Archives for the month of: November, 2010

I haven’t taken a figure drawing class since college (and even then I’m guessing it was a workshop, not a full semester), so to say it’s been a while is an understatement. So when a friend let me know about a drop-in figure drawing class, I was both excited and nervous.

The daunting challenge of drawing people – or worse, drawing faces! What is it about this that is so intimidating? The face is the connection with the inner soul of another, and so capturing that seems to be of the utmost importance. And it stands to reason that the face also seems to be the most intricate (intimate?) part of the body – lots to capture in that drawing, explicitly and implicitly. Good thing I didn’t think about any of this before I started going to the class.

Also, I brought some tools with me that I learned from a past art professor, Robert Spellman. The most important instruction is to not worry about the outcome, but instead enjoy and experience the process. The second is a cool tip that I like because it helps me get started by going through a “back door” of sorts: keep your eye on the thing you are drawing at all times, don’t look at the paper, and practice really drawing what you see, instead of what you think you see. Harder than it sounds. Sometimes this means that the drawing doesn’t look “realistic”, but they tend to look “real”.

I use Prismacolor markers – I have a gray-scale set and a color set, and I draw on 60lb paper. In a three hour session, the model takes breaks about every 20 minutes (the position is marked with tape), and I flip through my sketchpad doing about 5 to 14 sketches in the whole session.

I also enjoyed drawing hands, so I’ll upload some of those images in an upcoming post.

Went to an amazing talk by Yael Kanarek on Nov. 9th at the CU Art Museum. She is a multi-media artist from New York/Israel, and she presented on the topic of Visualizing Language. She has created a whole new alter universe, called World of Awe, in which the narrator travels through a time-space gap on the lower-east side in Manhattan, and travels through this new world in search of….

What struck me most, while at this talk, was the reminder of all of the separate worlds within our whole existence on this planet. Around the globe there are SO many different cultures and languages, and also “languages of type” – in other words, people that tend towards a certain interest also have a language about that interest, and speak about it in a certain way. To outsiders, it seems a little foreign, until you hang around for a while. I noticed this when Yael was speaking, or when I talk with other artists. There is a flowing stream-like quality to the speech and topic, and artists seem to be able to tap into another language to describe what they are getting at. This is because what artists are getting at is typically non-verbal, so of course they (we) are trying to speak as close to that experience as possible.

I find it thrilling to be a part of this dialogue.

I realized that I needed to practice with some technique before I could move forward with the larger handprint ideas. An image of layering and depth was coming to mind, so I started putting pieces together to craft my vision.

First, the background. Working with text, pages, images of past, one type of reality – science, I layered pages from an old Biology textbook onto a piece of plywood. Then I obscured that language with a layer of natural handmade japanese paper, sheer, soft, textured – not texted. I used Nori – a Japanese paste used in printmaking to thicken ink and glue paper – to adhere each layer.

Then, I cut two pieces of plexiglass to the same shape of the plywood, and started layering: hands, paper, plexiglass – a clear and protective layer. Since this was a test piece, I didn’t try to get too complex – I just placed 4 handprints in between varying layers of Plexi.

Finally, I clamped all of the layers together and drilled holes into each corner, all the way through each layer, and then bolted the layers together. This too was a learning experience: since I didn’t clamp close enough to the drilling location, the plexiglass had room to move up and down as the drill went in, and the top layer cracked a little. If you look closely at the top corners, you can see it. Here’s the finished product:

And for kicks, some trivia:

Plexiglass is the marketing name for Poly(methyl methacrylate) – PMMA! Some interesting facts about Plexiglass that artists might care about, brought to you by Wikipedia: PMMA a is strong and lightweight material. It also has good impact strength, higher than both glass and polystyrene. PMMA transmits up to 92% of visible light (3 mm thickness). It filters ultraviolet light at wavelengths below about 300 nm (similar to ordinary window glass).

On a recent trip to visit a friend in Portland, I got a tip to check out Em Space, a letterpress studio and book arts center. Very cool place.

Em Space is located in the heart of the industrial part of the city (south-east), and we noticed that there were other commercial printing companies around, so we suspected we were in the right place.

Em Space is a co-op, where membership allows you rights to use the member-owned-and-loaned presses, sets of type, and more. Rory, the founder, was very cool and explained a little bit about the structure of the organization, and she was very open to sharing ideas for those who want to start a print co-op in their own city.

One of the presses they have in the studio is the Vandercook, which celebrated its 100th birthday in 2009! New York printers Barbara Henry and Roni Gross enlisted artists from around the world to create works on this press in honor of its place in history. The collection is named the Vandercook Book. Em Space was lucky enough to have access to one set of the prints, and we checked them out on the studio wall. Amazing work.

“The company was started in Chicago in September 1909 by R.O. Vandercook. Designed to proof a page of type before being sent to the press, the earliest proof presses depended on a roller and the force of gravity to make an impression of type on paper. The Vandercook proof press built upon this technology to incorporate a carriage and cylinder that could be finely adjusted.” (from The Museum of Printing History)