Sheltering in place for me has meant staying home, with exceptions: walking the dog, going to the Farmers Market (masked and socially distanced) and getting coffee delivery curbside (again, masked and socially distanced). When I want to draw a human subject, the only person handy has been my husband. So here, are three recent sketches of him at the kitchen table. As always, drawn freehand on my iPad Pro, using the Sketch Club app. Quick and spontaneous, not finished works. But, I hope they still offer some charm.
The Old Masters have so much to teach us, if we will "listen," by standing in front of a great work of art, spending time with it, observing rather than simply looking. The average museum visitor spends 15-30 seconds looking at a work of art. Spend two hours doing this, and you will leave visually exhausted, but having learned very little. As the saying goes, "Don't drink water from a firehose." In our fast-paced culture, 15-30 seconds can seem like a long time, but, you have only, as it were, read the first sentence of a book, rather than even the first chapter.
The best way to slow down in front of a work of art and to actually remember it after you leave? Draw it, even if all the museum allows is one of those tiny "putt-putt golf" pencils. Here, sketching on a mobile device becomes a real plus, as you are carrying an entire studio with you. I count three ways to approach the artwork: analytically, intuitively, and both. I believe the greatest artists, such as da Vinci and Michelangelo, approached their own work using both analysis and intuition, but most of us lean strongly one way or the other. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. The intuitive approach leads to greater spontaneity, but less accuracy; the analytical to more precision, but less fluidity. Combine the two, and you do indeed have the potential to become a great master.
Personally, I lean strongly toward the intuitive. As I have always said, show me a preparatory sketch by a great artist and the finished work, I will choose the sketch every time. I love seeing the artist's mind and instincts at work. I consider myself a journeyman draftsman, so to speak, who has an occasional breakthrough of brilliance, and then wonders, "How in the world did I create THAT!!!???"
Currently, in the midst of the pandemic, I find I am in one of the high risk groups for complications from the virus. Even though the local art museum has reopened, albeit at 25% capacity, prudence dictates I stay home. So, I googled one of the old masters, John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). Not a name the average person knows, but if you love the pre-Raphaelite painters, he is a must-see. Being more interested in drawings, rather than paintings, I found his Study for the Lady Clare, done in chalk and paper. Spending a little over an hour on my iPad, Apple Pencil in hand, I became absorbed in this lovely piece. The resulting sketch is in no way an exact copy, but I so enjoyed working on it. Here is the result. On the left, my 18-minute beginning, on the right further developed, total time a little over an hour.
For information and a reproduction of the original work, see www.wikiart.org/en/john-william-waterhouse/study-for-the-lady-clare
For an excellent article on looking at art, see this from the New York Times: www.nytimes.com/2014/10/12/travel/the-art-of-slowing-down-in-a-museum.html
And, as bonus, for Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "Lady Clare," see www.bartleby.com/360/2/226.html
And, when the pandemic crisis has abated, go to a museum, pick an artwork, and draw it for at least 20 minutes. For now, we will have to settle for Google.
You find the oddest things sometimes in the woods. Things left behind, discarded, uncared for, broken, abandoned. Here are a few recent ones I have found here and there. I find them evocative and beautiful, in their own way. We are all broken, to one degree or another, but beautiful in our brokenness.
The Resurrection of Christ, by Matthias Grunewald
Here, I present to you my favorite depiction of the Resurrection, by Matthias Grunewald, one of the great German painters of his time. Not originally a free-standing painting, it was part of the Isenheim Altarpiece, a tour de force of Northern Renaissance painting. I have never seen it in person, only in reproduction, but even in reproduction, it has powerful impact: Christ emerging with blinding light and color, the Roman soldiers prostrate upon the ground.
Khan Academy's website describes the Altarpiece as the most fantastically weird artistic production of Renaissance Christianity, "Christ is wreathed in orange, red and yellow body haloes and rises like a streaking fireball... " I couldn't put it better myself.
None of the Gospel writers describe the actual event of the Resurrection. None of them were there to see it happen. They tell us of the aftermath, the encounters with Jesus. Perhaps the most tender meeting occurs in the Book of John, with Mary Magdalen. "Woman, why are you crying?" He asks her, as she mistakes him for the gardener. Then, when he calls her by name, she recognizes him and cries out "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). And perhaps the strangest moment occurs a week later, when He appears to the disciples and commands Thomas, who had not believed He had risen, to reach out his hand and put it into the wound in his side. "Stop doubting and believe." In the painting, Grunewald shows the marks in the hands and feet, the wound in the side. Even in His Resurrection, Christ still bears his wounds, the signs of his sacrifice.
