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.
About to head back to Europe shortly. I had previously written about being able to utilize a pocket printer as to be able to do Cinefield® pieces in my Paris studio. As I live right around many great art supply stores i am sure that I will be able to find adhesive. However, I have never been one to leave things to chance. So i have been experimenting with glues which i can bring with me and are not as outright industrial as my adhesive.
The nature of my pocket printer pieces is that they are small, index card sized at most, 4×5. The first one I did, I tried a liquid glue stick of Elmer’s glue. This wasn’t ideal as when it got on the front side of image it caused discoloration. Also it was so liquid-y that there was no way to really control it despite the fact it was in a pen like delivery system.
In an absolute pinch I could have made due. My final attempt was with the glue sticks with which school children work. This took a bit of learning curve as pieces and sometimes entire sections after the fact would pop off making a brief snow flurry of cut pieces upon my table.
I got a handle on how to best utilize the glue stick, although it made everything more labor intensive. The good thing about it is that I can easily pack a glue stick in luggage w/no hassle from TSA.
There is very little chance though, because of the nature of the glue, that pieces I do would last. The photo I take of the finished piece will be the work/the art. I can’t fully explain why, but there is a freedom in this.
Of course it may be non issue as I find my preferred adhesive once moved back in.
Like all my Cinefield® work, every image is from photos which I personally took. One can see more edge/line of each piece, that is the nature of using pocket printer. The printed material is akin to business card sized photos, there is the impossibility of seamless edge blending as i often achieve w/my regular paper pieces. this piece is roughly 4×4.
My collage work in a very short amount of time became part of who I am. I lamented the fact that for longer trips/residencies I would not be able to do them. I began to investigate ways to perhaps make it happen.
The easiest thing would be to just use magazines/newspapers from wherever I was. This didn’t appeal to me as I have always prided myself on only using images from photos which I personally took. I researched pocket printers.
My Cinefield® are very time consuming and how to get the images aside, I had already had it in my head that were I able to do them on the road I would go far smaller as it would render a trip pointless were I to spend entire time alone in studio working on a piece. I also have other creative things that I want to do while on the road and the way my normal Cinefield® are made would have eliminated that possibility.
Another practical aspect of going smaller is that all the pocket printers I was finding seemed to utilize types of film. I did not want the raw materials to become cost prohibitive in constructing them.
For obvious reasons it was important that the photos not be laminated which eliminated many of the choices.
I found a device which literally fits in jacket pocket and feels solidly built. It connects to phone via blue-tooth which allows me to use any/all my own photos. The film is not exorbitantly priced although I will stick to my normal paper when not on the road.
My in general goal for doing pieces on road is small in size and utilizing no more than one packet of film per piece. Time wise, no more than two days working on it as this will allow me to also paint, write and absorb wherever I am in the world still.
The small size allows me to also do other things for the hour or so at a time that I am pressing a piece (basically laying heavy books atop it to get rid bubbles).
The film required a completely different touch and technique. In general I have only done several smaller pieces. Surprisingly, they are harder to do than normal size. There is less room to create rhythm/tension & release. What were already small piece often need to be made even smaller.
This is my first piece using the pocket printer. As always, it’s only images from photos which I took utilizing my trusty scissors and adhesive applied via brush.
It is 4×5 inches. surprisingly, it only took seven photos (the photos for pocket printer are about the size of a business card) I did it in two days. I was pleased with result and the fact that I pretty much met all the “rules” I had in mind.
The news is bleak. The internet is fertile grounds for scams masquerading as charities or people who want to help. A hero of mine, José Andrés has a charity whose goal is to feed those in need. It eschews any politics for the basic notion that you can change the world by feeding everybody. This charity is not solely concerned with the Ukraine, although they are boots on the ground there now. Over the past few years, wherever there have been natural disasters he and his colleagues could be found trying to help out via feeding those who are hungry for whatever the reason.
I recommend to all to at least take a look at their site as it’s worthwhile.
After finishing my last Cinefield® I started a painting. Weather conspired against me with heavy fog & rain. As they do not require same light situations, I switched to doing another Cinefield®. I wanted to make this one look painterly, a further evolution of chops & (artistic) mission.
It proved to be a labor intensive piece. At 11×14 it took me longer to do than some of my far larger pieces. As is always the case, I only used images from photos which I personally took, utilizing my trusty scissors and adhesive applied with a brush. There is no digital magic done after the fact. This is a personal favorite of mine, not just within my Cinefield® work but for my entire oeuvre.
People’s dreams of “The future” are never as mundane nor inconvenient as the reality. I find myself having to head back to Mars, yet again on business.
The first year or so after the war, every soldier was treated like a hero. The drinks were free. Now, a new generation of student activists who viewed the whole thing in less heroic terms. The root of which often was just a contrary streak in regard to their parents’ politics. We all took our medals off the lapels of our jackets, except a few of the older guys. In their eyes, to do so would be tantamount to a defeat.
I pulled my boots off, it served no purpose, it was safety theater for the less well traveled. Inevitably the line would hit a snag, everyone held up as prohibited fruit was confiscated from someone who didn’t want to pay those Mars prices and thought that they were slicker than the TSA.
