I decided to do a take-off on Botticelli's famous "Birth of Venus" -- making her older, but still lovely. I also very loosely based some of her features on my own. Of course, as they say, every portrait is, to one degree or another, a self-portrait. Not a "finished" piece, but more in keeping with the freshness and spontaneity of a sketch.
For one hour
If I could be anyone for one hour, who would it be? Easy answer. I would be the Pope. Not for any theological reason. Not to make history as the first female pope. No, I would choose to be Pope so that I could spend one, golden, undisturbed hour in the Sistine Chapel, all by myself. Perhaps I would borrow a "cherry picker," so I could look as closely as I wanted to. And, here is a "cherry picker" (yes, as is obvious, I lifted the photo off the internet).
Many art apps exist for the iPad. I started out with ArtRage, but have been using Sketch Club exclusively for several months. Sketch Club turned out to be more than just an app -- it's also an online community, a social app as well as an art app. Artists from around the globe post their digital sketches online. Check it out at http://app.sketchclub.com/
If you go to my profile -- http://app.sketchclub.com/user/16505705 -- you will see how it all works. At the top, a short bio. Below that, see the sketches I have recently given a "thumbs up" or click on the heart to see sketches I have awarded a "heart". We earn hearts as we go along and, once given, that individual heart is gone. So, people award a heart when they really, really like a sketch. As you scroll down my page, you will see my Recent Sketches. Scroll down further to see my Top Sketches. That's where it gets really interesting. Watching a recent sketch surge upward gets my attention -- tells me I'm on to something. The sketch that just sits there, without much feedback? Let's me know I'm NOT onto something. The occasional heart is always appreciated and sometimes shocking. My "Steampunk Snoopy" sketch, which I almost didn't upload because I wasn't really happy with it -- as of this writing has two hearts, 25 thumbs up and 20 comments. HOLY COW, that was unexpected!!!! I'll show it to you at the bottom of this blog.
Now, let's look at one of the most beloved of the Sketch Club community. I share these sketches with his permission, and all copyrights remain with the artist.
Pastor Bob. Also known, affectionately, as PB. Check him out: http://app.sketchclub.com/user/3149669 He has been a SC member since March 1, 2011. In that time, he has uploaded (at least as of this moment) a grand total of 2,200 sketches! Second only to Peking Duck , who has 2,493 sketches -- check them out: http://app.sketchclub.com/user/12185641
At left, see the good pastor's Top Sketch, titled "Cardinal", uploaded about a year ago -- and, below, a more recent sketch, titled "Harvest Moon."
Impressive technical skill, yes? Even if Anime is your thing, or Abstract Expressionism, or whatever, just admit it. He's good. And, as good as his earliest sketches are, I see a great deal of growth -- and this has happened in the space of about a year and a half. How do you obtain mastery? By working at it! Persistently. Maybe obsessively, even. If you have to ice your wrist after a day of drawing, you are well on your way to mastery! Talent alone doesn't cut it. It helps, sure, but without persistence, it goes nowhere.
Returning to Pastor Bob. Generous with his gifts, he gives online tutorials and classes (with homework, people, so pay attention!)
For some examples of PB's and other's online tutorial/classes, as well as livesketches and other cool content, go to Sketch Club TV on YouTube:
I should probably add that Sketch Club was developed by a gaming architect, Jim Scott, whose Sketch Club profile name is blackpawn. He's on LinkedIn, and has an awesome resume. Does the game "Guild Wars" ring a bell? Check out his Sketch Club sketches at: http://app.sketchclub.com/user/146001
And, as I promised. Below, see my "Steampunk Snoopy" sketch.
The greatest advantage of the self-portrait is simply that I am always available to model for myself. The difficulty lies in the question: use a mirror or a photo? I prefer the mirror, as it gives more immediacy. A photograph is a frozen moment. Looking in the mirror, I see my expression change slightly, the tilt of the head change. I see the concentration and focus -- and sometimes, the frustration, when the drawing is not working out. However, when sitting in a coffee shop with my iPad and wanting to draw, but no handy models? Taking a quick photo of myself with the iPad, then working over it in a drawing app, can be very satisfying in its own way. All of these drawings were done using the Sketch Club app for the iPad. Some were then loaded into the Camera+ app for cropping and color manipulation. And, yes, I usually edit out my wrinkles. Not out of vanity, really, but simply because I don't feel wrinkled inside.
See below, Self-Portrait as a Robot in a Pink Hat
I always wear a hat. I have worn my pink hat more than any other this summer. Do you ever feel like a robot, going thru the motions, cold and numb?
