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My wife got into the car on Sunday and passed me a handful of seed pods she had picked up on the sidewalk: different than the kind I drew in Sacramento over Thanksgiving, smaller and darker, though again I don’t know the species. “Here,” she said. “I know you like this kind of thing.” It’s so good to be known.

I put them in the well of the driver’s side door, and there they have been getting drier and rattling around. They’ve also given me an idea for the linocut workshop we’ll be taking from Katie Gilmartin at SOMArts in February. I want to have drawings ready when I go in, or I won’t get far on the print. I’m going to make a series (triptych, maybe) of these pods in various states, from fresh to freshly fallen to dried up. It’ll be a further exploration of something that’s interested me for a long time: the ambiguous nature of decay. “Decay” sounds like a judgment, as does “progress,” though one could use either word for what is happening. “Change” is a more neutral descriptor. That’s what fascinates me. Since they are growing more wrinkled and fragile, we would probably say that they are decaying, yet their beauty is not diminished. It is only different, and to some eyes, increased.

I don’t know how much they have really changed over the last five days. They might only rattle more now because they were damp when Joy picked them up, and now they’re dry. I have the impression that they’re more wizened and bent, but I can’t be certain because I didn’t look very closely at them on Sunday. I’ll know better when I go get some more and draw them at intervals.

For tonight, I just drew them as they are now, twice, quickly, in ink pen, as a first stage of getting to know them.

#100days

These are all over the yard at my relatives’ house. I knew as soon as I saw them that they would be today’s subject.

It’s a quick drawing because I am tired from every cell in my body’s being concentrated on digestion. I don’t set out to overeat at Thanksgiving, but I have to try a little of everything.

I’d like to draw these again, more slowly, and larger, in sepia conté crayon. Their beauty is something for which I am very thankful. I’ll bring them home.

#100days of art

“Or,” ink and colored pencil on a page of The Penguin Atlas of the Ancient World, 21 x 17 cm

More about this piece here.

#100days

Eh, I said in my last entry that I’d post a photo of my next piece about ancient and current empires when it was finished, but why wait? Here it is in progress. Source text: The Penguin Atlas of the Ancient World.

#100days

The cat spends the entire day in one spot, but she actually seldom stays still for long. It’s hard for me to draw fast enough to capture one pose before she stretches and turns and settles into another one.

So here is Luna twice in quick succession.

I haven’t posted the past few days, but I did art every day except for Friday, when (what was I just saying about not waiting until the end of the day?) I lay down at around 9 p.m. and slept right through until the morning. So today I did two.

The first was this drawing done with the SketchbookX app.

I’m really enjoying having this app as a “sketchbook” available wherever I go. I usually carry a small paper sketchbook with me also, but carrying a full range of colors for it is not as easy.

Then I got back to the assemblage I’ve been working on. I think the collaged part is done, and tomorrow I can start stringing the threads that will hold an old-fashioned lock suspended in the middle.

I had no idea until tonight that I was going to incorporate music. I love those discoveries.

#100days

I need to start doing my art earlier in the day. If I don’t do it before work, then I can’t get to it until after the end of the work day, the drive home, and dinner. Then I’m tired.

Tonight it was not until after all of that, plus Halloween (a neighborhood affair: everyone goes up and down the commercial street, enjoying everyone else’s costumes), then a family viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas, that I got down to art time. Tiredness drove the content (a self-portrait at the kitchen table) and the medium (charcoal, because the drawer of drawing materials stuck and I couldn’t get at the conté crayons I was planning on), and they went together just right. Conté would’ve been too fussy.

Day 10 of #100days.

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Oaxaca (7/10/19, pencil and white charcoal pencil)

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Oaxaca Zocalo (7/11/19, pencil)

After drawing the above two–and keeping up a streak of drawing daily–I fell ill with a bug whose main effect was to drain me of energy so that it was hard even to stay sitting up for long. So I didn’t draw for two days, and then tonight, it felt so good to have enough life in me to look at the passionfruit in our fruit bowl and try to convey its wrinkles.

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Passionfruit (7/14/19, pencil & white charcoal pencil))

Something I want to practice more is drawing clothed people. They always look so stiff. I tried to draw a dancer in Teotitlan the other day, and while his shadow looked lively, he looked like he was made of wood. I couldn’t capture the gesture, his sense of movement and aliveness, the way I can (sometimes) when drawing nudes. It’s all practice.

Recent sketches have brought me face to face with a big challenge in my drawing: how to portray very complex, detailed objects without showing every detail and while still conveying their general appearance. Drawing always entails decisions about what to put in and what to omit, but with some subjects it’s particularly difficult.

Last week I tackled the overhead branches of a leafy tree (known locally as a huizache; I think it’s a kind of acacia). I was rescued from this one early because Joy and Indigo wanted to go into the nearby museum, so I don’t know whether the approach I was using would have worked.

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Then there’s this, from yesterday. As with the overhead branches, the complexity of these vines climbing the wall (of the San Pablo cultural center, in Oaxaca’s Centro) is exactly what drew my eye, and what I want to get onto the paper. Yet I don’t want to draw every single line and shadow. I drew fast and tried not to get too many niggly details down, but I didn’t know how to do what I would do with a more unitary subject, such as a human nude: draw in big simple shapes and then add detail. A subject like this seems to be nothing but detail, so I’m flummoxed.

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Sorry for the glare on the paper. These are quick and dirty cellphone shots of my sketchbook.

For context, here’s another visitor’s photo of the same wall. Yummy detail, right? But how do I capture that?

I’ll keep working on it. I’m looking at nature drawings by masters like van Gogh and Monet to try to figure out how they conveyed complexity.

During vacation, I’m managing to do what I did earlier this spring for a few months, and drawing for at least a few minutes every day. Can I make a daily habit of it once I’m back into the swing of work? Let’s see.

A friend suggested that posting drawings now and then might help me, which I think is true, so here are a few.

I’ve been carrying my sketchbook with me (it’s small, about 5″ x 7″) and trying to work fast when I have a few minutes. Working fast helps me focus my attention more on the big picture and less on the niggly details, and in these four it worked fairly well. More on that challenge tomorrow.

The first two are graphite; the last two are fine-tip pen.

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