage. If I see it, it appears in the piece. I never airbrush out (so to speak) any imperfections nor do i exaggerate any by way of settling scores. To me, all truth is beauty.
I always want people to be able to return to a piece and see new things. This is why traditional beauty has always bored me. The little quirks and imperfections make it real, make it interesting. The organics of a piece is often helped by only using people I know as subject matter. The trust allows for natural body language and facial expressions. There are some great yet unknown painters out there whose work’s power is diminished by coming across as overly academic or all the cheesy glam poses. I don’t worry about the beauty aspect, but rather the realness.
This piece is 11×14 inches. Watercolor on brown paper.
I draw every day, no matter where I am in the world. When on the road, at the very least I will do quick guerilla sketches and woodshedding in my ever present trusty pocket pad. Of late most of my formally done works switch off between Cinefield® and painting (during the execution of which I will still woodshed every night).
A new painting had been started but then it rained out every day with the forecast calling for the following week to be more of the same. I only use natural sunlight to paint by so this was not good for me. I put the painting aside and went on to start Cinefield® Where the Sauce is Deluxe. Between the weather and how labor intensive that piece was the painting sat untouched for four weeks, something I had never done before.
When I went back to work on it, it felt strange initially but I quickly found my rhythm. I am very pleased with the piece. Although I always end up over the course of working on a painting having to let it dry a day between coats. As matter of personal preference, I was not a fan of having a piece left untouched for that long a duration.
Once again I tried to change things up a little. I used a heavy stock brown paper 11×14 inches landscape oriented.
Throughout my oeuvre I had done paintings of close up of body parts. The challenge of this to varying degree is that if one does a super close up of an arm or belly without the outline of limbs/silhouette, it’s not necessarily easy to know what as a viewer, one is seeing.
Without visual guidelines, it’s tougher to show volume & mass of a body. This is one of the challenges I enjoy. If I can make the viewer feel the curve of a part without showing the edge, then it’s “easy” when doing an entire body or section.
Another aspect of this which I enjoy is that even when really nailing the volume and mass effect of the skin, there’s a sort of abstract property to the piece. I like the concept of a viewer enjoying these types of works just for the colors and effects rather than the “Does it look like this person?” aspect which can occasionally be a distraction. This piece is not as tight a zoom as I sometimes do for this type of work.
Another Song About a Girl 11×14 Brown Paper & watercolor
I had many balls in the air these past few weeks including my first smaller trip outside of the city. Slowly, I worked on a painting where I tried a few new things. I am pleased with the results. The camera i had gotten during the pandemic as to be able to properly capture my work ended up being more of a nemesis than help. Despite having done all kinds of research beforehand, it was only after the fact i found out how notoriously difficult that it was to use. I sucked it up and went for a consult, the store owner was helpful, not trying merely make a sale. I ended up with a Sonny which is amazingly easy to use and feels good in my hand too. This is first painting i have used it on.
I got some new paper to try for both my lyra pieces and watercolors. While the results with the Lyra were good, I much prefer my usual paper for the medium. I then decided to try doing a watercolor piece with it. And while I am very pleased with the results, with this too I prefer my usual paper. For both mediums though, the results were good enough that I will use up the pad, switching off between it and my preferred paper.
One of my great pleasures in life is portraying flesh in paint. I never tire of making volume and mass appear on what started off as a flat white square.
This piece is 7×10 “Marlina”
addendum: Deracine Magazine has new summer issue out, It has one of my early-proto “In the Eights”. The magazine has a clean minimalist design and is worth checking out
Slowly whittling down my previously on hold list of mundane but necessary things I had not been able to do while sheltering in place. I’ve managed to keep a steady if somewhat slower rhythm with my work.
I have specific pens, pencils etc that I use. Of course I constantly challenge myself by using lesser quality equipment, it makes using preferred stuff feel easy. As far as travel kits, i am forever tweaking that, the cases and holders all my equipment goes into. I always have three kits; the one for just bopping around the city. This is the smallest and its just a refillable pocket pad, retractable pencil and in the pocket sleeve of the pad a blender or two. This is used as I sit in cafe or bar locally, just doing quick guerilla sketching. As a side note, this is always within reach of my hand and has been around the world with me. I realized that because of the pandemic, it saw zero action for a year plus! It has sat in drawer of one of my tabourets awaiting its chance to see some action. My other kit is for short trips four days or less of being away from home. This is pocket pad, 5×8 pad few traditional pencils of different degrees of hardness and two types mechanical pencil & blenders. It’s still fairly compact, easily carried in book bag. Short trips, I do not bother bringing any painting accoutrements. My last kit is for longer trips week or more and this includes paints etc. The long trip kit is the one i tweak the most often as it’s important for me to work but very quickly space within a suitcase can be taken up.
I discovered during the pandemic a small company that made cases geared towards road warrior artists. The case was very flat and it came loaded with “free” pencils, erasers and all kinds of other sketching swag. Obviously I have not had chance try it out on road. I did try the pencils and sharpeners. All of it was of such low quality it got thrown out. It contained a small cellophane pouch inside of which was three short, pudgy graphite sticks. It reminded me almost of tailors chalk. I had never used it before, so decided try for hell of it. I enjoyed challenge of it and was actually pleased with pieces i did. My way of thinking was that if I could make something happen with low quality version, then using some made by a quality company would be even better. I started doing some research. One thing i found was that the Lyra graphite sticks were said to be basically the same thing, with benefit of being able to sharpen to a point where as the sticks were basically short rectangles.
I had bought one along with a sharpener ages ago but had not used it. I started messing around with it and found i really liked it, the pieces I did were loose and had a painterly effect. Lyra also makes water solvable ones. I bought one to try. It is a game changer for me. It fits in my pocket and all i need is that and one brush and I can do monochromatic watercolors. This will allow me to paint on short trips and not have to up the equipment i take. The actual process is quicker than my normal painting and best of all, I do not need sunlight and can actually do these at night. Two things not possible with my regular painting.
here are my first tries with it. I am sure that the more I do this, the better i will get but I am already pleased with results.