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.