Along the Art Path---Cont'd

My interest in trying to learn to draw and paint continues since March of 2008.

Continuing here are samples and discussions from my 2015 experiences in my make-shift studio.

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2015 Art

My painting motivation and performance have come to a virtual standstill as I have been off doing books. While this is not technically art, as in painting, nevertheless, it is an art to be able create and manufacture books of different types.

The fact that I have also been ignoring this website has made me feel guilty and so, as I finished a couple books last week, it dawned on me that I could document them here and get this art section started for this year before the year comes to an end.

Currently I have three paintings on the easel all in different stages of completion. They involve trying to do a protrait of my longtime music teacher, Lori, in action. Recently it has dawned on me that, quite possibly, I am not cut out to be a portrait painter. There is also the fact that the subject is intimidating in some way as I would like to make a perfect drawing of this person. So---There is painting in the pipeline but I have to solve problems like mixing colors for a light complexion, a nice golden metallic glow for the trumpet, and how to do hair to get a natural looking hair with light glints and individual strand colorations and lengths. I hold great expectations to actually finish these paintings this year and so I am forging ahead to start this year's art section now.

January---July, 2015. A Journey to Friend--ship
126 page draft, 7x10, Revised Book

The making of this book has occupied much of my creative interest for the bulk of this year to date. The text was gleaned from my daily journals as I took those entries related to my involvement with Orono Friends Meeting. The entries spanned the time from when I started doing the pages in 2008 until my acceptance into membership in 2013.

I arranged the first draft in chapters by years and it came to 160 total pages for the journey story. Two copies of this draft were made and I put them out to two Friends, with writing and publishing experience, to read and provide feedback. After receiving comments, I then entered an edit-rewrite phase that has occupied much of my spare time in recent months. This revision, shown here, has been 'tightened' up to a total of 126 pages with chapters indicating different stages of the journey.

The chapters are: Prologue; Searching; Getting Involved; Arriving; Epilogue.

In literary parlance, a journey story is known as a 'hero's journey', in the style of Ulysses, where the hero ends up back where he started. In some sense that is what happens in this journey but it is subtle and not spelled out. I am hoping the reader will recognize that I had certain ideas about the nature of God when I started this journey and that the idea crystallized along the way. The book starts by doing an exercise, in a "Living the Questions" class, for me to enunciate my ideas about the nature of God. The book ends with my delivering a message in the Silence at a Quarter Meeting exercise where I presented what I viewed as the recognizable image of God to be able to see 'that of God in everything'.

The last line of the book is: "It feels good to be Home."

That may be a cliche but it is the way I felt upon receiving official membership. I fantasize that the feeling has connections to my pioneer Quaker ancestors who ventured to Ohio where they established the Irons homstead.

This second image gives a look at the inside of the book to show the formatting and the fact that some photos are included. The story is formed by intermingling memoirs and essays. The memoirs have to do with my starting to attend a Quaker Meeting and then various interactions that occur with Friends I meet. The memoirs also detail a growing involvement that occurs as I become Treasurer for the organization.

The essays are broad-ranging from ideas obtained through reading spiritual materials or observations experienced in daily living; e.g., enjoying the silence along a quiet stream with its reflective surface. The particular object shown in this second image is of the bark on a young Birch tree. The contemplation had to do with whether or not the markings on the bark amounted to a universal Morse code of some sort that would reveal secrets if it could just be interpreted. Thoughts like that often do not lead anywhere but this particular one led to a remarkable synchronous event the very next morning in First Day class at our local Meeting.

Life is a Mystery no matter which path you take. It helps to stop and enjoy it along the way.

The next phase, in dealing with the production of this book, is to send out a query letter to see if some publisher will be interested to publish it. For starters I plan to write to UU Beacon Press and Skinner House as well as the publisher for the Quaker outlet at Pendle Hill. These houses all publish spiritually related books. If that does not work then I will deal with that when it happens.

August 16, 2015. Restoration of a Will Rogers' Biography
4.5 x 5.25 inches, Rebuilt Binding

I do not know how many years this little book sat over here on the coffee table waiting patiently to be repaired. I would guess it to be on the order of five years at least.

A Friend gave the book to Sally in connection with a book sale here in Orono. There was some recollection in their minds that I am a Will Rogers fan as I showed one of his movies at a church movie night.

The book had been badly mistreated over the 80 years of its life. It was written by Jerome Beatty and published in MCMXXXV by the Saalfield Publishing Co. of Akron, Ohio. It was an antique but not in good enough condition to be worth anything.

A curiosity is that the pages are not numbered, possibly because it is easy to read in a single sitting. The production style of the book reminded me of a `movie' book I had when I was young, sone 70 years ago. The book had a little picture drawn in the upper right hand corner of each right page so that an action scene was produced by riffling the pages from back to front. The book I had was about Tom Mix and showed him riding a bucking bronco.

This book had been badly mistreated as there was no spine remaining and the covers had been taped together with the use of transparent packing tape. Over time the tape attacked the cover so that it was not possible to remove it without damage to the Will Rogers' photo. If you look carefully you can see some residual tape on the photo. In addition, the paint had faded so that the background and lettering were blending together. The book was a mess.

A reason that I am putting this in here for discussion is that it felt like doing art as I restored, rebuilt, a spine and repaired the covers. I used acrylic paints to do the job and so now the book presents a good contrasting image on its cover and the lettering stands out with good contrast. These are all things that you try to do when you paint.

This second image gives a look at the inside of the book to show the double hinge structure that was made to connect the spine to the sewn signatures and then the covers to the spine. This design is a replica of one we used in the High School Library to repair library books that had become separated from their covers. In those days we had a supply of the double hinges, in standard sizes, and you just reached into a box and pulled out one to fit the book to be repaired. In this case I had to build the hinge by gluing layers of paper together and then cutting to make the flaps.

