Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Early Drawing Adventures

As my mother noticed my interest in drawing, she got me a more sophisticated drawing book for young artists, Draw 50 Animals by Lee J. Ames, a former Disney cartoonist. This book was one of the best gifts I ever received. It helped to demystify a skill which seemed like magic to a young person. It made learning to draw so much more possible to me as a young person as I could grasp how to break what seemed impossible into manageable steps. I loved this book and all the books Ames has put out for drawing. He has over a dozen, showing how to draw all sorts of things- people, places, planes, etc. His technique is a good next step after Emberley's. He shows how to draw realistic representations on a step by step basis starting with basic shapes. You can find them used quite easily as they have been around for 30 years now. I have put up a link to one of his latest, a sort of greatest hits book which features examples from many of his other books. As a young person,I would spend hours drawing from these books and include them in my compositions.In recent years, I returned to them as I have found many students interested in learning to draw. When I was teaching English in the Bronx, I found that some who students who were not so interested in the regular classwork responded quite differently to learning to draw and I used Ames' books to reach such students. The drawing I included with this post was one of my sample drawings that I did with some students.
I still use them for my own drawing quite regularly as a sort of warm up exercise for drawing. I find that the process that Ames uses in his drawings is quite useful to take on board as an approach to drawing realistically and I have found his approach similar to other professional artists and instructors. I hope that those of you who are following this blog due to your interest in drawing and learning to draw will find his books as wonderful as I have.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Early Drawing Adventures

Since my last post, I have been thinking a lot about my first joys with drawing when I was a child. One of my earliest memories of drawing bliss was with my friend Daniel Cox. Daniel, like me, loved to draw. I remember that he loved to create little worlds within his drawings. He seemed to particularly like to draw cut-a-way views of forts and underground cities and such.He put an extraordinary amount of information into his drawings which reminded me of looking at museum dioramas crossed with ant colonies. Since he has become a surgeon since then, I can imagine that this obsession with details is still with him. I was quite taken with these little worlds and enjoyed to go to his house when I was 8,9,10 and draw my own little worlds along side him.Many hours of childhood bliss were the result of these drawing sessions. Around this time, I ordered a drawing book, Make A World by Ed Emberley. It is a sort of stick figure drawing book and quite approachable for any beginning artist. I still have my copy of that book that I got some thirty years ago. It is a wonderful drawing book that gives simple instructions for drawing everything including people, animals, buildings, vehicles, etc. All of his drawings are built up step by step with lines and simple shapes. I have included a link to this book at the side. He has lots of other really great drawing books which are loved by every child who has ever seen them. Adults like them too. In fact, quite a few families who live near me have been borrowing my little collection so that I've decided to get a duplicate set. The drawing I included with this week's blog is a pirate ship I did a few years back based on one of his how-to drawings. When I was a child, this was the sort of drawing I would create as I spent a lot of time by myself and drawing was one of the things I did quite often during that alone time. I loved to pour through drawing books like Emberley's and draw pictures from them and populate my imagination with these images. Like the child I was, I still love to spend time by myself drawing and pouring through drawing books. For those of you who have been following this blog and are interested in discovering and following your passions, I have found that mining childhood memories is a great way to reconnect with what excites me about life. Too many of us have put those memories into deep storage as we grew up. Tapping into those childhood joys has always been rejuvenating force for me and as my son Sinan get older, I look forward to sharing and reliving such things with him.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why Do I Love Drawing?