I did this self-portrait, at left, two days after my mother's death, six weeks ago. Her passing filled me with both deep feeling and great numbness. At times, the two states took turns. Sometimes, they resided within me simultaneously. Perhaps one in my head and the other in my heart. We were not close, due to her severe alcoholism throughout my childhood.. A friend told me it is harder to grieve the loss of those we love and yet are not close to. Her death meant the death of a dream -- the impossible fantasy that we could someday have a normal mother-daughter relationship. She became sober in her Fifties, a remarkable achievement. But, her sobriety did not magically fill in my childhood memories with the love and nurture that were not there. I was more her mother, and my feelings for her were therefore much more maternal than filial.
Her passing has, however, helped me to see her more clearly. Yes, I had a horrible childhood. But, she had a horrific one. Realizing that terrible fact, I can give her this grace: she did better by me than was done by her.
A recent assignment in my Daily Draw group was: choose an object and draw that object each day for a week. I chose a mask that I bought last October in Florence, Italy, from a street vendor. It was cheap, probably made in China, but I liked it anyway. Here are some of those drawings, the last being the one drawing that meant the most to me. These were all done using the Sketch Club app for iPad, along with more than one photo editing app to crop, manipulate color, duplicate, flip and collage.
The Daily Draw
When I saw the assignment for last week's Daily Draw, my heart sank. "Childhood Memories." I don't have that many good childhood memories. As an adult, years of therapy (individual, marriage, group) gradually helped me to "un-numb," grieve, and, as much as possible, move on. These days, I find it is best to not dwell on the events of my childhood, except to answer a question or to help someone else know that they are not alone. I did not relish this assignment. But, I committed to do a drawing a day, based on the subject given. So, I plunged in. I did these drawings on the iPad, using the Sketch Club app, and doing some cropping and color editing with the Camera+ app. I tried to find the positive memories.
So first. I always read, voraciously. The first drawing? I still have my old copy of Winnie-the-Pooh. Not the Disney version, the original. A good memory. And, second, I remembered playing in a pothole after a heavy rain with my best friend, Mary Elizabeth. We were perhaps four years old.
The assignment had stirred up some bad memories, even tho I tried to focus on the positive. I missed one day, due to emotional exhaustion, I suppose. But, the next day, the last day, I found one of the best memories. I did the text below left using Sketch Club, which has a text setting.
The current week's assignment: pick an object, draw it each day using a different technique/style. I will post those drawings next week. And, for your amusement., here is a Chef Boy-Ar-Dee commercial from 1953, the year before I was born:
My favorite week of the Daily Draw Group: pick an album and do a drawing a day based on a different song title each day. I picked Abbey Road, by the Beatles. Usually, I prefer to draw from life. I have the devil of a time trying to draw from my imagination. I enjoyed this particular assignment, tho. Here are my four favorites of that week, all done on the iPad, using the Sketch Club app, then editing in Camera+ and a few other photo-editing apps.
Yes, there were three others. But, I'll stop here. With my favorites.
Having Fun with an iPad
Playing with an iPad is soooooooooo much fun. Here is a digital drawing I recently did, using the ArtRage app.
And then the fun began.......
I loaded the drawing into several different photography apps. Alas, I should have documented which ones I used when. For, here are the different versions, and I'm not sure which one was altered in PS Express, which in Simply HDR-Hd, or in both. But, here they are. Choose the one you like the best. If any.
below, the 3rd version:
The 4th version.
And, finally, the 5th version:
I have asked friends to tell me which one they like best. I was hoping for a consensus. Nope. Each one has at least one "like."
I may never know which one is "best." And, that's okay.
But, is it art?
I'm amazed at how quickly Young Turks turn into Old Farts. We all must age, but must we all grown old?. No! It is not inevitable that the free-thinker become the narrow-minded, the flexible grow rigid, the reformer convert to orthodoxy. Alas, even artists can fall into this trap. Artists, who, of all people, should be quick to recognize the creative possibilities of any new medium.
Some young artists today have never used charcoal, pen, pencil, ink, pastels, paint, paper or canvas. They create digital art, maybe on a Wacom Tablet or an iPad. If your immediate response is "Well, that doesn't count." or "That's cheating," then you may, indeed, be an Old Fart. We've been thru this argument before, you know. The old "Photography isn't Art" debate.
