Seeing them, every detail, with eyes of compassion. A throughline to the better angels of my nature.
It makes me feel connected, and useful. Recording moments with care.
It’s very hard for me to leave the house right now. I really needed to get to my recovery support group, so I told myself I would get Jones Ice Cream on the way.
I was standing outside Jones Ice Cream, waiting for them to open and working on finishing up this drawing. The folks who run the beautiful seasonal and local foods store next to Jones’ gave me a gleaming local apple, “For the art!”.
The bottles by the bin in the drawing are left by people for people who need money to turn in for the pfand, or refund. Everyone does it here; there’s no shame in it.
There is a new flavor at Jones, Apple Crumble. I had it with their Salted Caramel. Which is not as creamy as Bi-Rite’s, more chewy, but stays live on the palate longer.
“It’s as close to perfect as anything could be, right now”, I told them when I finished mine.
On Sunday one of my former students from ESDIP and now friends came to the West to meet up for a coffee.
She was in town for the weekend. María is an incredibly talented young artist who is now studying art full-time back home in Madrid. You can see her work by following her on twitter and tumblr, as well as her YouTube channel. We had a wonderful visit, talking about art and drawing. I got to see the things she’s working on, her Inktober drawings and her latest projects. She has recently won prizes in several illustration contests in Spain (which I predicted each time!).
She made this lovely drawing of me, which I will add to my framed collection of portraits of me by other artists.
Here’s a nice picture of us earlier this year! In case you can’t tell, I am living my best life ever here in Berlin. Thanks to my Patreon Patrons, I can draw and teach and live, and it’s a life of meaning and purpose.
On my way home from teaching at ESDIP Berlin I saw these badass skater girls.
I sat across from them on the U1 and politely asked if I could draw them, as I’ve learned to in Germany. But they were American, and it was totally fine with them! Turned out they were from the Bay Area, specifically all San Francisco born and raised.
“From inside the 7×7”, they told me, just as I always make it clear that I was born on Manhattan island.
I had just a few stops to draw them, so I finished a lot of the detail later. However, it is totally accurate that the stickers on their boards were all dogged out from grinding copings. I don’t think these vital, modern young women were riding fat old-school Kryptonics wheels; that’s just what skateboard wheels look like, to me. I loved that they had big wide decks.
My best friend in high school was a skater girl, in 1981, and she rode what she called a “rolling stage”.
I showed this to Daria while we were having some lovely cake in my kiez and she said she liked the right-hand girls much better, with their casual sketchy hands. She said the hands of the left-most girl were overworked. Too much information.
“You’re so strong in technical skills, in understanding the structure of the hand, you get caught up showing too much.”
She was right, of course. The most interesting and powerful thing about the whole scene to me was the way the girl on the left cupped her hands over the nose of her board, like it was the pommel of a saddle.
And by drawing every detail of her fingers, instead of leaving some space open, I’d made her hands pedantic and overdrawn.
I had lost the shock of her dark nails against her pale skin by adding too much black line detail.
If I were drawing this for reproduction, I would have changed it, as I did when Daria suggested I give the Three Ages of Woman more space around them. Instead, I restored some of the drama and focus I’d intended by making the left-hand girl’s shirt black. Interestingly, Daria didn’t make the same criticism about space with this drawing- I think she understood that the fact the girls fill the frame is meant to create a sense of intimacy and immediacy.
I wanted to show I was occupying the same space, briefly, as these fearless young women.
I am always catching up on framing. I wanted to frame two of the lovely drawings of me by students from the ESDIP Summer Illustration Program, as well as more creepy dollar store lenticulars I brought from the US for Halloween decor.
For the student’s drawings I bought frames that were blue to start with, since they would be going in the salon.
(I have a gallery of portraits of me drawn by other artists, because I really believe in portraiture for life documentation. “I’m not just the President, I’m also a client!”.)
I wanted the frames to be a little more special and integrate with the mostly silver and gold existing frames, so I silver-leafed them.
To give the glossy frame a little more tooth on its surface, I scuff-sanded it with a nail file.Then I quickly glazed the frames with some clear polyurethane craft varnish (I was out of my other clear glazing mediums) and stuck bits of silver leaf all over them.
My VERY unorthodox method is to then tap and rub the leaf on the still-sticky frame, picking up bits of leaf with my tacky fingertips and tearing the pieces already attached.
Once I had a nice pattern of distressed leafing, I mixed up a little acrylic paint and used a sponge brush and my fingertips to roughly add some variegated color that partially obscured the leaf.
I found the blue plastic adhesive-backed curleques, made for scrapbooking, when I pulled out the leaf package, so I threw them on there too. More rococo!
Please note that as is the tradition of my people, I completely disregarded the safety instructions on the back of the large frame. Safety Third!
I had painted them black in Oakland, so I just needed to add some black bugs and some of these pre-formed glass rhinestone motifs.
I find these “rhinestone flourishes” useful for Extreme Crafting situations, where you have multiple projects going and need to bust out some finished projects tonight.
I also take a brush and quickly paint black over the most obvious areas of the vinyl adhesive strip that the crystal “flourish” is on.
The greenish bugs had white undersides, so I dry-brushed them with black at the same time to help them integrate into the frame.
I painted the whole green bug frame with multiple coats of Plaid FolkArt “Extreme Glitter” (hey, that’s what it’s called) transparent acrylic glaze with glitter.
They go on very smoothly, they’re buildable and the tough, rubbery finish stands up to household use. If I could paint my hair with them, I would.
Next month’s bricolage roundup will be all Halloween, all the time- I’m working on half a dozen other Halloween projects besides the beaded mantel scarf I’ll post tomorrow.
I am very new to using watercolors.
One of our friends from the Bay Area, a very handsome and dashing fellow, was in town. I was super excited to paint him, as I’d never had a chance in Oakland.
He came over, dressed in a sharp suit, and I gave him some wine (we still have tons left from the housewarming) and set to work. He posed extremely well, with great brio, but I couldn’t get a light source that worked. And once I started painting, the situation devolved.
I can draw myself or paint myself out of just about any corner in an additive-subtractive medium; my knowledge of anatomy, structure and values is sufficient to recover from most wrong directions. But with watercolor, you can’t go very far down the wrong road.
An old friend of mine, a master watercolor painter, once said, “I’ve never won an argument with a watercolor.”
I tried everything I could think of to resolve the portrait, including opaque white to recover lost lights, but it was a no-go. Eventually I called it and we started over. I asked my model to change his pose, I changed the light source, and I switched to drawing, only lightly tinted at the end with watercolor. I captured his Leyendecker profile this time.
So I was able to produce a decent likeness that had a good sense of the sitter, but only by divergent means. I scanned the horrific failure, excerpted here, but only my Patrons get to see it 🙂
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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