One thing that contributed to taking so long to do this job was trying to decide what to use for the spine and how much effort I wanted to put into the project. Recently, out of the blue, it came to me that I could just use black construction paper, the same as used in school projects, for the spine material. It is flexible and feels like a cloth cover.

However, the construction paper did not prove to be a good medium for paint as it turned out to be a tedious task to get the lettering painted onto the spine. The problem with the paper was that it absorbed the paint and then released ink to shade the yellow paint. It took about five applications to get the spine lettering to begin to match the color on the cover.

In the end, this was a job that provided satisfaction when completed. The work made the book good enough to keep. To top it off, Sally liked it enough to offer to keep the book in one of the living room bookcases where she has several little sized classics.

It feels like a job well done.

Sep 7, 2015. The Trumpet Teacher
Ink on 11x14 Heavy Watercolor Paper

The year is running out and I feel the urge to finish the long overdue portrait that has been wanting to be done for several months. A realization has sunk in that I am not going to actually do the painting, of the full figure in action, and so will put in these studies that were done last fall.

The first one is this ink drawing that I did to get a feel for perspective and shadows and to settle on a pose that I liked. As I mentioned above, I have had difficulty with several features in order to try and do this painting. I thought maybe breaking it up into small parts, for practice, would help resolve some of the issues about making colors just right for skin, hair, and metal. Unfortunately, that plan proved to be more wishful thinking than anything else and so I am coming down to the end of the year with not much to show for my year. As a former Prof would say, "I let the painting become too important."

que sera, que sera

There's not much to say about the making of this drawing. I selected one of the photos that Lori graciously allowed me to take at my final lesson, blew it up as large as I could, and used it for a model to make this ink drawing. It's hard to use the word 'sketch' but I did do the full drawing in one long session. It is not a gesture drawing even though it might pass for such an effort.

The drawing conveys some feeling of an alive person, someone about to play tricks on you, as note the glint in her eyes. The embouchure on the trumpet gives her a grin to go with the look in her eyes as well. And then she is also demonstrating good posture in her approach to holding the trumpet 'just right'. I thought those were all ideas that her pose was trying to demonstrate.

This drawing was easy to contemplate and then carry out but the paintings are something else.

September 2015. The Trumpet Teacher No.2
9x12 Acrylic Wash on Watercolor Paper

This painting was completed sometime last September and it took considerabley more time than did the ink drawing. Making the trumpet was not the big issue as it was more about making her face transmit the feelings that I could see. I think I achieved that objective but still do not feel comfortable with the skin and hair colors and textures.

Lori is only slightly a Red Head but she is very light complected as compared to most people, especially those in the art books I studied to try and learn how to mix appropriate skin color. Almost every example used shades of yellow/oranges and I could see none of that in Lori's complexion. In the end, I tried to follow the art teacher's advice to: Paint what you see.

After several trials I ended up using White for the base and then tinted it with drops of pink plus about one drop of yellow. Curiously enough, the skin did not show very well; i.e., have enough contrast until I changed the color of the background to complement the Red shirt.

This painting was not about the trumpet as it was about her expression, however, there was enough trumpet to be a problem. In desperation I went to A.C.Moore's and bought a tube of Liquitex Iridescent Metallic Gold Acrylic paint to use for the trumpet. I wanted it to 'shine'. That was a BIG mistake as that paint did not like other paints around it. It made it difficult to add shadowing/reflections around the surface as required. I managed to make it passable for this study but did conclude that I would probably never try to use that paint again unless it is just for straight lettering, or something like that, on a poster.

One thing about this picture that I like is the expression that I was able to get between her eyes and her face. The result definitely portrays the intentness that Lori brings to playing the trumpet. She was a very patient teacher with me and I have tried to be patient with this painting. The result, however, is leading me to believe that it is better to just do it and get it over with. If it doesn't work out then just throw it away and try again but don't drag it out too long. That is not patience---it is fear---and I had a lot of that with this project.

June 2016 The Trumpet Teacher No.3
9x12 Acrylic Wash on Watercolor Paper

This painting was completed on June 29, 2016, undeniably late.

I want to discuss it here for a couple reasons: First, it constituted a lot of energy [and angst] for this year; and Second, it fits and is a part of the effort related to the two previous paintings. In a sense, I get a feeling of completion that goes with having the three paintings all presented together and in sequence.

In this painting I tried to correct what I thought to be errors in the previous painting. Items that bothered me were the extra red complexion and the darker rendition of the gold trumpet. Both of these items came out different this time as I stuck with using nothing but straight acrylic paints plus water.

Lori is fairer complected here and the trumpet has a better shine.

The trumpet is an example of painting via 'mark making' as that is what the shading and reflections on its surface are all about. The painting looks better at a distance, where the marks all blend together and the mind interprets them, than it does up close where the quantization is more evident. This is a phenomenon that I have observed on many occasions, e.g., at the art museum, where many paintings look quite good at a distance but are fragmented in appearance when viewed up close. Somehow the brain integrates the whole and does an interpretation that makes it appear as the known object intended by the artist.

November 2016 Addendum
re: Some Concluding Remarks

This update, to finally finish my art offerrings for 2015, is almost a year late. It has been an ongoing mystery for me as to why, how, I lost the zest to want to paint something each week and to keep this blog up to date.

Some other efforts have not [yet] sufferred that effect. My Daily Pages writing has kept up at the one 399 page book per five month rate and I am still participating in two bands and practicing regularly. Somehow the art has gone astray as I deal with trying to set priorities and finish the many projects that seem to always be 'hanging fire'.

This site last updated on: Nov 3, 2016