Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Adding Unexpected Color

December 12, 2021

Hello all—a rather awful week on my end—lots of work!  But I was able to take my full Inventory Drawing class with Peter Hristoff, which was a very welcome break. 

As I’ve mentioned, Hristoff’s class calls for rapid drawing; Peter gives specific words to prompt each image, and then allocates about a minute or so per image.

Despite the fact that (i) it is a class—i.e. something to learn from; and (ii) that it is a class that moves very quickly, there is a still that very natural tendency to want to make “good” drawings; in other words, to perform, to excel, to make something worth keeping.

But as I’ve moved along, I’ve found myself letting go of that tendency a little. Of course, I still would like to make good drawings, but I’ve found that it is best to get feelings of performance (and the accompanying wish for acknowledgment) out of the way, and simply to respond to the prompt.

My wish to move out of performance mode has been strengthened of late because I’ve been so rushed! In prior semesters, I’ve tried to prepare for the class–get materials all set out before the zoom sessions begin, maybe even prepare some drawing surfaces.  But these last few weeks have been pretty fraught for me, so I’ve had to jump into class most of the time at the last minute, without much time to set up materials or surfaces. Honestly, I think preparing drawing surfaces is a great thing to do–as I noted a couple of posts ago, they can add unexpected depth and texture. But it’s been heartening to see that a lack of preparation can also have its good side, in that it forces one to just draw and not worry so much about the product.

In this past class, Peter focused on words drawn from Arabic poetry. Inspired by the idea of Middle Eastern tiles, he suggested that we do thirty one-minute drawings in one color, then go back and draw thirty more prompts on the previous pages in another color, and then go back and draw thirty more prompts on the same thirty pages in a third color. 

I followed this routine, more or less.  What was challenging for me is that (i) I used soft pastels (thick chalks) as those were the easiest colored implements I could find. (They are beautiful but not very exact for drawing.) Then, because the class moved so quickly, I did not have much time to choose the colors. I somehow landed with pale blue (that one was a choice), a dark green (that I thought, when I picked up the chalk, was going to be teal), and a pinkish red (which I repeatedly regretted!)  (I did sneak in a little yellow and lime green at moments.)

In the end, using colors that I felt uneasy about was freeing. And going back to previous drawings—fitting unexpected things into a drawing already started—was also very freeing. I felt, in other words, that I was learning!  I can’t really articulate what I learned—greater confidence? A greater willingness to use what is at hand? A more open view? I don’t know.  Still, I felt learning happening, and that is always something to be happy about. I post some of the drawings above and below.

I hope all are well in these uncertain times.  Take care. And thanks. 

Adding Context

December 5, 2021

Hello! I hope all are well and taking care.  By taking care, I mean trying to manage, yet not pretending that the Covid pandemic is over.

Of course, we all wish it were over. Another intense variant is jangling (even though scientists have warned for months that the low world-wide vaccination rates set the stage for new variants.) Still, here we are.

I am lucky enough not to have yet been directly affected by Omicron, but it has contributed to the hectic and uncertain background that seems to color so much today. But in the midst of that hecticness, I was able to take a part of Peter Hristoff’s Inventory Drawing class last week, which was devoted to prompts based upon the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca. Specifically Peter used words taken from Lorca’s poetry as prompts for drawings, starting with just one word at a time, and then combining separate words and short descriptive phrases. The drawings are all done in about a minute or two. 

The words were all English translations of Lorca’s words. (Lorca, of course, was a great Spanish poet and playwright, of the early 20th century, who was killed by Franco’s Nationalist forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.) 

I am certainly no expert on Lorca.  But his work is so strong–the wish for “green” in the midst of violence and hard-wired retribution is so intense and so creatively expressed–that it is hard for even my disjointed memory to blur the poignancy.  As a result, even a very generic word — like “hands”—when I know it has been chosen from a Lorca poem, brings up very different images than the word “hands” without that context. (My drawing based on “hands” below.)

They are not great drawings. I was traveling and had just a few non-messy drawing materials, and life being what it is, I was only able to take the initial part of the class. But even that bit was like a separate island of time and space, given the context of Lorca. (Of course, it wasn’t a completely placid island!)

While I tend to prefer to look at drawings without knowing their prompts, I think it is helpful here to include the prompts, as they give a greater sense of how context affects the image one comes up with. So, the one at the top was based (I think) on the words desert and dust storm. The ones below were sequentially, darkness; sleeping and tattoo; river which included also fire, bones, blossoms; mountain and beloved; well, wounds and summer; and, at the very bottom, ocean. (Note that I may be getting some of these wrong! Sorry, Peter!)

Note – I photographed some of these drawings at a time of day when I was able to capture refracted light on the image—of course,  that helps a lot!

Not Online Shoppers

December 3, 2021

I confess to being an online shopper but these little guys seem to get hats and bows in person, as it were.

All rights reserved, as always.


