Monday 30 July 2012

Learning to Draw: Hardwood

I realized it was easier to draw what I imagined than what was at my feet. One book I read, The Natural Way To Be Miserable, claims the two are related.
I drew a large crumb I didn’t have to imagine. After that, individual sections of oak and I met like miners breaking through from opposite sides.
The book went on to say The artist forgets that he/she draws, when the page becomes easy as breath, breath easy as a word (doesn’t yet matter which one). It’s like standing before a fine shelf and wondering what you’ll put there.
I ditched any notions of near or far and pretended the floor was viewed from straight up, which meant—this I realized with Einsteinian impact – each path of oak called for its own exposition, which I now must provide. (Let’s see, at an inch and a half wide per strip, 60" wide in total, 6-7' long, this floor added up to about 250' of oak I had to draw.)
By this point I was ready to give the whole thing to Stan Still (no relation to Jennifer or Cheryl), a character I’ve met before, and let him learn to draw. He’d like the hardwood drawing. He'd finish it. He’d claim to see himself in the wood.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Learning to Draw From Nature Continued

By the time I broke for a hot dog in the plaza at noon, I'd try to make clear the fact that the bottom of the drawing--subject: an 8' x 5' section of hardwood floor--was closer to the viewer than the top was. I paid close attention, therefore, to the grain at my feet (which, though I was tempted, are not in the drawing) and darkened lower lines.
After a while I walked over to sit among the grass and flowers, responding. For the first time, I reasoned, this hardwood on my page was hearing its oak roots. I drew a bit, wondering what I meant by that.
Later I took the drawing to the pool, a mistake. The hardwood looked watery already--could be a reedscape, trails to marshplants growing eight feet under.
What did I have to worry about. I'd committed to the study of individual lengths of oak floor. The drawing still might work.
To be continued.

Friday 27 July 2012

Learning to Draw From Nature

I read in A Child's Garden of Drawings I think it was of something called "responding" to nature or, in my case, to my stability ball (a light purple-blue) and hardwood floor (that's Vermont oak, not Quebec oak my landlord assured me a year ago). I'd do them both in shadow, mine and theirs, and morning light, blinds drawn.
First response: hardwood, a series of vertical lines, many of which got lost on the way to the bottom. (Texture I call it.) And here comes my most profound discovery so far: I held the 3H still and moved the page! Whatever rule the lines followed I couldn't figure out, but it was good for the hardwood, I was sure.
I turned the book sideways and drew the lines left to right, moving toward the top of the tipped page. The lines felt swimmy.
Next, nine or ten minutes--it might have been 50--on the many features of the oak, its gestures, seams, talk.
At this point I'd planned on introducing the ball but realized I could get serious and address every foot of every board and that would be the drawing.
To be continued.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Learning to Draw Out the Truth About My Knee

I tried all of the following:
It was a knee-on-knee at the blueline. Thinking he'd dump the puck in, I took off after it. He didn't. To avoid the offside, I reached back with my right leg. At that point somebody hit me knee on knee and I went down. It hurt. I left the ice. That may have been the last time I laced the pads on. For sure it was that day.
But that was five years ago. I ran a half-marathon since then. (A moment of declaration: I run a little faster, not much, than I draw.)
A colleague told me about the spirit of the knee according to certain medical traditions. Its moods/prospects/faiths, in other words. What it's hungry for.
I drew the knee. The drawing, now that I think about it, was as bad as the knee. Any retrospective (Early Drawings) might have to skip this one. The right leg was meant to be extended, resting on a chair, from a pair of dark shorts. We looked down as if from our own eyes. What I see now, however, is a vague curvy form extending straight up from what looks like a flower pot. A mortar and pestle?
I don't know what else might explain the torn meniscus. I felt it at the end of curling season. But how could curling cause it. First treadmill then elliptical sessions, over a period of two and a half months, had to be scaled down then cut altogether. Once I got the ipod and programmed a workout playlist, I must have upped the pressure--bopping along as I had to--on the torn part of the knee. Haven't been to the gym since. That was about two weeks ago.
It couldn't have anything to do with the way I'm sitting right now, ankles crossed, toes against the wall.
My thought had been that the knee, misshapen as it is, might come out all right in my drawing, misshapen as it would certainly be.
I don't put down my own drawings to evoke your sympathy. And there will be a retrospective, with guest curators introducing the drawings--so goes an idea I just had.
Now the knee says it looks like rain. That's what the clouds look like: knees. With space in them, and fluids.