Today, April 12th, 2020, we attended Easter worship service via livestream. Our church has not met physically for a month, even though here in Texas, churches are exempt from the state orders regarding social distancing. Our church leadership responsibly decided that, to protect the most vulnerable among us, we would be meeting virtually, not physically. A different Easter for us all, but Easter, nevertheless.
The early spring wildflowers are here, not in as great profusion as in some years, but still not a shabby display. This being the time of the Covid Pandemic, we are on Stay in Shelter status; however, the guidelines allow us to go outdoors for exercise, so long as we stay 6 feet away from other people. So, we are still able to take the dog for walks. Here are a few photos, all taken with my iPhone 7 Plus, edited n the Camera+ app and Instagram.
"It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart." -- Rainer Maria Rilke
The wildflower known as Indian Paintbrush
I had thought of visiting Venice in February, the time of year that, my research says, has the least number of tourists. So, the prospect of seeing Piazza San Marco without quite as many bodies in it was tempting. But, we went to Maine in October, vacation time is a bit slim, so we didn't go after all.
Now, coronavirus is there. Piazza San Marco is empty. I wanted to go to Milan as well. In both cities, museums have closed. Hotels, restaurants are empty. Part of me wants to go ahead, buy a ticket, take a chance, just with the prospect of seeing the cities without the crowds. But, the sensible part of me says no. The State Department has issued a travel advisory for Italy. It isn't worth the risk.
I pray we won't see a repeat of the horrifying flu pandemic after World War I, when millions died, or the pandemic of 1957. Yes, we have modern medicine. But, it's a virus. Medicine is more limited in that case than if it were bacterial.
Here, a painting of Piazza San Marco by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I hope we can go one day. Perhaps next year....
For information on the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, here is Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_flu
And for info on the Asian Flu pandemic of 1957-58, here is the CDC. www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1957-1958-pandemic.html
Blanche Barrow, married to Buck Barrow, Clyde Barrow's brother, became part of Bonnie and Clyde's gang. We don't know if she was enthusiastic about the enterprise, but it was the family business after all. According to Wikipedia, she only spent four months with the gang, but she still managed to become a nationally recognized fugitive from the law. She was blinded in one eye during one of their getaways. A posse caught up with her and Buck, fatally wounding him. She served 6 years in prison for intent to kill the sheriff of Platte County, MO. And yet, so says Wikipedia, he treated her sympathetically. She remarried after her release from prison, apparently living a quiet, unremarkable life, and died Christmas Eve, 1988, just short of her 78th birthday.
I tried to give her a sense of quiet tragedy. What would life have been, if she hadn't chosen her husband so poorly? Did she just go along to get along, or did she relish that life?
I assume a police mugshot is in the public domain.
Being a Boomer, I never intended to have arthritis and silver hair. No, those things just weren't in my agenda. But, here we are. This piece is based on a photo I took of myself in the mirror. The phone serves as a mask, shielding my face from the prying eyes of the world. Sometimes I can be very outgoing. Sometimes, I need that space. Drawn freehand on my iPad Pro, Apple Pencil between my fingers. No image load involved. The app used: Sketch Club. About two hours of work total.
The cell phone, meant to be a means of communication, has also become a device of disconnection. Lately I've become interested in how the phone shields the face, if only partially. Go out to eat, and you almost always will see a group of people, a family, where each person is on a mobile device. Sometimes even toddlers will be occupied with an iPad. A friend who works in Special Education at an elementary told me a few years ago that they are seeing more and more children arriving in Kindergarten with delay in both expressive and receptive language skills. She blames the mobile devices, and the research seems to back her up.
Here are four recent works. These pieces were all drawn on my iPad Pro, Apple Pencil in hand, no image loads, using the Sketch Club app for IOS.
Unafraid Lavender Nail Polish
I recently visited the Blanton Museum of Art on the University of Texas campus to see an exhibit of works by American artist Charles White. I was particularly taken with a large drawing titled "Awaken from the Unknowing," 1961. Charcoal and Wolff crayon on paperboard. Here is my sketch, drawn freehand on my iPad Pro, using the Sketch Club app. For more info on the work itself, visit: hammer.ucla.edu/now-dig-this/art/awaken-from-the-unknowing