I should have been at a jam, painting my friends making music together.  Instead, I was at ArtWalk in downtown Bethlehem on Memorial Day Weekend (when everyone has left town) in the middle of a thunderstorm.  Sitting outside with one’s art is not the best choice in the pouring rain.  Fortunately, I was able to move inside and spend a couple of ours catching up with a good friend, Gayle, who was minding the shop at Artfully Elegant.  Thanks to Gayle, I didn’t go home and slit my throat.

When I find myself at the end of a rope ….. any rope ….. I tell myself that the answer to my problem is simply to get better at what I do.

New and old drawing tools

The trumpet parts had not lined up well in Trumpet Parts No. 87.  First thing this morning, I made myself a grid guide (inspired by the one I saw in Nikolay’s hand at a plein air event last month).  I carefully drew the bent trumpet part, checking and correcting…. checking and correcting. I even hunted down two erasers.  I rarely use an eraser.  Hah!  The parts lined up! I’m sure you can’t tell in this photo.  I incuded my Waterman Phileas fountain pen, and the great leather case (contribution from Nicole), in the photo because it’s about to make its mark on the paper.  Hopefully I haven’t destroyed the surface too much with all my erasures.  I’m not used to drawing in pencil first …. then inking.  I much prefer to start right in with ink and go where my eye leads me, even if it’s down a winding, nonsensical path.

As I near the end of this series of One Hundred Drawings of Trumpet Parts I am faced with a dilemma. A little voice inside my head continues to whisper “Do what you love and the money will come.”  Do what I love?  Should I start another 100 drawings of my bent trumpet parts?

What do I love to draw and paint?  I love drawing dancers in motion, musicians playing …. alone or with others ….. I love throwing paint and bringing nude figures out of the splotches and splatters …. I love plein air painting.  I love starting the day with an ink contour drawing of my bent trumpet parts and adding color with watercolor.

What do I love the most?  Right now I would have to say that it is painting to live music …. letting my dip pen dance across the paper and the watercolor flow over the ink to the patterns and rhythm of the music.  Is there a market for such a thing?  I doubt it.

What I find absurd is that all the other drawing and painting I do is just an exercise to get better at drawing and painting so that I can respond completely intuitively to that incredible moment of motion, rhythms and patterns I experience when listening to live music.

A huge thanks to all the musicians who have created those magical moments for me to attempt to express.

I didn’t really care about selling paintings last night at ArtWalk, I just wanted to share them with friends and strangers.  Of the two people who walked by, one of them made it worth the week of matting and the lugging back and forth of the art.  She looked at the paintings and said ” How strange ….. when I look at these, I actually hear the music.”  She pointed to one ….. “I can hear the jazz of New Orleans in this one!”

Thank you!

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Here is another photo of a new painting hanging in the Bone and Joint area of St. Lukes Hospital in Bethlehem, PA.

Figures in Motion, Watercolor

Thanks to Monsoon Gallery in Bethlehem, PA for  providing this incredible opportunity for me to have my favorite work hung in a place of healing.  Erin did a fabulous job with the matting and framing!  I look forward to seeing the paintings in person.

Paintings in the hallway of St Lukes Hospital

All of the paintings were done in watercolor or pen and ink with watercolor.  They ranged in size from 18″ x 24″ up to 24″ x 48″ unmatted.  Some of them are figures in yoga postures, others are figures dancing and the large ones are of people in line, dancing, talking and interacting in one way or another.

When I sit on my front porch I contemplate the wall of trees beyond the field of hay across the street. I am determined to learn how to render that intimidating wall of green foliage.  My eye perceives the subtle nuances of form, color and value yet I have not been able to express those nuances well with either pencil, pen or paint.

I keep trying.

A treasured drawing book

My current obsession is improving my ability to render with a fountain pen.  I generally use my pen for a contour sketch that I follow with washes of watercolor.  The process is enjoyable and I find the results quite satisfying.  When drawing gets to be too much fun I generally try tackling something that will push me further and earn me further skills to reach a new level of painting and drawing that I find equally as enjoyable.  Rendering in ink fills that criteria.  I pulled a well-loved book from my shelf in hopes that it will suggest a new approach, a variation on what I have already tried and failed at when it comes to cross hatching.

Changing line direction when moving from tree to tree

I often miss seeing the obvious solutions.  My difficulty has been to show the delineation between trees while keeping the values close without outlining the edges of each tree.  Zeichenschule fur Begabta Leute is a drawing book I picked up while living in Germany in 1969.   It appears to have been written by Professor Gerhard Gollwitzer though the copyright is 1964 and belongs to Otto Maier Verlag Ravensburg.  It was published in 1966.