Monday 23 July 2012

Learning to Draw In: A Defence of the Local (Occasioned by a Bum Knee)

Your widest emotional range, entire behavioral archive, tracks of who you are, whatever you imagine or can't write, the truth of this or any point, anything you're good at, whatever fuck-ups your soul has endured, any blues any idea, where you keep and find your best stuff, whatever sad news you're ever going to get, whatever you fear, the next idiot move you or someone you know makes, what you leave, whatever plunder your bad guys make off with, whatever loves comes in--
it's all
(forgive me for stating the obvious)
right here.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Learning to Draw Abandonement

According to the Doomsday instructions I'd printed and taped to the bottom of my pencil box (which by Doomsday I expect to carry), to abandone the pillars project I had to crawl naked to the alley and draw just one pillar, free of its neighbours, free of any one point, of everything but shadow which, even at midnight, hung hungrily, offering to swallow an ending if it had to.
I was not to speak unless run over, to invent what I couldn't feel through my knees.
And just one pencil--the 6Brenda or the 2Harvey. I had to draw the last pillar anyone would draw.
I had all night.

Thursday 19 July 2012

Pillars, Part Three

As soon as I drew shadows I got into trouble. What is it with those things? They draped the five pillars I'd outlined.
So the 6Brenda had a purpose: get in there and people the shadows. She didn't wait around for further instructions.
I appealed to the Nymphs of Clumsiness who flickered at every stroke. I diluted my approach, trying the puddles.
I remembered something about drawing upside-down, either you or the drawing. So you don't expect so much. I tried it on the lamp-posts. Result: what look like lousy eyes.

Monday 16 July 2012

LTD (Learning to Draw): Those Pillars, Part Two

I passed through the alley on my way to the pub. Wish I'd brought the extra-large sketchbook I said, though I had in fact packed the book.
I blame it on the Riders right after the big win at home against B.C. Too happy was my alley, I tell you. How could a man sit still? I might draw one telephone pole but could I do five?
I imagined drawing the curve-tops of the five pillars and the puddle with its own laws.
I did think of shadow but not for long.

Saturday 14 July 2012

LTD (Learning to Draw): Planning to Draw Those Pillars Behind the CU Building, Albert and 13th

I ruled thin lines. I'd draw from a photograph (back door of the building, 8:45 a.m.--workers, well-dressed, not too happy (one of them watched me every step from her car to the back door, and I made myself a snide remark about how I don't blame her, given the visual felony about to occur)).
Soon I was drawing the alley, which on my page resembled lines, a dozen of them, originating in or heading to a single black dot about half-way up the left side and an eighth of way to the right.

That much made sense. I hated to give up that ruler.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Learning to Draw: First Among Pines East of Luther Residence, Hot Out

On the theory that bad drawing of a tree, pursued over time, looks like the tree, I packed my new pencils—Staedtler Mars© Lumograph© Drawing pencils, leads ranging from 6B to 4H. I didn’t yet know what the B stood for or the H, but I’d figure it out. (B must stand for Body, H for Heart, there.) I’d go draw that tree east of Luther, in the shade.
I selected my vantage point and reviewed my task (what we Vis Art types call study): draw the pine, probably badly, but keep going. These new pencils had to work. I’d give up and become something else, if they couldn’t work the shadows round the tree. I picked my longest pencil, the 4H.
In a while a limb in my drawing headed off to the right (the tree’s left, the brain's right) to a cluster of leaves that resembled baby chicks. To do the crown I’d have to draw nothing but leaves and somehow wind and bright sun. Did I want to spend all day drawing leaves?
What about the pines behind? Good question. Scribbly phantoms, scare me up a tree, was my first impulse. Eventually my drawn tree claimed useful enough status on my page. It wasn’t this pine (/spine), didn’t suggest the glory of any pine. But when I jabbed at the base with the 2B, it stood there.
Shadow of shadow and light of light, I’ll say that’s what I learned.