Last week I told you that I was being featured on a new friend's blog. I am posting that feature here this week after it was posted on Karin Taylor's interesting blog:
1. Why do you love drawing?
I love drawing for a number of reasons- for the challenge, for the joy of expression, for the feeling of pride in work I've done, for the sense of creation that is mine, for the excitement I feel when I get obsessed with a drawing- these are a few of the reasons that come to mind. Many of my favorite drawing have come from finding a image that I want to make my own. This may take the form of an image I've come across that I love or a photo I've taken. Earlier in my career, I was quite fixated on being able to reproduce such things with absolute fidelity. This meant recreating photographic work to the point that people who mistake my drawings for photos at first glance. A few times, I felt that I was able to push the drawing beyond being a mere reproduction to having something that the reference itself did not have. After awhile, I got tired of this approach and looked to tie a more expressive approach to my penchant for realism. In these ways, I gave myself challenges to push myself and my work. I love drawing for the endless challenge it represents. I imagine that I will always feel a sense of restlessness, wanting more of drawing that I currently see in them. One of my current obsessions is learning to draw the figure from my imagination. I have found a great teacher for this and quite pleased with my progress so far. When I reach this goal, I will add it to my personal list of art accomplishments as I seek to continually renew my art.
Aside from the reasons I love drawing from the standpoint of my own work and the experience of drawing, I love drawing as an art form in its own right. Looking at the drawing of other artists is one of my favorite experiences. When I look at a drawing that really grabs me, I feel an engagement with that drawing down to my toes. I feel a sense of wanting to enter that drawing, like someone who loves to swim feels toward a body of water. I really tingle all over in the presence of the right drawing. I think that drawing opens me to the wonder and magic of life. As I have developed my eyes to see for the purposes of drawing, when I look through them, I see beauty everywhere.
2. Has drawing helped to relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress or illness?
Most certainly, drawing helps me when I get the blues. In diffferent times in my life when I wasn't doing much creatively, the introduction or reintroduction of drawing made a huge difference in my life. I think that doing anything you love makes you feel better. In the last year or so, I have started putting a lot more energy into drawing, making it a daily habit rather than one that I got around to every now and then. This decision came in the context of dissatisfaction in some other areas of my life. In the course of sticking to my decisions around drawing every day, the dissatisfaction I felt in other areas of my has shifted and I think that drawing has played a big part in this in some sort of alchemical way. I think it can be said that whatever underlies the experiences of anxiety, depression, stress or illness can become fuel which can stoke your art and creativity. While the tortured artist is not an archetype I resonate with particularly, I think its existence in our consciousness does point to the way that the painful elements of our lives can be turned into gold through the transformative power of art. I call such times and experiences "filling the well". This well becomes one of the sources of inspiration for my work. I think that this has been part of the purpose of art throughout time and across cultures, to help us integrate and grow from such darkness, to bring it into light.
3. Where is your favourite drawing place?
These days, I am enjoying working at home. I have many favorites though. I particularly enjoy life drawing with a model in a studio surrounded by other artists.
I want to bring your attention to a few new elements of the blog. You mave have noticed a share widget on the right side. You can use that to share this blog with others on facebook and twitter, I welcome new readers if you feel so moved. Also, at the very bottom, I have added an email sign in box. Just enter your email and you will get notices on your email automatically. This will help me keep track of my readers.
I also posted one of my latest drawings, Mustafa and Sinan, a drawing of my father-in-law and my son. I would love to hear from you about why you love drawing, as I am assuming you do. Have a good week.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What is your Bliss?

Those of you who have been following this blog are hopefully aware that part of the purpose of this blog is to connect with others who are following their bliss and to provide mutual support and appreciation for such endeavors. Toward this end, I have joined an online artist's community called red bubble where I also exhibit and sell prints of my work. I think of this website as similar to facebook, except, on this facebook, everyone is also an artist. I have had the chance to make many new comrades on my art quest. One of them, Karin Taylor, invited me to write for her blog and after doing so and thinking it was a great idea, I invited her to write for my blog in the form of answering some questions. In addition to that interview which follows, this blog's image is also Karin's. I hope you will enjoy this new element to my blog as much as I have. PLease visit Karin's website for a look at more of her work: Karin's Work. Next week, after she has posted my feature on her blog, I will feature it here as well. Pay a visit to her blog, which is also great.

THe Interview:

1) What is your bliss?

I researched the definition for ‘bliss’ and came up with ‘supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment and the opposite is just plain and simple ‘misery’…..hmmmm, so what is my bliss….. that’s such an intriguing question and not easy for me to answer….

There are some things that contribute to a state of bliss in my life and these would be the sunshine on my face, the wind blowing through my hair, the sea before my eyes, the feeling of warm sand beneath my feet, touching my pencil to paper and drawing the first circle on the page, that contact which is a hug, stroking the cat, patting the dog, watching children play in the water and hearing their echoes of laughter, daydreaming under a tree where I can feel soft grass under me and a warm scented flow of air passing by, catching a glimpse of something beautiful in nature’s wonderful wonderland and being so drawn to it as to explore it further, researching a topic that is close to my heart, or close to another’s heart, letting go and letting God, releasing my bitterness and experiencing humility, meditating on words of wisdom and time spent in prayer with my higher power, visiting rockpools and fossicking around in them, fishing.

