Monday, July 6, 2015

Helen Mirren is Unspeakably Cool

This photo of Helen Mirren riding the New York subway with perfect grace and style made the rounds of the internet a while back and I just couldn't resist giving it a try. My hope is to one day be 1/116th as cool as she is.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Return of the Lunchtime Sketch

When I lived in New Orleans, I would often head out on my lunch break to do a bit of drawing. This was sometimes a bit limiting since I spent most of my time working out in the suburbs, where the amazing architecture that has made New Orleans famous is replaced by strip malls and grim industrial buildings. Still it made for a nice break. I've done a lot less of that since I've lived in Seattle, but I have high hopes that I might get back into it. Here's my first attempt in a while, a house a few blocks from from my workplace in the First Hill neighborhood. This was done in ink over two short sessions that left me just enough time to get back to my desk and eat my sandwich.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Oily Experiments

One of the most exciting things about my new place in Seattle was an extra bedroom with good ventilation that my wife and I planned to use as a combined office/studio. We are now approaching the one-year anniversary of our move into the aforementioned "new" place and I have only just gotten around to setting up the easel and dusting off the box of oil paint that has been sitting in my closet for longer than I care to admit. The glacial pace of my studio set-up should come as a surprise to exactly 0% of all of the people who have ever met me.

For my first attempt, I decided to head over to Julia Kay's Portrait Party for source material (the original post is here). This is my first ever attempt at a portrait in oil. I'll be the first to admit that I totally missed the tilt of the head, but I like to think I managed to capture a bit of the life of the original photo. It was also lots of fun to play around with, so there may be more of these.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Welcome Back, Adam

This drawing was done in compressed charcoal and is based on a photo in the New York Times from an article published a couple of months ago about a statue of Adam by Tullio Lombardo. The statue was smashed to pieces in an accident at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that is still something of a mystery (one of the conservators says that he suspects "foul play"). The museum spent about a decade putting it back together and restoring it to something very close to its original state. The article itself (read it here) is a really fascinating account of a restoration effort that would not have been possible without some impressive technological advances and an incredibly dedicated group of people. I look forward to seeing it in person the next time I make it to New York.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

First Baptist Church, Seattle

Every now and then, the sun does actually come out in Seattle. This is especially rare in the month of February, so when it happens all of us Seattle-ites rush outside in a desperate attempt to acquire a little Vitamin D. It also provides an opportunity to draw on location, so I took my skecthbook a few blocks down the hill and tried my hand at the First Baptist Church. I do wish I had set up the composition in such a way that the entire steeple had fit on the page, but other than that I'm pretty happy with how things came out. I look forward to doing more of this when summer rolls around.

Friday, February 20, 2015

When Is It Done?

This was an interesting exercise in learning when to step away. I have ruined many a drawing by getting overly fussy and deciding that some extra detail needed to be included or some element that I had labored over really needed to be erased and re-done.

This is a pencil drawing based on a photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson, from the catalog of a retrospective of his work that I was very fortunate to be able to see in San Francisco a few years ago. There's a lot more going on in the original photo than I included here and the angle of the figure's head is totally wrong but, after stepping back from it, I decided that it had gone far enough and that I needed to put down my pencil before things started to go downhill. I'm still not sure if this was the right decision, but at this point I think I'm ready to declare it "as good as it's going to get" and move on to the next one.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Me Vs. Hans Baldung Grien

This is a copy of "The Head of Saturn" by Hans Baldung Grien, done with charcoal pencil in my oatmeal sketchbook. I was really struck by how tightly controlled the original drawing was, with every line placed perfectly while still maintaining a sense of life and motion. I think I managed to capture a bit of that, although I feel like I missed something with the expression around the eyes and mouth. The face in the original drawing really conveys God-like power scowling at the folly of lesser beings, whereas mine kind of looks like a guy who is annoyed because he can't find his car keys.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Chimp Named Frodo

Once again, I'm digging into the photo selections on the National Geographic web site for source material. This worried-looking fellow is a chimpanzee who, according to the caption, is named Frodo. I suppose I would be concerned too if I had to carry the ring all the way to Mordor. This was done in my oatmeal sketchbook using a charcoal pencil.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Albatross!

