Sunday, December 27, 2009

What is the Mission of Art?

One of the great questions for myself in my art revolves around discovering my mission as an artist. What is my mission? To be sure, for those of you who have been following this blog, some of it is sharing with others lessons İ have learned along the way that İ hope will be of use to others who are awakening to the need to follow their bliss. In creating art , I am following my bliss and this fulfills one of my personal missions in life. While İ believe that creating in and of itself is the mission of artists, İ also believe that artists have a role to play in saying something with their art, something that is hopefully meaningful and even transformative to others. Toward this end, one of the best texts I have ever read about art is The Mission of Art by Alex Grey. You must read this book. I generally avoid books about art other than how to books these days, but this one grabbed me from cover to cover. I have gone through the trouble of reserving a copy for you, at the side of this blog.:)Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Juggling for Artists

As an artist, developing your hand-eye coordination is an important endeavor when it comes to drawing. As Betty Edwards, the world famous art instructor and author of a series of fantastic drawing instruction books, points out, the crucial element of learning to draw is to draw what you actually see before you rather than what you think you see.Toward this end, the hand must also be trained to respond accurately and translate what the eye sees into marks on the paper. To develop this vital capacity, there are a number of activities one can do. To be sure, drawing itself develops this skill. Another skill that many drawing instructors recommend to help a student strengthen their hand-eye coordination is juggling. Juggling? Yes, learning to juggle can improve your drawing skills as strange as this may sound. Besides this, learning to juggle is pretty simple and quite fun. I learned to juggle about 25 years ago when a friend of my mother showed me how and gave me three bean bags, starting me off. Since then, I have learned many more advance juggling skills other than your standard three-ball cascade. Most toy stores, and even many book stores, have a basic how-to set and You Tube is also full of instructional videos, like the one I have linked here. Learning to juggle is a fun skill to have.
Similarly, juggling can also teach you lessons that are useful in other areas of your life. Years ago, I came across the book, Lessons from the Art of Juggling. For those who are interested in following their own dreams, listen up. The authors, Michael Gelb and Tony Buzan have many insightful ideas which proceed from learning to juggle. When learning to juggle, many make the mistake of trying to catch every throw they make. You have seen this before, soon the new juggler is running all over the place to catch their mistaken throws. Gelb and Buzan point out that this actually slows down the process of learning to juggle as catching those poor throws reinforces suching throwing, literally teaching you to throw poorly. The quicker route is to let the poor throws fall to the ground and only catch the balls that come to your hand in such a way that you are not thrown off balance in the course of catching. By staying balanced, you teaching yourself to throw correctly and soon develop a juggling rhythm that becomes meditative and allows you to learn even more advanced juggling tricks should you so desire.
Gelb and Buzan go on to illustrate how this can be a metaphor for how one approaches life. THink of the opportunity that comes to your life yet really throws your life off track as you chase after it. Gelb and Buzan argue that this is the poor throw that you should let drop, and only take on those ventures that are more or less in harmony with your being. I have found this idea quite valuable and has helped me think about opportunities that come to me. In fact, this is immanent in the idea of following your bliss. THere are lots of other gems in this book, so check it out. I have added links to the books I have been writing about in these posts. If you are moved to purchase them, you can help me subsidize my book habit by buying them through the links on my page. THanks to all of you who are reading my blog, I'd love to hear back from you regarding anything in my blog. I'd also love to hear from you about any books you have found that have inspired you. What is moving you these days?
The picture I included is one of my finest pieces, a drawing I did with colored pencils. I think this drawing shows the extent to which I have developed my hand-eye coordination for drawing. I am quite proud of this piece and I never tire of the satisfaction that looking at it gives me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Contest