November 28, 2021

I am emboldened by a very kind commenter (who is also a friend) saying that she has enjoyed pictures from my art classes! The one I am taking now is “Inventory Drawing” with the wonderful Peter Hristoff of SVA; in the class, we make many many very quick drawings, sometimes based on an image, often based upon a word.

And so above and below are some drawings from last week’s class. 

These are, admittedly, a bit strange. This is partly because I was super rushed getting ready for the class, and also low on paper. A “trick” that Peter has suggested for saving paper is to gesso over old drawings, or gesso newspaper, and use that as a drawing surface. (Gesso is a white primer for paper or canvas. I believe that many years ago it was made from rabbit skin, but now is made of acrylic.) If you believe in serendipity, as I do, this underlayer of the newspaper can not only add texture to a drawing, but unconscious meaning as well.

Serendipity played a big role in the drawings below, as in depriving me of paper, gesso, and time, it forced me to rub out a lot of my old figure drawings so that I could use their surfaces to draw on!  (These were mostly charcoal drawings done on gessoed newspaper.) 

The old drawings did not rub off all that well, and since I was out of gesso, I splashed on a little white gouache (like water color), some of which was mixed with old yellow-green acrylic. (The greenish color resulted from the fact that it was the only tube I had that was squeezable–the others dried up!)

In any case, this slapdash process gave me a host of surfaces, as well as a host of ghost images. Because the ghost images were so strong, I did the class with ink and brush instead of pencil or charcoal, since I knew the ink would give a stronger, if sloppier, line.

So, it was an interesting process! Here are a few. Note that the prompts primarily had to do with Provence, both with words from Provencal poets, and also images from photographs Peter provided from Provence.

I understand that they are not everyone’s cup of tea. I am very flexible in my appreciation! But again, what was interesting for me, is how serendipity, strange combination, can work. It shows I guess that nothing is truly lost—even what you rub away!

Anyway, have a good day!

(I am reposting one of the pics from yesterday’s post, just because I like it, and will likely post more tomorrow.)

Black Friday Dilemma

November 26, 2021

Caught in the vice of whether I give in to all the sales today, accepting that I will not choose to save the planet in the face of up to 50% off, or whether I will stick to vows not to spend money on things people don’t actually need, except for maybe children’s clothing (children grow! and the little outfits are so fun, and some of the specialty manufacturers actually sew the little togs in Brooklyn or Atlanta!)

It is nice to give presents. It is awful to realize at the last minute that you haven’t got new stuff to give.

If you are an older person, like me, you have sadly had deaths in your family and could not bear to throw away all that person’s stored stuff, and now have boxes and boxes all over the place and jammed drawers. So, you do know that over-acquisition is not only not great for the planet, but not really all that good for the soul. (As in, couldn’t you go through some of those boxes and find something that someone might like? This would not actually be “re-gifting” but passing something “treasured” on—)

Nice try.

The deluge of emails (if you are an online shopper) is overwhelming:  the sales are only for two days! The successor sales only a couple of days more! Companies need to ship early this year! 40% even on SALE STUFF! 40% MORE OFF! (YOU KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO BUY THE CRAP EVENTUALLY, WHY NOT WHEN IT’S ON SALE!!!!!)

Yes, but what about trees? Water that is not choked by plastic!

Above is a picture that I did not make with this subject in mind, but it seems to fit—a polar bear stuck on a ice cream truck.  (Perhaps he/she would rather be on an ice floe?  And hey! What about whale blubber!? Isn’t it supposed to taste sweet and nutty!? Okay, maybe not like butter pecan–)

Below is a pic from a recent class with Peter Hristoff. It does not exactly fit with this subject but I like it. 

Have a great weekend. 

Finding Narratives in Quick Drawing

November 23, 2021

Here are some more of my quick drawings from “Inventory Drawing” with the wonderful Turkish-American artist, Peter Hristoff, at SVA.  I am not sure why I am posting these–they are bare bones and unfinished. (Perhaps their best quality!) 

But one thing I love is how these quick drawings, not in the least orchestrated, nonetheless suggest narratives. They show me how the mind seeks a story.

Inventory Drawing is a class in which Hristoff gives prompts of a single word, and then moves on to two or three words at a time. The drawings in response to each prompt are done in about a minute, one after another after another. Sometimes two or three words are intentionally combined in a drawing; sometimes they are put together, in my case, simply because I am too rushed to turn the page.

So, the combinations are random, and yet sometimes show the blurry outlines of a tale (one that even its teller does not yet know!)

Of course, I am particularly interested in story; almost all the art I do is illustrational. But I don’t think I’m unique. It seems to me that the human mind, in its search for explanation and continuity, seeks out stories; they are part of how people make sense of the world. (Sadly, this may be why humans are so prone to conspiracy theories. And yet story is also a great way to illicit sympathy, especially for those who seem different. )

Anyway, here are some more of these funny quick drawings. Again, my thanks to Peter Hristoff for creating an atmosphere (even via zoom) which leaves a lot of room for exploration.

