Sunday, 23 March 2008

Commercial Art

Today is Easter Monday and this is the day I finish the drawing up of a large picture to decorate a doll museum.
The interesting thing about commissions like this one is that I get to look at, and learn a little about, all sorts of things. In this case the world of doll aficionados is opening up to me.
I have long been aware of collectors of antique dolls but was not aware that there are people who make high quality porcelain dolls with hand made shoes and clothes, the collectable antiques of the future. Like barbie dolls but bigger and way more expensive.

The picture I am drawing is an enlargement of another artists work; a doll makers logo that is a group portrait of nine dolls faces set in a frame of rose leaves and flowers, very nineteenth century looking and my job is to enlarge this four times the size and hand draw it on a prepared board.

Sign makers could enlarge this by mechanical means for a few hundred dollars but would lose clarity and detail on the way and as money is no object I am commissioned to do the job by hand.

Pays the bills this sort of work and is a real challenge as I did say "sure I can do that for you, I can do anything!"
I've no interest in ornate frames of rose leaves and flowers, thats just work but portraiture does interest me and getting each of the nine dolls likeness's and expressions just so is the satisfying part for me. Portraiture, capturing a likeness, expression, emotion and character is all in the drawing of the eyes and mouth, where all expression lies.
Gotta go now and finish the hats and hair of three porcelain dolls.. hope your Easter Monday is a good one.

Monday, 17 March 2008

A Child Artist's Dreams

My bed was a wire wove with a kapok mattress with a hollow made by my skinny young body curled up in the foetal position with my hands together, as in prayer, under my soft pillow.

The bedroom was a dark and dangerous place that in the night became all of space with looming shapes of planets and stars and stuff that stretched out into distances all around so far as to be too scary to imagine.
My bed was my spaceship and as long as I had the covers up and over my ears with my eyes shut and just the very tip of my nose sticking out I was safe, yeah, and warm. Being safe was a special feeling, delicious with danger because if any part of me bar the top of my head and the very tip of my nose were out of the bed covers then I was exposed to the unimaginable rushing extremities of endless space in every direction, dark, cold, vast vacuum and ominous dark planets here and there behind any of which could be lurking the Monsters...

There were three monsters any one of which could get me any time the bed covers slipped as sometimes happened and I had to be quick to cover up they came so fast! Like that ! one of them would be there by my bed! Woah! And I could sense them lurking behind dark shapes of planets or flying far off through space but always ready to swoop if my space ship opened the tiniest crack...
One was a ghost, big and blurry, one a ferocious huge eagle and the worst was a monster too horrible to picture but thick and lumpy like a giant without legs and powerfully strong in the worst possible way and they could all fly at lightening speed to get me!

So much for the dangers without, in the cold vastness all around but I lived safely within my warm bed space ship and in there I had all I could ever need to keep me happy forever!
Yes! in my space ship I had my supplies and plenty of them, a toaster and bread and butter and peanut butter and a knife to spread the butter and peanut butter on the toast and also big stacks of drawing pads and pencils and pencil sharpeners so I could draw anytime, anything I wanted to draw.
This was my life and my means and reward for living, every night in my warm bed in my cold bedroom and I would draw and draw and munch on toast and peanut butter traveling always through space and keeping myself safe till morning.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Life Drawing

Here are some drawings that I have done at times when I was bored with the model. Drawing the nude figure is about learning to draw clothed people anyway.

I teach a life drawing class at our local high school, Waihi College. It is an evening class, a part of our local Community Education program and it is held in the drama room at the college. The drama room is a large space, carpeted, well heated and decorated with dozens of paper mache masks and other props and photos of drama students in all kinds of costumes, masks and makeup doing street theatre. It is a very creative atmosphere.

Aside from the various pieces of portable stage segments stacked here and there it is mostly an empty space where every Wednesday evening I trailer in a bunch of life drawing easels, large drawing boards and large sheets of various kinds of paper. For the first hour I set the model's pose and drawing exercises for the artists and then let the artists choose the model's pose and draw how they wish for the second hour. Here I get an opportunity to do some drawing myself if I am able to let go the reins and get into a drawing dream.

Maren, one of the life drawing students, said that she loved the zone she goes to while drawing the model, this is what I call the drawing dream. The class is very quiet with just the sibilant sound of chalk and pencil marking paper, if we don't have background music playing. After each pose I insist on every one, the model and the artists, moving around the room to look at what each artist has done. We all learn as much from this as from doing the various drawing exercises and for me this is a wonderful experience as every artist has their own unique signature style of drawing even when drawing the same pose in the same linear or tonal style.