The bell at the front desk. I appreciated that they managed to not only still have such an archaic device but that somehow even after all these years, they had prevented its theft. My fingertip hit the small nubbin atop the shiny silver dome.
“Ah Mister Wesley, welcome back. We have your usual room ready; Business or pleasure bring you once again back to us?”
I knew he would appreciate the subtly of allowing each eavesdropper to ascribe their own meaning to my answer.
I adjusted the strap on my bag and headed for the lift. I cast a final glance to the desk, we exchanged nods and I kidded myself that this time would be different.
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.
I can fully appreciate nature. It offers a different kind of inspiration than that of the man made kind. However, I can only go so long without concrete under my feet and the smears of neon streaking the air like forgotten halos.
When based out of Europe some of my friends teased me about this but for them, coming to visit me was their vacation, so it’s understandable that they wanted to see things as would not be encountered elsewhere. A few hours train ride and you can get your fill of mountains, Forrest or ocean. I enjoy it for a day or two, all of it being bearable as I have my pencil in my pocket along with its accompanying little sketch pad.
Right by one of my Parisian watering holes they put up a plaque a few years ago for Poulenc, who had lived in the building. When all his peers were going to Italy, the warmer climes of the South of France & Brazil, he largely preferred to stay in Paris with the concrete under his feet and the availability of a place to stop for a drink every few feet. Now further inoculated against the good natured teasing I swim through the currents of streets and alleys which I could probably now do blindfolded.
“Ok, have fun in Giverny, I am around just working, drop me a line when you guys get back.”
“It’s going to be hot, you sure you won’t come, we can catch a later train.”
“No thank you, I am just working.”
One can not become a connoisseur of a thing without a component of snobbishness. It is an earned right though and so long as it’s not utilized against anyone else, is permissible. I like all kinds of cities and feel the better ones all have something visually to offer by way of inspiration. The older ones, aside from their obvious architectural attractions, have their winding streets and the sense of happy ghosts. The newer ones, a vertical frenzy, which when done right is a poem, when wrong (as is the growing case with San Francisco) a generic sprawling mess of metallic stalagmites.
I tried some new things with both these collages. Both are 12×17. As is always the case, I used no digital magic. My trusty scissors & adhesive applied by brush to photos which I took. Two urban valentines of a favorite city.
“Our Story” & “What Do You Need Two Lighters For?”
Currently I am working on a large 22×30 painting. Before & after, i refresh myself by working on my sculptures and collages. I received so many compliments on my triptych that I decided to continue my challenge/explorations by doing a diptych. I was curious what it would be like to work even smaller, so the two sections of it are 5×9. (smallest so far for me!)
As i continue to refine my technique I have found that I do not go about creating my collages in the same way right across the board. I have a few techniques which I switch back and forth from depending upon the size & images of collage.
Regardless of the size or images I prefer a density of composition & the feeling of an open ended narrative. This allows the viewer to return time and again to the work and find new things, new threads of thought.
My process is old school. I use my trusty scissors and adhesive applied with a brush. There is never any digital magic and I utilize images from photos which I personally took.
“Pinks, Blues & golds. Silhouette sprinkles, the lights all turn to cake. Good or bad everyone is committed to their midnight.” B-Day W.Wolfson
“Boo-Boo’s Birthday” 12.5×9 (1st diptych) & “What Do You Need Another Lighter For?” 12×17
In the past I have written extensively about how the ready availability of cameras via our phones have made people forget how to look at paintings. People want the same realism in painting that they can achieve with their phones.
This has had a ping-ponged effect to the mentality of a lot of painters. They seem afraid or embarrassed to have a painting or drawing look “merely” like that. It is pursuit of the hyper realism that makes many works by artists who have chops look freeze dried or still born.
The best authors have always been the best readers (diverse and ever exploring & expanding their taste). Painters have their own version of this, which is looking at art. The internet & amazon make it so that even with sheltering in place, one can have a wealth of images at hand to peruse. And there is no longer any restrictions in regards to what one likes or pulls inspiration from. Read any biography on previous eras and the new had to reject the old or face harsh criticisms from peers & critics. Now it is possible to catch a spark from both Rothko & Frans Hals and no one would care. It’s a freedom that’s invaluable.
With no chance of doing my yearly European museum crawl this year, i have delved back into my sizeable collection of art books. Even had i only looked at the images, it served as an empowering reminder:
“It is ok for a painting to look like a painting.”
I recently had done a collage where i sought to intentionally make something beautiful for everyone to look at. I have just finished a series of collages and decided to do the same thing with a painting. I was helped in this by utilizing a long time model, her comfort making it natural, the organics adding to the beauty. I just used my cell phone to take the photo, it gives you the gist of the work but in person (or with a better camera) there is more going on).
I wanted to make something beautiful but which also gave the viewer no hint as to its size. I will always eschew the standard poses and traditional idea of beauty. It is boring and all blurs together. For me, the real will always be beautiful. A true emotion, bodies and flesh as encountered in everyday life.
This piece is 5×8 Watercolor & Paper “Blue on Blue”