A lot has been going on with me this week.To begin with, I have created another web gallery for my art work. I am thrilled about it and I would like to get some feedback from you about which web gallery you prefer. The first one I created has some benefits I appreciate, particularly the really excellent personalized service I received from the people there. That site is : My newest site, well I am really over the moon about the design and all the bells and whistles it has. That site is: Both of them have pretty modest fees, so I probably could keep both of them, but though I will keep both of them running for awhile, I am more inclined to pick the one I like the best. So, toward this end, I would really, really, really appreciate if you all would take a look at both of them and give me some feedback, either as comments on this blog or as an email about which one you think is best from your standpoint.
As I have been creating all these outlets for sharing my art with others,I have had to starting thinking more about how to communicate about what my art is about, or at the very least to describe more about the pieces I have done. This has not been an area that I had put much into in the past and now I am feeling it is an area that I want to develop with regards to my art. Thankfully, I am finding that the last ten years I have spent as an English teacher (I can hardly believe that its been a decade) has had a beneficial effect on my writing skills. So far, I think that I want to go in the direction I go when I show someone interested in my art in person, which is talking about the stories that seem to underlie the pictures for me, such as what was going on in my life, or the world as I saw it, or other narratives that seem relevant to the genesis of my work.
My whole way of approaching all of the various enterprises that are involved with recreating myself once again flow from the notion of continuing to show up for all the commitments that I am finding it takes. In other words, I am breaking all the work I want to accomplish into small tasks that don't overwhelm me and vitiate my other commitments (my day job, my family, my health and so forth). So far so good, as I am finding this strategy has been quite effective towards meeting the goals I have set. Bringing this back to writing about my art, it means that little by little the online gallery experience for those interested will include more of my thinking about my work. I hope that you find what I come up with to be interesting and insightful.
The piece accompanying this post is a quite recent creation. A pen and ink drawing from a photo reference, I am pleased with this composition as it's my first one to include more than one person. As a first go at that sort of thing, I am satisfied. I definitely want to add more complex compositions to my portfolio after this experience. As an aside, on my print-on-demand site, I receive some gratifying feedback from some fellow artists about this piece. Beyond liking the image and the new challenge it represented, there is not much in the way of personal stories behind it.
To close this post, I want to ask another question of you, what is giving meaning to you these days?

Sunday, December 6, 2009


This weekend, a couple of fellow artists and myself organized a life drawing seesion for ourselves. I have not drawn from a live model in years so it was wonderful and challenging. Capturing the human form is one of my favorites exercises in art. Though I have been quite intently drawing the human figure on a daily basis, I have been either working from photo references or from my imagination. Ain't nothing like the real thing baby!But I digress, as what I want to address is this week's blogs is the notion of allies.
I consider allies to be of vital importance to the success of any endeavor you pursue. Allies can be found in all kinds of places. Certainly, we hope, they are to be found among your exisitng friends and family. As we generally turn to such loved ones for love and support, they can be natural allies to reaching our goals. In addition to that is the sort of allies that show up when you commit to your path. Here a famous quote attributed to Goethe that I have always loved:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
I love the idea of forces larger than ourselves having our back and being on our side. As part of the intent behind this post is not only to inspire with words such as Goethe as well as those that the Muses allow me, but also to stand witness and offer my life experiences as concrete proof of the veracity of what I assert to be true. Toward this end, I have been quite delighted to find numerous examples of providence moving with me. I have always found that some of my greatest allies have been books. A big part of what I am doing is self-study. I have gathered a tremendous faculty in my home that I am turning to guide me toward reaching my creative goals. Along the same lines, the advent of the internet makes it quite easy for experts to self-publish their own instructional videos in a variety of sources. I am using a number of those as well. Both these kinds of resources are well-suited to my personal requirements so that I can easily pick them up when I have the opportunity.
The internet has also provided numerous other sources of allies such as blogs like this one and social networking phenomena like facebook and twitter. For example,I am using facebook to let my peeps know when I publish this blog. In an earlier post, I mentioned my new online galieries,,and my print on demand service at Red Bubble, There are a couple of slide shows on my blog which are showing my prints and you can also click on those to go straightto my print service. This is the giving season and a print of my artwork would make a wonderful gift. Now back to our program. Setting up those sites has lead me to a whole new ocean of allies. On my Red Bubble site, there is a contant stream of comments of artists like myself offering mutual support to each other by looking at each others art, offering comments and indicating their favorites. It is a great experience to get kudos from others you respect and admire. I have also been joining/following all sort of blogs from fellow artists as sources of inspiration and mutual support. And I thank all of you reading this now as I count you among my allies.
To bring this blog full circle, the drawing I did last week was what I hope will be the inauguration of a community of artists that I will work with and meet with regularly. WHile I have historically preferred to create art by myself, the drawing I did last weekend has given me reason to do more to create a circle of artists in my area that I can physically meet with to draw and talk about art.
In the spirit of this weeks blog, I posted a sketch I did of a few of my favorite writers, Robert L. Stevenson, Herman Hesse and John Steinbeck.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Drawing Study