Check out the paper Art and Code: The Aesthetic Legacy of Aldo Giorgini (by Esteban Garcia and David Whittinghill): "Abstract: In 1975 Aldo Georgini developed a software program in FORTRAN called FIELDS, a numerical visual laboratory devoted entirely to art production. Working extensively as both artist and scientist, Giorgini was one of the first computer artists to combine software writing with early printing technologies, leaving an aesthetic legacy in the field of the digital arts. His individual process was innovative in that it consisted of producing pen-plotted drawings embellished by the artist's hand with painting, drawing, and screen-printing. This paper is the product of a multi-year study of Georgini's primary source materials provided by his estate. The authors examine the methods used by Georgini during the 1970s that allowed him to create computer-aided art, in the hope that publishing this work will ensure that future generations of digital artists, technologists and scientists can be educated in Georgini's contribution to the history of the digital arts.". http://www.leonardo.info/isast/journal/currentiss.html
Wait a minute? 1975? Here is one of his images, titled "Claustrophobia":
Op Art, right? Here is "Metamorphosis," by British artist Bridget Riley, done in 1964.
Does paint make one piece art and the other something else? (For more on Aldo Giorgini, you can consult Wikipedia. Or, chick out this great little article her wrote, as a letter to the editor: http://www.atariarchives.org/artist/sec3.php)
Remember the Quantel Paintbox? From Wikipedia: "The Quantel Paintbox was a dedicated computer graphics workstation for composition of broadcast television video and graphics. Its design emphasizes the studio workflow efficiency required for live news production. Following its initial launch in 1981, it revolutionised the production of television graphics." Here, an image by Eduardo Gutekunst, using Quantel Paintbox, from the December, 1985 issue of Antic, (from atarimagazines.com):
Was his given last name Gutekunst? In German, it means "good art." Did he decide to live up to his name? Or, was it his nom d'artiste?
Now, let's look at Bert Monroy, who began his digital art career in 1984. Here is his artist statement: "As a photo-realist painter, I have often been asked why I don’t just take a photograph. Good question, when you consider my paintings look like photographs. Well, for one thing, I’m not a photographer. To me, it is not the destination that is important—it is the journey. The incredible challenge of recreating reality is my motivation." Yes, his work is digital. And, yes, he calls himself a painter. Here is his piece Lunch in Tiburon.
Check out Bert Monroy's website: http://www.bertmonroy.com/
Now, consider this painting by well-known photorealist Janet Fish:
Does it count more simply because she used a traditional medium? Here is a quote from the artist herself: "I think it is important to do what you believe in and ignore the critics."
Let's close with famous British artist David Hockney. He has used every kind of traditional art media you can think of. But, throughout his career he has worked with new technologies. Prints using photocopiers. And fax machines. He worked with the Quantel Paintbox for the BBC program, Painting with Light. (I would share the Youtube link, but the video has been removed. Copyright violations. I understand, but I still sigh.) He worked extensively with the Polaroid Camera, putting together amazing photocollages. See some on his website: http://www.hockneypictures.com/photos/photos_polaroids.php
And, lately, he has been working with the iPhone and iPad. The exhibit "David Hockney: me draw on iPad" is currently on view at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Visit: (http://www.louisiana.dk/uk/Menu/Exhibitions/David+Hockney%3A+Me+Draw+On+iPad)
Perhaps I will discuss MacPaint another time, since it is past my bedtime. For info, consult Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacPaint
Doing artwork on the iPad has been both frustrating and rewarding. Why frustrating? I have been in a comfortable rut with charcoal and pastel on Kraft paper for awhile. And doing charcoal gesture drawings on printer paper. I've received a lot of positive feedback on those works. So, I'm impatient with the learning curve of the iPad. I want to be just as skilled with it as I am with more traditional media. The tactile sensation is nothing like drawing with charcoal on paper. The tools provided by the app simulate oil painting, watercolors, pen, pencil, crayon, etc. But, it doesn't act exactly the same.
But. learning new skills is inherently rewarding. It's like solving a puzzle. I'm convinced that what we call self-esteem comes, in part, from mastery. The other component is unconditional love, but that's a different blog.
The iPad offers some interesting possibilities. I took a picture of a drawing that I gave away to the model. Taking a picture indoors with my iPhone camera produced a very blurry image. So, in iPhoto, I straightened and cropped the image, then uploaded it to the iPad. Brought up the ArtRage app, and started working on the image. Here is the progression:
Here is the first blurry photo.
Then, straightened and cropped:
And, then, after some time playing around with ArtRage.
Is it better? Worse? Or, just different. The original drawing was a three-minute pose, if I recall correctly. Gesture drawings have a great feeling of energy. The ArtRage version looks more like an illustration, I think. I hope some of the energy remains.
The model still has the original drawing. The iPad offers the possibility of manipulating the original image many, many times over, without in any way altering the original piece. So, if I liked the original charcoal on printer paper piece, the wonderful thing is: it is still there, unchanged. Unless, of course, the model smeared the charcoal. Pretty cool.