Sunday 8 July 2012

Ltd: Cumulus Cloud (With Grey Tint) Over Luther

The cloud took off before I finished it. I was left with the world's only remnant. For that reason, it looked pretty good, having snagged useful borderline--cloud and blue sky.
I'm obliged to report, however, that I seemed to have drawn a rear view of a woman with haircurls and scarf--one of my sisters, I think it was. Her shoulders were crooked for some reason.
Not because of the sisters but because of the lousy cloud, this season of drawing has--as Kramer in Seinfeld says, from the former Merv Griffin Show set he'd found and installed in his living room--"officially bottomed out".
Tonight I'll borrow that set of drawing pencils Lucy's been threatening me with. Tomorrow I'll draw those pillars behind the Credit Union building on Albert and 13th.

Friday 6 July 2012

Learning to Draw (Ltd): The Usual Parts of One's Own Body

It was late, perhaps early. I'd been watching Oppenheimer and Jays-Royals. Feeling a cold, I'd belted back a couple of lemon brandies and fallen asleep.
Although Sam Waterston played Oppenheimer the same way he played McCoy on Law & Order and the Jays' frightful bullpen could not hold back the Royals, I dreamed nothing of it. (Not a whisper of a dream until later: driving a semi out of my friend's farmyard, trying not to wake anyone up.)
At 2:16 a.m. I activated the rarely used dimmer/fade light and picked up the Pentel P209.
I began to draw.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Learning to Draw (Ltd): Twice in One Day

Globe & Mail, July 3, A2: "Physicists say they are close to confirming the understanding of all matter". Good. That means I had a chance when I drew City Hall. Just the part I could see.
A simple grid started to work for the west side. Did the building hold no shadows? Not yet, according to my drawing.
I applied a straight-line scribble to that west wall. Again I managed to confuse my own eye: Is the middle corner closer or further away?
Conclusion: I need new truths--a sentiment forever obvious, of course. At the rate I'm going I'll be 80 by the time I can draw a window, with curtains and my daughter inside, about to meet me for lunch.

I confronted shadow head-on by drawing one--the shadow my hand made when held at a pencil point centered and 2" from the top of the page. I didn't draw the details but will tell you results were worth the page, the way my line became its perpendicular fragments from pencil nib to forearm. Small hairs included.

Monday 2 July 2012

Learnng to Draw: Getting to the Next Drawing

This one I invented before I drew it. A bike trip for groceries. I'd buy cabbage and speak to someone. Later from my position east or west--I hadn't decided yet--of the Safeway parking lot on 13th, the conversation would lend emotional weight to this drawing that all other drawings so far lacked.
I couldn't see how the drawing would work but there I was, helmet and grocery list in hand. And my drawing kit consisting of the Pentel P209 and the 5x8 sketchbook I bought from the Art Store on campus and started using, as a notebook, on April 11, 2012. I pedalled west on13th.
I couldn't find celery seed  but picked up a cabbage, forgetting to speak, and carried myself out the door to a perch half-way up the sidewalk of the acupuncture shack across the street. I drew a van the three of the 5 elms along the Safeway lot on the Retallack side, east. The left-hand tree seemed to penetrate the van, which soon drove off. I drew shadow, grateful for its uniform shade.
Should there be dialogue between an object (/subject) and its shadow? Mine was disappointing, a shortage of definition in all things, except the ones I didn't draw.