March 27, 2015

Urban Sketchers NYC at Chaim Gross' Studio

This week the "weekday" Urban Sketchers NYC group met at the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation.  This is a little known gem in the Village only several blocks from Washington Square.  Chaim Gross was a sculptor and painter in NYC from his arrival from Europe after WWI until his death in 1991.  After raising two children on the Upper Westside of NYC, he and his wife moved into a new home at 526 LaGuardia Place which served both as their home and studio.  It is open Thursdays and Fridays from 1-5 and artists are welcome. 

http://www.rcgrossfoundation.org/ 

 

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This is the first floor, just inside the entrance:

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Overlooking the studio - with an incredible number of pieces and everything left as it was when he died:

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The second floor contains his private art collection which is amazing, and special exhibits.  The 3rd floor has paintings from his contemporaries, and a huge African Art Collection.

 

My sketches:

Two heads - one black and white marble and the other beige - and 4 of his wood sculptures on the first floor and studio.

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Yoruba beaded wooden sculpture and several other African art pieces on the 3rd floor. 

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March 24, 2015

Drawing Class/Spring in NYC?

We are still drawing and shading with graphite in my FIT Drawing Class.  This week our in-class assignment was to draw and sketch this plant - dark green with light pink veins on the leaves.  The class sits in a BIG square, at drawing desks, at least 6-8 feet back from the central table.  A bright standing lamp is directed at the object to create shadows.  As before, I finished drawing the plant and vase, and then thought only about my watercolor paints!  And as before I remind myself that this is my first drawing class and I need to concentrate on the requirements of this course and use graphite to shade instead of paints to add color!

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I finished early and was bored again, so I added 3 classmates to what will probably become a crowd! 

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I bought beautiful tulips for our apartment last week in anticipation of the first day of spring.  My husband worried that they would be wilted by Saturday/Sunday.  Here they are in a quick painting. 

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And here is the view from my Window at 6AM on the first day of Spring. 

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We had 4.5 inches of snow in Central Park by the time the snow ended!  And we are all still wearing heavy down coats with hoods up! 

 

March 19, 2015

Working from Imagination - Can It Be Developed?

Sketchbook Skool Semester 3 overlapped with our vacation last Fall, and I still want to do homework assignments from Weeks 3 and 4.  I was too busy, that is my excuse.  But really that is subterfuge.  Both Mattias Adolfsson and Jean-Christophe Defline assigned us homework that required drawings from our imagination.  YIKES!  That is not easy for me - I draw what I see.   I can combine my subjects into new compositions, but I rarely draw anything completely from my imagination. 

So for 6 months I've been periodically thinking about my first day of school - many, many years ago for sure.  I had no specific story to tell, I can't even remember my kindergarten teacher's name.  But I did have an image of a corner of the room, with a rug, tables, chairs, and toys.  And I knew that my mother walked me to school and dropped me off in the classroom on my first day.

So I finally just sat down and started drawing.  I knew my hair style, and my Mother's hair style and the clothes I probably wore.  So here, finally, is a story about my first day of kindergarten.

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Our second homework assignment from Mattias is to do a meta-drawing.  I think I need to let that roll around in my brain for awhile too, but hopefully not for 6 months.  I am even confused about the exact meaning:  Meta-film is a film about making a film.  Mattias elaborates on the assignment by calling it a drawing with enhanced reality. 

  

March 17, 2015

Asia Week Art and an Inspiring Video Drawing

I'm posting two completely unrelated Sketchbook pages today.  My friend Pat and I went to two Asian Art Auction Previews on Friday.  Sotheby's had a terrific preview for their Modern and Contemporary Asian Art Auction.  Over the last two years, I've discovered several Indian artists whose work I LOVE, and there were many paintings by each of them (Husain, Prahba, and Souza).  Christies was a disappointment for those of us who weren't there to see Asian ceramics, jades, brass sculptures etc., because they had 1600 art objects from one collection to auction!  But the paintings on the Chinese scrolls definitely made up for it.  I took lots of pictures so I can try to learn from the brush drawings of roosters, tigers, herons, camels, and chickens. 

I sketched one painting, and one detail of stylized cows from another painting at Sothbys, on one sketchbook page, to remember the day.

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Yesterday I watched a video called The Life of an Artist (2012) by Adebanji Alade that was very inspirational. 

The Life of an Artist  http://adebanjialade.blogspot.com/search/label/video 

I paused the video while he was sketching on public transportation and sketched him, so I could remember his advice, "Sketch, Sketch, Sketch and Draw, Draw, Draw."   Oops - misspelled his first name on the sketchbook page!

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March 12, 2015

Drawing Class - Shading

This was our second week of drawing and shading.  I haven't had a drawing class before, but this one seems to be moving VERY Slowly.  There was a still life bouquet for us to draw and shade, and then hard-boiled eggs that we each brought in from home.  One of the best parts of the exercise was having an amazing standing lamp lighting the flowers, and vase, and casting shadows.  This was an 11X14 inch drawing that was photographed.

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The egg looked so small set up on the central table, and was harder to shade than I anticipated.   

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Then I got bored while everyone was still working, so I sketched one of my classmates. 

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March 10, 2015

Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky

This exhibit just opened at the Metropolitan Museum of New York and it is spectacular.  I went to the Member Previews last week, excited by the postcard that arrived about a month ago.  Pictographs are among my favorite images and I didn't know what to expect, but was thrilled to find several tanned leather hides and clothing with ink and pigment drawings. 

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This is called the Grand Robe and I took a photo of it from the Exhibit Catalogue because no photos are allowed in the exhibit.  The catalogue says that there were hundreds of these robes made and only 5 remain.  Three are in this exhibit, including this one on loan from the Musee de Quai Branley in Paris.  There are 60 figures on this robe, depicting 14 battles - and I sketched a few of my favorites.  

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I also attended a "Conversation with a Paper Conservator", who worked on the Maffet Ledger Journal over 18 months before, during, and after it traveled to Paris and Kansas City where this exhibit began.  George West Maffet distributed some ledgers among the Northern and Southern Cheyenne tribe in the  mid-1800s and this ledger contains narrative stories in drawings by 22 different artists.   Most of the drawings are scenes from battles against the Cavalry.  Not only was I interested in the paper conservation information, but it was so interesting to hear how they poured over the drawings to try to separate the artists and translate the images. 

Here is one of the paintings in the ledger.  In order for indian boys to establish their bravery, they had to coup a soldier, which meant touching them with their sword, or bow and arrow, and then escaping without being harmed.  The conservator said that they did lots of research to understand the implications of many of the drawings in the ledger.

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This is a link for the Maffat Ledger on the Museum Website. 

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/view?exhibitionId=%7b254A181E-CA25-4BC9-B15A-A167688D711B%7d&oid=310365&pkgids=294&pg=1&rpp=20&pos=1&ft=*

There are 23 pages pictured at this link. 

All the while she was speaking, I wondered if any of our sketchbooks and journals would survive and be analyzed for information about the times in which we lived. 

This is a link to the video of current Indian Artists and how their work evolved. 

http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2015/plains-indians-artists-of-earth-and-sky/media 

 

March 6, 2015

More Drawing with Toulouse-Lautrec

The Museum of Modern Art Toulouse-Lautrec Print Exhibit is closing mid-March and I will miss it terribly.  I will miss my regular visits to the exhibit, my drawings from his prints to warm up, and the Café Society Figure Drawing session that occurred twice each month since the Fall.  Today I am posting 2 warm-up Toulouse-Lautrec drawings and 4 drawings from my favorite model - Kelly.

 

Aristide Bruant -  Performer and owner of a Montmartre Café. 

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Yvette Guilbert - Perfprmer and one of Toulouse=Lautrec's favorite models. 

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These are some my 6 minute drawings of Kelly - drawn on 11 X 15" watercolor paper with soluble graphite and then shaded with a waterbrush.   These were photographed because they were too big for my scanner.

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March 4, 2015

Studying Under the Masters - Max Beckmann

Max Beckmann was the 3rd Artist in this series, and his apprentice was a UK painter named Gillian Lee Smith.  I knew very little about Beckmann, a German Expressionist Painter, but quickly learned that he was second only to Rembrandt in the number of self-portraits he painted.  He was born in Leipzig Germany in 1884, and decided very early that he wanted to be an artist.  He served in WWI as a medic but had an emotional breakdown and was medically discharged.  By 1930 he was a very successful German artist, but he was featured in the Degenerate Art exhibit in 1937 and his career destroyed.  He and his wife fled to Amsterdam for 10 years and then to the United States after WWII.  He had an art school teaching position in St. Louis and then New York, and died in Central Park in 1950 on a walk between his apartment and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see one of his paintings.  I chose Self-Portrait in Olive and Brown to copy.

My copy is on the left, the original on the right.  I used watercolor, white, and black gouache, for my painting on 9X12 Arches 140 lb cold press paper.  It doesn't have the same range of values as Beckmann's and  I don't feel as if I captured his stern, almost angry, expression, 

   

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After doing a copy, each apprentice reflects on what they learned by copying the Master and then paints an original using some of those techniques.  I selected a New Year's Eve photo I took this year to paint.  Like Beckmann, it captures an individual and a face at one moment in time.  And I hope that it conveys the emotion of a young girl, celebrating the New Year, but in her own world.  I tried to use black to define the face and clothing like Beckmann did, but my lines, using a rigger brush are definitely not as bold. 

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March 1, 2015

Playdate with Zach

Zach is in Pre-K and had his Winter Break several weeks ago.  We scheduled a playdate and when I asked him where he wanted to go, he said the Museum so we could sketch.  As soon as we got off the phone he packed up his sketchbook and pencils so he wouldn't forget anything. 

Here is my picture of him sketching in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There is a Bear Sculpture of 3 Bears, but he was ready to move on after sketching the bear in the middle.

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And here is his sketch of the Bear!   He was very pleased with it.

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We eventually did two more sketches, learned lots about mummies in the Egyptian Galleries and went to visit William the Blue Hippopotamus, the Met's several thousand year old mascot that is also in the Egyptian Gallery.   

Several of my other grandchildren like to draw and paint and I'm hoping that we can keep this interest alive.   

February 27, 2015

Two-Point Perspective Lesson

We learned a few simple rules about 2-point perspective in our Drawing I class last week.  As I've said before, I never had drawing lessons so I used to wing it!  Now at least I can intellectually know the rules and maybe even follow them when I choose.  You use 2-point perspective when you can see two sides, two planes of an object.

Drawing Boxes:   

1.  Establish your eyeline directly in front of your eyes and put the line on your paper. 

2.  Draw your vertical line for the corner of the box facing you. 

3.  Examine the two sides of the box to establish where your vanishing point (VP) will be for each side and mark them on your eyeline.  I find it difficult to figure out how far away the VP should be from my vertical and finally just played with this to see the kinds of boxes I could draw.  

4.  Draw a line from  the top and bottom of your first vertical line to your vanishing point - and then add another vertical between these lines to establish the size of each side of the box.

5.  Finally, add lines from the VP to the tops of the two new verticals. 

Here are examples of many boxes I drew in class.

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We then learned how to draw a corner inside a box - for example the corner of a room. 

1. Draw a horizontal line for your eyeline. 

2. Draw the vertical line from ceiling to floor. 

3.  Then put two vanishing points on your eyeline.

4.  But this time connect a line from the top and bottom of your vertical to the VP on the opposite side of the vertical.   This was hard for me to "see" at first, but here is my drawing for the corner of a room.  The green color is on the walls on both sides of the corner.

 

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Putting it all together:  In order to try to cement these concepts in my brain I drew a box on a rectangular table, looking toward the corner of our classroom.   I had to concentrate a great deal to make sure I just wasn't winging it!

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I look forward to warm days on the streets of Manhattan, playing with these new ideas.  Looking down a street of skyscrapers in Manhattan should be great fun to draw.  But not when it is 26 degrees at 3PM like today.  

Shirley Parker Levine
New York City

March 2015

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