In the book I found a drawing of a wall of trees.  Gollwitzer did not cross hatch.  Instead, he changed the direction of the lines he used with each tree mass.  The first two attempts are shown above.  On the top drawing you can see where I attempted to correct a shape by cross hatching, hoping it wouldn’t be obvious.  Of course, it is.  The cross hatched appears heavy and static to me whereas the trees in the other areas look as if their branches can easily dance in the wind, leaves fluttered by gentle breezes.

My second attempt takes the technique a tiny step further.  I think this might work well for me.

Sketch lightly with pencil to indicate basic shape and position of trees.  Inked using  Noodler’s Fountain Pen filled with Noodler’s Whaleman Sepia.

I came upon a gesture painting I did a couple of years ago of Eric Ortega dancing.  Ahhhhhhh what a thrill it was to watch him dance.

Eric Ortega in Motion, Watercolor Sketch

These little watercolor gesture paintings mean more to me than the more elaborate studio paintings I have done over the many years I have been painting.  I love moments that steal my breath away.  The little paintings I do during live performances of dance and music capture those special moments of stolen breath when the air is filled with the expression of emotion through movement or music.

I don’t know how my life will unfold during the next thirty years, or even during the next three years.  My hope is that I will be able to spend my time nurturing the energy of creative people through my own expression, in drawings and paintings, of the energy they release through their music, dance, poetry, film or any other method of expression.

Be forewarned, this entry is disjointed, triggered by a Tom Waits song that mentioned the “one-eyed Jack”.

My first ribbon painting, watercolor

The image shown is the first of the paintings I did that exposed the ribbons of my brain.  I had learned a watercolor glazing technique at a workshop I attended back in the 80’s.  I find it a bit interesting that I used my least favorite complementary color combination of green and red.

Several month ago Kathleen asked me if I have songs constantly running through my brain as a background to everything else.  No, I don’t.  I have ribbons of color and light constantly running as a background to everything else in my brain.

Since that conversation with Kathleen I have asked several of my musician friends the same question.  The reply in most cases is “yes”.  That appears to be one of the main reasons that many musicians don’t have music going as a background sound while they are at home.  The music on the stereo system is constantly in conflict with the music that is running through their brains.  Though they can choose the music on their ipods or stereos, they have no control over the music that runs through their brains.

I’m thinking that the reason I want to listen to music is that I don’t have it running through my brain.  Watching the ribbons dance through my brain makes me feel deaf when there’s not music to accompany them.  I watch the movement of the ribbons, wondering what they are dancing to.

Painting to live music is expressing the physical manifestations of some of those ribbon movements that are my constant companion.  Perhaps that is why, more than any other paintings or drawings, I feel connected to those quick little paintings.  It’s as if my brain can finally spit out a bit of what it’s been watching forever.

So then, why aren’t more of my paintings like that?  Hmmmm.  Good question.

Back to the one-eyed Jack….

As a young child I spent hours combining dominoes, checkers, chessmen and playing cards on a masonite checkerboard, inventing stories of adventure and romance.  I found the two one-eyed jacks (the jack of hearts and the jack of spades) a bit scary.  The jack of diamonds and the jack of clubs were much friendlier and far less intimidating.  I would generally settle for the less intimidating jacks to be the chosen mates for the queens.  I’ m not sure why the kings were never chosen. The queens, however, became bored quite quickly and ended up thinking about the one-eyed jacks.  I ended the game before the queens ever had a chance to shake up their lives.

I’m not sure what the connection is to the ribbons, but I know that right after the memory of the childhood games was triggered, the ribbons of light became extremely intense in my brain, coming to the forefront rather than staying in the background.

The question to all of you is “What is it that runs as a constant background in your brains?”

I had forgotten this little gem.

Making a line shimmy and shake

I think this little ink drawing was done during a Zumba class.  Line is, for me, the most expressive mark I make and dancing bodies bring out the best in me.  I continue to strive for this kind of vitality in my paintings.

Tonight is the weekly Blues Jam at Larry Holmes Ringside Restaurant in Easton, PA.  Mike and Monica are flying up from Florida this morning and will join me at the Blues Jam.  I think they will love the music and the dance floor.  Not only will I get to paint the musicians tonight, I will have the opportunity to paint Mike and Monica dancing.  They are both awesome dancers.  I don’t think my fountain pen will do them justice.  I think it’s a night for the dip pen.

The joy of creating a specialized gift for a loved one.

 

Top Spin Slice Power First Serve

 

Gift giving time has always been a challenge for me.  I am not a shopper and I don’t like risking giving something that the person might not like and that will add clutter to their environment.  Creating a little drawing or painting often resolves that conflict for me.  Even if the gift is not something the person likes very much, it is clear that I had them in mind and made the time to create something unique for them.

My Dad’s loving companion, Jane, travels around the country playing tennis.  I know very little about tennis.  Thanks to the internet I was able to view a series of photographs that illustrated the “Top Spin Slice Power First Serve”.

I used my Cross Fountain Pen to draw this gesture line drawing.