Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nature's Highlighter

Forsythia On the Table

Forsythia may be one of nature's most potent highlighters. In the spring it is a saturated yellow. When not pruned, the shrub can spread like the lemon hue highlighting of a reader who deems nearly every sentence of a book important. The way the natural world blooms has a pace. So far, cherry trees have turned pink and then come the apple blossoms. When my father preceded my grandmother in death,  she planted an ornamental cherry tree as a memorial to his life. Each year I look forward to seeing the tree turn pink and watch for its growth.

I am amazed that a weighted plastic headstone placed in front of this cherry tree has survived fifteen years. Usually I find the plastic stone tilted on its side, but I make a point to return it to its proper standing. There seems to be more to highlighting than making marks. In order to retain meaning, there is a need to return to passages and recall important details. Reflection also makes color richer (i.e. both the hue and the vibrance of life). Colors that create an emphasis are more than pretty accents. They are temporary developments that shape spaces and offer anchors in a world that can feel like a complex web of light and shade.

As promised in the last post, included below are a crop of photographs.


Ornamental Cherry Tree

Headstone in front of the cherry tree.

Cherry Blossoms

Friday, April 10, 2015

Threshold Between Notation and Notable

Leonardo da Vinci, Old Man and Water Studies, c. 1513

Lately, I have been thinking about how to maximizing visual exploration. When I was younger I felt I had more time to explore. How does one squeeze extra into less time? What kind of drawing best gets to the heart of a subject quickly and yields new insight? These questions caused me to think more about the thumbnail sketch.

As a student I dreaded thumbnail drawing and sensed many of my peers felt a similar way. These drawings often looked unsubstantial. It seemed to be about getting an idea out with little resolution. No matter how good the draftsman, I found the drawings fundamentally lacking. Even the masters most gestural drawings seem larger and more directed. This caused me to re-examine Leonardo da Vinci's drawings. I tried to find the more wobbly and expedient looking drawings. I was struck how he could focus on the action of phenomena such as the movement of water (shown above) as well as how he would doggedly pursue a subject (e.g. as seen in the studies for the Trivulzio Monument). Da Vinci's sketchbook becomes a symbol of monumental knowledge.

Leonardo da Vinci, Study for the Trivulzio Monument, c. 1508

Leonardo set a high bar for quality in a drawing journal. Perhaps for this reason, many of those artistically inclined have a drive to make the sketchbook an impressive object. The authority of the book as a form may give rise to the feeling that it must be filled in a spectacular way (leading viewers to continue to turn pages). For me this approach has been problematic. While the sketchbook is useful, it was not a format I wanted to invest a large amount of energy, and at times the thought of hundreds of blank pages felt like a trap.

Recently, I have been more devoted to digital drawing. It is appealing because elements can be shifted, re-arranged, and colors can be tested and altered while different versions may be saved. I enjoy the freedom this allows. However, I have found that the little tag sized drawings have a place. The thumbnail drawing does not require a book, special paper, or almost any other kind of barrier between the mind and hand.

One of the benefits of experience is that one is able to evolve past earlier biases. I held on to a prior assumption that thumbnails sketches were not colorful. Perhaps this is because color has a greater psychological connection with painting. Below are a collection of little drawings. While drawing quickly, here I labored in a way I had not previously. The marker became like a brush and in each drawing something new was discovered. While the discoveries did not seem monumental, my thinking was shifted, I found little surprises, and I was able to see potential. Perhaps this is like Leonardo's water study, at the time it was made his sketch may not have seemed like much. However, the drawing did lead Leonardo further down the river toward wider deeper currents.

Thumbnail Collection, 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

March slipped by without posting, but I have been preoccupied. There was an exhibit in Philadelphia (reviewed By Chip Schwartz in Knight Arts). Many thumbnail drawings were accomplished (more on that soon). Much art was added to Pinterest (mostly sculpture and work by the Fauves). Through the ups and downs of March, I tried to stay calm waiting for warmth of Spring.

A few thumbnail sketches from March.

Looking forward to Spring.