Nov 25, 2009
Oct 11, 2009
This is the most amazing experience. I started sketching with pencils seriously in the year 2004, when we were in Provence for several months and then stayed in Russia to paint for a 4 week stay around St. Petersburg and Staraya Ladoga and stayed in the Valaam island, a very remote a sacred island near the Finland border. A place where a lot of Russian painters have come to paint After I had sketched endlessly that Summer, I never really stopped. But this year 2009, I really geared up. Starting this Winter in the Black Forest in Germany, doing monochromatic pencils during the day and small pastels at night on a gray paper sketch book, to occupy my insomnia while cooking for our small group, I could draw from 4:00 am to 9:00 am practically every day. That is a lot of practice! I found a peaceful and happy place for myself, alone with my little material, so much more relaxing than oil painting. I could feel like a kid playing again, experimenting color combination, techniques, playing with images. Returning to my half home in California ( my other half and true home is in the high Plateau d' Albion in Provence ), I have been drawing these instant little impressions non stop. So since early June that we left for Provence I have done a good 1,200 sketches, anywhere from a few seconds to 20 minutes maximum. Those are rare. Mostly I sketch in the car when my partner and devoted driver takes us places , anywhere from home to the farmer's market - at least 4 sketches in that trip, to going to Sea Ranch and back, that is a full sketchbook. Here is the story: First, when you have a pencil in your hand you are not just a person looking at the landscape, you are an artist on alert. So I always, always have my sketchbook on my lap and my pencil in my hand, simple enough, and I am searching for a motif out there. Something to start with. Like the eagle searching for his prey... Second, you have to capture what ever you see, seeing is too big a word for that, what you seize would be more like it. It forces that brain to get a global and essential pattern that you have to memorize , because at the speed of driving, it is already gone. You do not have tine to copy anything: visualize, memorize, action! Put it down on the paper quick, impulsive, non judgmental, dynamic, the gesture of the tree, the gesture of the cloud, you got it in paper as a instant sketching - from the French "instantane" for "snapshot." After that, it is pretty much up to your imagination, how much you will embroider, compose and decorate around the instantane. As an example, the lone little California tree was one capture, the same little tree features in another sketch just above, that was another day on the same street, just outside my house. Look at the Graceful Trees Series. The pencil is dancing on the paper, literally. In Provence there is much more visual stimulation than there is in American suburbia. There, everything you put your eyes on to is beautiful, everything! so I have to work harder at it in Silicon Valley. But we also go places. At the end of the month I am going to Scottsdale for a week and will return by car. Now, that is something I am looking forward to do, be in a car for 15 hours or so, drawing along the way. I have made this trip before , did a lot of drawings, particularly in the desert and Central Valley, and loved the entire trip. Maybe after this I will have a better short hand for the essence of a palm tree, that seems to elude me so far.
Apr 10, 2009
Recently, since February, after we returned from our sketching trip to the Black Forest, I have spent most of my outdoor painting time creating small size 6 X 8, on beautifully hand made 12 oz canvas mounted on wood. Regularly I return to the small size, mostly when I want an intimate contact with the landscape and develop a more creative approach. Something like an oil painting journal rather than more impressive, larger, individual pieces. I am quite happy to return home at the end of my 7 hour painting day with 7 little paintings, sometimes 5, but I strive for 7, a good number. It allows me to look at my work as a body of work rather than a series of individual paintings. I have been very happy with the results of this approach, less intimidating, allowing me to search for new compositions all the time, therefore having to search inside with my imagination as much as outside with observation. Think about it: if you are in one place for 7 hours or more, hardly moving the easel, you are going to have to find something interesting to say, besides the same old tree by the same old body of water and the same old mountain. So the question now becomes - the eternal quest for the artist - what do I have to say, what is it about this particular moment that makes it interesting, poetic, source of inspiration for a great composition. Because a great composition can be in a small size. Our relationship with photography and the computer technology has completely changed our concept of dimension. When I post an image, does it matter if it is 6 X 8 feet or 6 X 8 inches? On my blog the image will be only what the blog will allow. so I will soon post more of this series
Yesterday it rained on us. Very unusual in mid April, in California, but the day was gray and wet, so there is a lot of water mixed in that oil, no matter what they say, it is sort of a mayonnaise. Strange mixing color, the paint sliding on the knife and not mixing. Here is our 15 minutes demo, that was exciting. Try to do a bunch of those without too much mental judgment, pure action. 15 minutes, max. If you do not like the results, wash it out and again. this is the most exhilarating thing you can do with oil and brushes. Remember you are not after the result, you are after the action / the experience / the feeling. There is many examples of situations in your own life where you are after the feeling of the experience, not the result. Watching birds, taking beautiful rides or walks, listening to music, dancing, spending time with your loved ones, reading, watching a movie, you name it.. . You call this life, right? Just because we are more involved in the making of it, does not mean that putting a judgment between us and the action is necessarily a good thing. Look at it just as an exercise to progress, and mostly, mostly, have fun doing it. Being a painter, I want to believe that pushing paint on pretty much any surface is enough to make me happy... and keep your sketchbook alive , hallelujah! I completed my 120 page sketchbook in Feb/ March. A lot of those good for painting. Now all I need is time . So, in April I start a new one, my goal is to finish it by the end of May. You know what guys? at that speed it is 730 sketches a year. There is no way you are not going to get good if you talk to that sketchbook - your best friend - every minute you have available.