I wanted to share in this blog about some of the work I am doing these days. One of my goals as an artist is to be able to draw the human from my imagination with the competance of my favorite illustrators. Last spring, I came across an excellent resource,Learn to Draw the Human Figure,I have been using that for some time now and am quite pleased with my improvement. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning to draw the human figure. It consists of a series of short instructional videos that are easy to follow and help you develop the understanding needed to draw the figure from your mind. I usually spend the first part of my daily drawing work with a couple of these videos. I have worked through about half of the 178 videos in his system. I am drawing everyday these days and I have a series of exercises I work through, sort of like my own drawing exercise circuit. This daily attention to drawing has not only meant that I am actively engaged in meeting my goals, but also realizing many of the side benefits attendant with pursuing my passion. I can say that I feel a greater sense of purpose and the energizing effect of this reverberates throughout the rest of my endeavors. It puts the the proverbial spring in my stride. Furthermore, this energy helps me sail through any upset or stress that comes my way.
Another of the resources I am using these days is a series of art reference books by the great illustrator Burne Hogarth. The picture I added to this blog is my rendition of one of the illustrations from Burne's Dynamic Anatomy. He has 6 books out and they are all wonderful. You can find them easily on the internet or used at your favorite used bookseller such as Powells or Amazon. Burne's art revolutionized comic book art in the 40's with his work on Tarzan and generations of artists afterwards have been influenced by his style. One of the ways to improve your drawing is through studying and recreating the works of other artists who you admire. Part of my study these days has been through drawing Hogarth's anatomy illustrations. The one I have posted here is a more finished version than I usually do. I used pastels on pastel board for this one.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

PhilosophersNotes - Get Your Wisdom On

PhilosophersNotes - Get Your Wisdom On This is an awesome resource. I have wanted to read many of these books, and this puts them at my finger tips!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I was talking with my mother about this blog the other day and one of her first comments was regarding the idealistic tone of of this blog, which I translated as an indication that she feels this is another of my charming, but perhaps not grounded in the real world, endeavors. Obviously, since I was able to discern this without her saying this exactly, this voice is in my head telling me to be realistic and tone it down so to speak. In fact, I think the battle with this voice and others like them is one of the most important battles that anyone who is breaking away from the herd and trying something new, wanting to flex their creative wings and take to the sky will face. Fear is the mind killer, the mind can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven. I think most of us have such voices in our heads which tell us to be realistic, to tone it down, to give up, to accept our mediocrity and so on. One of the ways I have found to quiet these voices is to find inspiration and strength from those who are saying the complete opposite of such mind killer voices. One of my all time favorites comes from Martha Graham, a trailblazing woman and dancer:
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is on a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
For me her notion of leaving aside any value judgments of what you create and get on with creating is one of the most important mantras I have when I feel one of those mindkillers start to creep up on me. Words of wisdom such as hers are invaluable. Whenever I find such words, I add them to my sketchbook. There is lots of inner work to this process as one finds their inner voices starting to interfere. Though perhaps meant to shield us from humiliation and failure, they must not be given the final say.
As well as inner voices, outer voices must be managed. In an earlier post, I mentioned a resource that helped when I was first starting off on this path, The Artist's Way. One of the elements that I got the most from was the author's advice to be careful how and with whom you share your beginning steps at change. She likened this movement as a sort of spark that had to be shielded from harsh winds until that spark was a roaring fire, which would then be strong enough to feed off harsh winds, criticism and the like. I have found that when you break out of the normal conventions of life, there are those who envy your courage and try to squash it with the voices in them that have squashed them. They will hand you all sorts of garbage, perhaps even well-intentioned, that will serve to pour water on your fire. I found that it helps not to take what they say personally and treat it as something that is more about what they have accepted as reality rather than reality itself. Since we are all pretty much lost in terms of our ignorance about reality- we see only the tiniest fraction of what is and what we experience is so tempered by the way we have been raised, programmed, really, I think that we have to be rigorously discerning with what we take to be reality. Consider the quote I shared, I don't think one has to be idealistic to accept her premise. I think what she said is as much an observable reality as an idea from which to proceed into reality. So, this being said, find those authors, artists, friends, loved ones, anyone who adds to your fire. Cleave to them and their words will be instrumental on your journey.
I want to bring your attention to a link I added some time ago but have negelcted to say much about. The link is Drawing Tutorials Online in the corner of this blog. I love this site and use it regularly. If you like drawing and want to get better,you must check out this site. It is full of loads of instructional videos and articles, reference photos, opportunities to network and tons more. It is quite reasonable to be a member, around 13 dollars a month and for the price you cannot go wrong. The instructor is a great teacher as well as a professional illustrator who teaches at a well known art school in NYC. He has put together a great program, so check it out. If you decide to that its worth your while like I have, click on the icon on my blog and I will get a kickback, so you will be doing me a favor while you do yourself one.
The image on this post is one of my most recent works. Che Guevara seems like a pretty good rep for idealism, I think this is part of why his face is so famous. I did this one in pen becuase I have always admired him as a rebel for the people.I would love to hear from you about this image as well as anything you came across in the blog.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Follow Through

I have been quite busy this week. You may have noticed some new elements in my blog this week. Last week I mentioned some goals I have made with regards to creating and sharing my art. Some of these goals have to do with the new additions on blog, namely the print-on-demand site that I am now a part of, red bubble and getting my own website for my art, This has been quite a revelation for me. It was very simple to get started and quite inexpensive ( was free and had a intro offer that gives me the first 2 months free. I uploaded many of my favorite drawings to both sites. I will be using to focus on selling originals and the print-on-demand site to sell prints of my works. Both sites will of course allow me to get my work out to a larger audience and both of the galleries I have set up will allow me to network with artists and art lovers. Looking at other art work and connecting with other artists is quite inspiring and motivating in my experience. I have already gotten feedback from other artists in the form of appreciation for my images which has been an unexpected benefit of starting these online venues for my work. In addition to the link section where you can go to these sites, I have also added some feeds which allow you to see the prints I have on offer and clicking on one that you like will take you to the site where you can order a print for yourself or as a gift. I hope that you will take a look at these new elements of this blog. I would love to get feedback from you in terms of the ease of use, the look and feel of the site and anyting you have to add that would be of use to me. And, of course, feel free to pick of some of my drawings for yourself and your loved ones. I think that I have got lots of great work that would look wonderful in your home or in the home of a loved one.
The work I have posted is a study I did of an eye using colored pencil.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Books that I have read and websites I am using these days seem to be reminding me that making goals is an important part of this process of life design that I am engaging with. The way goals have come to matter to me is that I can see that setting and then going about meeting those goals is how I have done anything that mattered to me. Therefore, I need to set some more concrete goals to get the concrete results I am seeking in my latest life design project. I made some temporally bound goals in two areas: drawing and marketing. Some goals are things I want to do every day, namely some drawing goals. For weekly, as when as my monthly goals (1,2and 6) I am conceiving of today,tomorrow and the day after steps that I can count on helping reach my goals. The goals are kept in a place I see regularly to give myself that extra leverage on myself to follow thru. I think that all of this collected effort will put myself squarely behind my intentions and will propel me further into the realizations of my imagination. Living the dream, quite literally, as well as thoroughly enjoying the process along the way.
Two of my weekly goals are to publish this blog and to finish a new drawing. The drawing for this week is from a sculpture I photographed in Istanbul awhile ago. The original is hanging across the room from me as I write. While I was working on this drawing,I came across a morphing sequence of women in art that is jaw-drop stunning as well as extremely instructive. I dare you to watch it and not come away with a new appreciation for painting/drawing. I posted a link under women in art in my links section.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Artist's Way

When I start to think about where/when I began this journey, I find that the exact point is difficult to pick as I can always find some earlier time in my life that seems appropriate. SO while I can see how this thread has been winding throughtout my whole life, there is a time that does seem useful as one of milestones of my wandering way. In my very early twenties, after I realized that I was not pursuing anything that really mattered to me at university and subsequently dropped out of Reed College (all the best Reedies have, ha ha), I set out after those things that did matter. In the course of that, I came across the book, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It made a huge difference for me and the crafty things I was creating started to bring my desires for art into focus and this book became a workbook for me. On the strength of what working with that book did for me, I knew I had found "my thing" and I was reunited with my long lost love from childhood, drawing.
I have included a link to the official website of this book and I highly recommend this book to anyone, regardless of occupation or creative fixation. The author's belief is that all people can benefit from bringing art and creativity into their life and toward this end, writes about how to go about doing that. The book is full of ideas and tasks that feed the creativity in all of us. Though I read this book more that a decade ago, as you can see, it has stayed with me. One of the concepts that really stood out for me was her notion of taking yourself on out various art fieldtrips such as going to museums, enrolling in a weekend workshop, attending a foreign film festival and so forth. There was also a reflective writing part of the process that she recommended which I found to be quite useful. I am sure you can find a used copy online for next to nothing so get one and take yourself out for some fun.
The drawing I included with this blog is of a tulip I did some years ago. It was one the drawings that sold on the night of my first show in Portland. Fortunately, it is in the collection of a dear friend so I get to visit this drawing, which was hard to part with because I love it so, whenever I visit Portland. This is one of my favorites from the photorealism obsession I eluded to in a previous post.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Perfect Day

In the last posting, I proposed a task, which was to make a plan for a perfect day. The premise behind this task was that such a task may be useful in identifying those things which are most fulfilling to us so that we may then organize our life in such a way that the perfect day we have planned may serve as guide for creating the life we want. Without going into the details of my perfect day here, suffice it so say that creating art, particularly drawings would fill the hours of my perfect day.
In keeping with the idea that knowing what I want in life most can help me steer my life, I have recommited myself to numerous goals which center around art and being an artist. Toward this end, I am weaving a number of threads in my life which I hope will allow me to reach my goals. One of those threads is the blog you find before you. My vision for this blog is that it document my course toward being a "full time" artist, as well as being a vehicle for sharing between those who are also called to create their life around their own passions and interests. In addition to those seekers, I plan to share this blog with those who would just like to know what I am up to, friends and family, in other words.
As I am sharing the ideas, resources and connections that I find useful, hoping that they may also serve my fellow travelers, I will also be sharing my art in my postings as well. The picture you see with this posting is a large colored pencil drawing (approx. 30 in x 50in) I did many years ago. This picture depicts a deer skull that I got from my father's collection. My father has been a deer hunter for a long time and deer skulls have always been one of his favorite adornments. When I was a child, my father always kept one of these skulls wired to the front of the utility rack on top of his work trucks. At our home in Seymour, the light pole was festooned with several of these trophies, one of which became the subject for this drawing. My father's new home has more of these skulls hanging about the place. Suffice it to say that this drawing has some deep connections to my father. I also like this drawing because I see it as a transition away from my love affair with photorealistic representations in my drawings which was one of the vehicles I chose for developing my technical drawings skills.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Follow Your Bliss

"The way to find out about your happiness is to keep your mind on those moments when you really ARE happy -- not excited, not just thrilled, but deeply happy.
This requires a little bit of self- analysis.What is it that makes you happy? Stay with it, no matter what people tell you. This is what I call, 'Following Your Bliss.'
If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you. And the life that you ought to be living,is the one you ARE living.Wherever you are, if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.
When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss,and they open doors for you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will openwhere you didn't know they were going to be."
Joseph Campbell- The Power of Myth


I have long been a fan of Joseph Campbell. I believe his advice to follow your bliss is some of the best advice you can get in life. This advice assumes that one knows what that their bliss is. For our purposes, each of us needs to determine what their bliss is. First of all, what does the word bliss refer to in this instance? I think that your bliss is the thing that when you do it, time races past without you noticing it. If you cannot think of anything you really love, then consider this question: If you had one billion dollars, what would you do with your time?

Your task is as follows: Make a plan for your perfect day. What would you do? Be as detailed as possible and go wild- remember, this is your perfect day