I'm going to dedicate this one to my dad, as he was so fond of the Monty Python skit with the albatross that he was prone to wandering around the house shouting "Albatross!" at random intervals. This one was done with the beloved brush pen and a couple of ink washes from a photo on the National Geographic web site.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another Batch of Portraits. Consistency is For Chumps.

Here are three more recent entries from Julia Kay's Portrait Party (https://www.flickr.com/groups/portraitparty). I generally do these pretty quickly and use them as a way to play around with different materials. Pencil? Sure. Pen? You bet. Ink wash? Why not?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Me Vs. Rubens

Rubens carries a lot of weight around our house, mainly because I am married to an art historian who has spent a sizable portion of her life studying his work. He also happens to be an immortal genius that anyone who has ever picked up a pencil should look at very closely. This was my attempt to copy one of his drawings, creatively entitled "Young Woman Holding a Tray." I should note that the right hand that seems to be fading off the side of the page was not, as usually happens, an artifact of me placing the drawing improperly on the page but was actually there in the original. It makes me feel a lot better to know that Rubens had some of the same problems with composition that I do.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Me vs. Tiepolo

I will admit that I knew very little about Tiepolo before my recent trip to Italy. I saw this painting - "Neptune Offering Gifts to Venice" - in the doge's palace in Venice and was absolutely floored. I then went on to see a whole lot of Tiepolo's work at various museums around Italy, including an amazing exhibit of his drawings in Rome. That man definitely earned his place among the masters.

This drawing is a detail just showing Neptune offering up his gifts (maybe I'll draw Venice another time). I did this in the Moleskine sketchbook with compressed charcoal.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In-Flight Entertainment

The only downside of my recent trip to Italy was the length of the flight from Seattle. I don't remember exactly how long it was - 9 hours? 10 hours? A billion years? At a certain point, time just stopped and I was trapped in an endless void of mediocre movies and small children kicking the back of my seat. In an effort to keep myself entertained, I started flipping through the in-flight magazine for interesting photos to use as drawing material. I really hit a winner on this one. The subject's name is Avi Bitter and, according to "High Life" magazine, he is a former Turkish pop star who now runs a kebab restaurant in Tel Aviv. If I'm ever in Tel Aviv, I will definitely pay him a visit.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Two From Venice

I recently spent two amazing weeks in Italy with my wife, during which I had grand plans of strolling around with my sketchbook to capture the amazing architecture and the vibrant street life all around us. The problem is, there are only so many hours in the day, and we had immortal masterworks to look at, pizza to eat, wine to drink while lounging in the piazza, and, well... we were on vacation for crying out loud. So the sketchbook mostly stayed in my suitcase as I stared with slack-jawed amazement at the work of the great masters.

I did manage a couple of quick ones in Venice. The drawing on top is an ink sketch of a statue in front of Santa Maria Del Rosario. The pencil sketch on the bottom is a very abbreviated attempt at the domes of Santa Maria del Salute from the balcony of our hotel. I would have worked in more detail, but I felt that it was more important to run out to the bar for wine and fried seafood. So much for suffering for my art.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Me Vs. the Sotheby's Catalog

Being married to an art historian has numerous advantages, one of which is the constant presence of numerous books of old master drawings just lying around the house. In this case I happened upon a Sotheby's catalog full of some really amazing images, so I felt inclined to pick up my pens and try my hand at them. Close examination of the originals would reveal numerous errors in both of these, but such is the way with an ink drawing.

The one on top is "A Man Seated Smoking at Table" by Jan Josef Hormans the Elder (note that I hope to someday live long enough to be referred to as "the elder," although I'm more likely to be referred to as "that odd man who lives across the street and shouts at the pigeons. Don't make eye contact."). The one below it is taken from "The Prophet Isaiah Reading From a Scroll" by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri.