As my health and well-being has increased here in Berlin, so have my drawing skills. These are some of the best, most warmly human likenesses I’ve achieved.
I’m so grateful to continue recovering my health and to be able to make work at events like this one. A wedding is as high-pressure an event as my old work as a courtroom artist was- you only get one shot!
I do have a rough sketch of the bride and groom I’m planning to finish up later 🙂
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It’s our neighbor neighborhood, just to the East and a quick bus or subway ride. Blixa Bargeld, Marlene Dietrich and Helmut Newton were all born there. Bowie, Iggy Pop, Klaus Kinski and Christopher Isherwood lived there. It’s old-fashioned and not uptight, with lots of amazing food and lots of relaxed mature bears.
Daria decided the Cafe BilderBuch, or Storybook Cafe, is the perfect meetup place for us because it’s halfway between her place in Neukölln and our place in Wilmersdorf. We met there for the second time yesterday. I love to walk from the M29 stop at Nollendorfplatz, through the ancestral queer neighborhood and down towards the new hip specialty food joints.
We went to Jones Ice Cream first, because Jones Ice Cream is beyond belief incredibly delicious.
The ice cream is American style, with big, soft chewy American cookies also available. This time I had lemon ice cream with blueberry jam and lemon-mint sorbet. The day before I had cucumber and tonic and pink grapefruit/Earl Grey. All are amazing, although the cucumber and tonic is some particularly next level business.
Some drawings I’ve been finishing up.
Here’s a girl I glimpsed on the subway platform and had to draw because something about the way she delicately picked a strand of hair out of her face reminded me of my friend Victoria’s daughter Dalia when she was younger.
And here’s a note I left for my middle-aged German biker furniture movers, who don’t speak a word of English but can be relied on to go anywhere in Berlin and collect something I bought on eBay, then deliver it and gruffly mock me for “kaufen, kaufen!”. We would have no furniture without them.
I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have met these gifted young women (and one fellow!) and shared some of the knowledge I worked so hard for. Although the ESDIP Summer Illustration program was over, I couldn’t say goodbye to these amazing artists yet.
So we went on a bus ride on the M29 and did some drawings.
If I was one-tenth as helpful and supportive to these women as Trina Robbins was to me at their age, I’ll be delighted.
Visiting Trina and her much younger partner Steve Leialoha in their Mission house in 1986 and 1997 had a huge impact on me.
Trina’s warmth, her humility even though she was already a comics legend, her compassion and kindness- all inspired me to become to a person who would have something to give to the next generation of women artists.
And the fact that she lived with a tall thin dark-haired younger man in a big magical apartment full of history and mystery, in a cool city, may have been formative for me as well.
I watched Xena Warrior Princess with Trina one time; you could not ask for a better moment to shape you.
I have so much hope and excitement about what these young artists will do. I can’t wait to see!
If you want to get in my next class, I’m teaching Perspective For Masochists again at ESDIP Berlin starting October 4th.
This is how I did it- first pencil sketch for structure and gesture, then a 50% grey pen to spot in midtones, then fine line outline, then brush pen strokes for the heavy line weight on the undersides of things and solid blacks.
This approach is a callback to the old-school commercial illustrators’ pen and marker techniques I learned from books in the 80s. Scan to the right: detail of pg. 27 from “Advertising Layout Techniques” by Harry Borgman, pub. 1983.
I loved this style of rendering because it was about drawing– it was didactic as hell, a formatted iconography for storytelling through pictures. The audience had been taught to read the visual language of illustration and comics over decades. They had an encoded understanding of what kind of mark-making represented what textile, what line weight meant highlights.
I have a whole collection of books in my art library that offer instruction in now-obsolete techniques like Prismacolor and Chartpak markers and beloved, vanished Zip-A-Tone. The earliest layers of my library reveal just how little I ever intended to be a fine artist- I just wanted to be a working stiff journeyman illustrator.
The grey-scale rendering methods of the great 20th Century advertising artists were already disappearing from the curriculum of art schools in 1989, when I left New York. They stayed alive in comics for a few years longer, because of the specific exigencies of comic printing before direct digital and the Black-and-White Boom.
By the time I was sober and enrolled in the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, in 1990, the career emphasis had shifted to digital graphic production. There were computer labs and programs like Illustrator and Photoshop and the illustration program at MCAD was skeletal. Teaching drawing for commercial art was over.
Lucky for me, I was able to become a painter. I pivoted to FIne Art in the MCAD curriculum just to get enough teaching in things I cared about, but there were many hidden benefits to leaving the commercial illustration track, and I had some fine teachers.
One of my painting teachers at MCAD told me my preparatory sketch for a painting reminded him of Tiepolo‘s ink wash drawings. He showed me what he meant and I was amazed at how modern an eighteenth-century drawing could look.
Of course, we don’t know how Tiepolo produced these works- he might have done the pencil sketch and line-work first, then added the midtone wash. Either way, the grey-scale (or sepia-scale!) is a thing of beauty.
I hope to do some ink-wash drawings utilising grey scale values later this summer, as well as some chalk drawings on grey paper. I’ve been thinking about how Sargent said if you get the midtones right, everything else falls into place. I’ve never been a midtone person; I’ve always focused on line quality and hard black and white values. But people change 🙂
Living in Berlin, we get to have visitors from the US quite a lot.
Berlin is a great place to visit and people in our community travel a lot for both business and pleasure. Sometimes I get to meet members of our family I hadn’t met before! It’s wonderful.
I did a lot of drawings with really intense perspective over the last month or two as I got ready to teach my first class on the subject.
I don’t want to ask my students to do anything I wouldn’t do myself! I don’t know where the big guy and the skinny guy were going, because I got off before they did. But pre-gaming with a beer or bottle on the train is totally normal in Berlin, and not just on Saturday night!
I glimpsed this little girl dancing around the subway pole, surrounded by tall black-clad guys, at the beginning of May.
Then I carefully reconstructed the scene over a series of short U-Bahn rides. Since you never know which model of train you’ll get, or if there will be a seat in the correct position, detailed U-Bahn drawings tend to take a few rides!