The course fees are cheap, subsidized by the Education Ministry, but the models are not cheap as there are not many people who are comfortable with being naked in front of a dozen or so intently staring pairs of artists eyes and so we are happy to pay models well. Aside from the rarity of people who are comfortable with others seeing them naked, holding poses motionless for any length or time is physically demanding work.

We usually have some music playing during class but it has to be the right kind of music, to flow along with what Maren calls the zone and what I call the drawing dream.
Once during a life drawing class at my art school, years ago, we had a wonderfully buxom young lady model, a student of classical piano with masses of thick, long, wavy auburn hair. God! I love drawing hair, there is something so sensuous about following the lines and waves and tangled, shadowed curls while drawing hair......anyway our model had brought along to the class a tape of Liszt piano music which she put on the tape deck for us. There was something about this music that ruined my drawing dream, I don't know what it was, perhaps a sense of aggressive egotism to the music of Liszt, an intensity that was intrusive and drove me out of the class-- I could not work to it and to my surprise four or five of the other art students in the class followed me out, also unable to draw to the accompaniment of Liszt!

I liken life drawing to music practice. Like musicians we practice, practice, practice to get better and better at what we do but for artists the recorder is, so to speak, always on and some of the life drawings are truly beautiful works of art. Life drawings are immediate and drawn quickly and if not overworked and if they are drawn with freedom and assurance they have a freshness which demands a nice frame and a wall to hang them on.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

A busy week

The week before Easter began with continuing the mural I am finishing for my dentist, Mark Smith. Mark is fixing my teeth in exchange for me decorating one wall of his son Zachary's room with a medieval scene.
Zachary is 9 and his mural is based on an original drawing of his showing a knight in armour astride a rearing horse holding his sword up in a bravura gesture and viewed from a castle interior through the stone arch. The mural is painted on canvas and stapled to the wall and the stone arch is made of polystyrene and ply and is screwed to the wall so it is removable. I tried to make it interesting enough that Zachary will still like it when he is older and his tastes may have changed.
It's been a fun job to do because there is no money involved and Doctor Smith is a fun guy, manic, creative and interested in everything and he and his wife Diana have three boys and their house is always filled with energy. I come out of their house smiling, good people, excellent job to have

Finished and photographed Zachary's mural Tuesday and you can see it on this blog, at the bottom of the page.
Wednesday I was continuing to draw up the doll museum painting and Wednesday evening was Life drawing class and Thursday was to be an early start driving to Paeroa to pick up my pal Barbie and on to Hamilton, an hours drive away, to attend our etching class.
I am very keen on printmaking and have all the gear in my recently finished studio but felt I needed a refresher course to get up to speed on etching and to organize the etching part of the studio in shipshape and Bristol fashion.
As I had Mary the doll museum owner coming on Thursday afternoon to check on my progress with her job I decided to miss the etching class for that week as I felt a bit overwhelmed.

Yes, stress... I am thin and nervous and capable of doing six things at once but then I can lose it and get shot down and have to work desperately hard to avoid crashing and burning...
Depression is my nemesis and ally and the adult monster I have to keep tucked up and safe from.

Thursday evening Barbie and Sandra came to visit and they drank a little wine and I drank more than a little brandy and coffee and Sandra helped Barbie and myself with our blogs.
Sandra is a good friend a great artist and computer whiz and the three of us have fun playing with and planning blog ideas.
We are just kids having fun, I think that's one of life's meanings; play, have fun - I hope you have fun in your life dear reader..

Good Friday I spent in the garden keeping ahead of the jungle and getting stress release and all the rest of the weekend was spent working on Mary's doll portraits, a difficult and intense job but very satisfying because so challenging.

On writing a blog.

Why create a blog? Right now it's Sunday, it's raining and I have had a very busy week and have organized for myself a day off to do housework. This blog comes under housework. How dull is that?
And what a lot of work this blog is. It's all about an artist and there isn't much in the way of art displayed on it yet. I will have to scan photos into my other computer, the offline computer I use for design and editing etc. and jealously guard from any possibility of viruses and spam, and burn the photos onto a disc and put the disc into the online computer I am writing this on and then ring my artist friend Sandra again and have her come round to my house again and help me load, then find, then set the photos of my art on this blog.

I find computers very frustrating but no doubt I will eventually become a dab hand at this blog business.
So why create a blog? Three reasons I can think of and one is that I like to write. There is such a nice flow to writing and I can get lost in it and isn't that the definition of human happiness? To be so lost in what one is doing that the questions "am I happy? would my time be better spent doing something else?" just do not arise.
The other two reasons are that this blog may lead to meeting people who would want to buy art or meeting a nice woman. I like women, 'specially nice ones.