Have a good day. 

Ups and Downs–More Quick Draws!

November 21, 2021
ball and chain, pencil, firefly

Hello! I have been away for a while, strapped into a seat of life’s rollercoaster. Highs/lows; joys/sorrows. Time can hold it all in just one hand.

The ups and downs have made me very conscious of the importance of finding beauty in the specific moment (Beauty and, maybe also, calm.) I think of a twirling dancer, a whirling dervish, turning in circles, keeping an eye on a fixed point.  Only I am not actually advocating fixing on a fixed point, in the sense of a specific goal, so much as keeping an eye out for the ever-present (if sometimes dodging) good.

Sorry to be so cryptic! 

The pics above and below are from a new zoom drawing class with the wonderful Peter Hristoff, an American artist with roots in Turkey.  The class is called Inventory Drawing (offered at School of Visual Arts). In it, students try to make quick drawings to a series of prompts, sometimes offered sequentially, sometimes two or three or four or five at once (sort of like life).

Each drawing is allotted about one minute, although the pieces may become more complex in the course of a class, as, if you are like me, you will sometimes do a few on the same page just to save time. Sometimes, Peter also will ask the class to return to a prior drawing.  This type of prolonged quick drawing would honestly be impossible in the absence of Peter’s teaching. We are all buoyed up by Peter’s enthusiasm, artistic good sense, and kindness, which come across even via zoom.


So, here are a few samples.  What is probably most interesting to me is how each came about, that is—what the mind makes of these somewhat random prompts and quick drawing times.  I’m sorry I don’t remember all the specific prompts, but the one at the top was ball in chain, pencil, firefly.  (It seems to me a great allegory for writer’s block.) The one up above was lightbulb, which I kept fairly simple, perhaps because it was at the beginning of the class.

The one directly below started with underwear. The one below that started with fried egg.  The specific prompt below that one was two words— tower and fountain, and the last one, a very weird one, combined astack of pancakes with celebration and donkey and pin cushion and roller coaster, and pussy willow! 

To me, it is so interesting to see what the mind does when it doesn’t have time to think! (A common enough condition.) I hope these are of some interest to you too. I will likely post more tomorrow.

Have a good day! 

Started with prompt of underwear. Don’t know the rest!
Prompt started with fried egg, I think.
Prompt – tower, fountain.
Can’t remember prompt, but included key hole, stack of pancakes, celebration, chair, donkey, pin cushion, pussy willow, roller coaster–nothing I have drawn looks much like any of those!

Work Week

October 26, 2021

Increasingly, the work week feels like lurking predator, just waiting for me. Or maybe, I am the one floating around in choppy waves, hopelessly trying to catch some lovely blue bird (of happiness, completion or just breathing space!). It is much more elusive than it looks, and the poor squid or octopus is already stretched to limits.

Honestly, I do not know which creature I identify with as there is a bit of the pathetic in each. Even what was supposed to be the sun in this pic looks a bit like a whale that can’t quite get itself to submerge.

In any case, I hope your Monday was better than mine. Have a good week.


October 17, 2021

I am still working on a book of short stories, tentatively called Who Are You Kidding? And Other Stories of Strange Change. I have written these stories over some time, so my initial drafts of the book did not include stories of the pandemic. This didn’t bother me so much, since many of the stories are quite fantastical (surreal), and are not set in any specific era.

Yet, as the book has come closer to completion, it felt more and more wrong, given how overwhelming the pandemic has been. So, despite two great forces of resistance – my natural laziness and my “just wanting to get this done already”, I have been working over the last few weeks on stories that are set in the pandemic (and that also, I hope, fit into the theme of the book.)

And I like the new stories! So, a great relief.

Now, comes the problem of fitting everything together, and, specifically deciding which of the older stories to take out. Again, laziness and “just wanting to get this done” can be big blocks. (I had already spent a fair amount of time ordering the older groups of stories.)

Ordering stories (or poems or drawings–even hanging an art show–for that matter) is a strange activity. I tend to do it by feel. Often, I just know, or almost know, that it should be this one, and this one and, now this. This unanalytical approach seems to mostly work if I can let myself be free, yet also honest (that is, if I let myself see when it isn’t working, and try something else.) When it works well, it seems magical, for then the ordering creates a flow/reverberation between the separate stories, that somehow connects and expands each one.

Anyway, I know this all sounds like gobbledy-gook without the book. I just wanted to touch base; I do hope to have the book out soon.

In the meantime, here is a group of sketch portraits from an online drawing class (The Vigorous Figure at SVA) with Peter Hristoff.  They are quick and awkward, but sort of illustrate the idea of unplanned flow. I should note here that Peter is wonderful in terms of encouraging the models to work in certain ways, so he is very conscious of flow!  But the size of my paper, my sketches, and the actions of my charcoal are so much out of my control, that I am always very pleased when different sketches seem to come together.

Take care. 

Cars, cows, clouds….

October 11, 2021

Have a good day!