These things all contribute to my state of bliss.

2) How did you find your bliss?

Wow, another great question… well….I found out that I am usually in a state of bliss when all the above are covered and how I found out, was through moments of ‘misery’ the antonym of ‘bliss’. I have had some very down times, during which it was necessary for me to commit myself to time spent pondering the things I am most grateful for, and the things which I would need to gravitate towards, in order to be whole and healthy again… for ‘misery’ leads to my ‘madness’… and ‘bliss’ leads to great goodness, for myself and others. You see I feel that ‘bliss’ is not a selfish pursuit, even tho it may seem that way, for to be happy in life, we must first shower ourselves with respect and love, nurture our health…. And when we are well (following our bliss) we are able to be of service to others, ‘otherly’ without ulterior motives… our giving therefore, is unselfish giving, the best kind of love.

3) What are some of the things/people/books/resources/etc that have helped you?

One of the best books I ever read which helped me enormously was “Further down the Road Less Travelled” by Scott Peck… and the book “Hawaii” by James Michener…one is a sort of self help book by a psychologist and the other is a novel about life from the very beginning in Hawaii and traces the lives and deeds of the islanders and white settlers and I learned a wealth of things about human nature, through studying these two very different texts.

Another thing which I only recently realised has made a big impact on me were these little books from my childhood by Joan Walsh Anglund with beautiful little illustrations, there were a few… ones I remember are “Love is a Special Way of Feeling”, “A Friend is Someone who Likes You”, “Childhood is a Time of Innocence”, and these little books carry in them, some very special messages which were imparted to me as a child…it is only very recently that I’ve realised as an adult, that I appear to have retained my great fondness for the childlike naivety and strive for the very same ideals contained within the pages of these dear little books… one special thing that happened this week, was that my friend Christine, surprised me with two of these vintage books all wrapped up in a delightful package…. She’d ordered them for me through eBay because she saw how much the books meant to me from childhood….what kind of wonderful thoughtful friend I have in her…it just brings me to tears that someone would listen and act upon the things that are dearest to my heart, to bring me closer to my bliss.

As for people that have helped me, hmmm that’s so hard…there’ve been many, I’d have to say my partner Scott first of all, as he is always there helping, encouraging and spurring me on, he’s a great comfort in down times and so happy for me when I feel successful and happy…he only wants for my happiness…then there are my parents, who I feel have helped me enormously in many varied ways, but they are first and foremost my biggest supporters and art admirers…they help me too by listening to me when I’m down, and spoiling me a bit. Then there are 2 special friends I’d like to mention, they are Christine and Fa…Frozenfa is an artist friend of mine from Singapore and she’s the type to come running when you’re in a bind and be supportive no matter what I say or whinge about…. She’s also done me many, many favours and sells my work overseas…she is the most loyal friend and a really funny person who makes me happy and makes me laugh a lot, I hope to meet her some day!

The other one is very special too and I call her Chris….she is a quiet person, who works with textiles and also draws beautifully, she has a great eye, and a great ear for listening… she is a gentle person, with a great deal of wisdom and I respect her opinions and ideas.

4) What difference has this made in your life?

The books I read and the friends and family I have make such a difference in my life…I was watching ‘The Soloist’ (movie) last night and it’s about a schizophrenic musician who is very down and out… a reporter befriends him looking for a story, but in the end, the story is more about how both the reporter and the musician find a certain something in one another that goes to enrich their inner life and their lives in general, albeit… both parties must come to compromise certain things, in order to understand the other and participate on the friendship… they must learn about one another… it is a wonderful story…

The point I wanted to make without any further waffling, is that there is a line in the movie, where the reporter states that psychologists said he is making a difference in the schizophrenic musicians life, purely by being his friend, as this has the ability to alter brain chemistry!! Wow!! That just blew me away….. now I know that’s true…because that’s how I feel after encounters with my uplifting books, research material, friends, partner and family…… like my brain chemistry is altered…. A flow of good hormones happening there, and all is well with the world…to much aloneness and ‘on my own-ness’ is not good, simply not good at all’… too much ‘staying in the house-ness’ not good either…encounters with nature are almost as good as with a friend….

5) What do you do if ever you find yourself “off course”?

Well, that’s very hard… normally I go into a cave for sometime, before I realise I’ve become very silent, or shedding to many tears a day…once I’ve grasped that I’m down, I look at the reasons why, often I feel sorry for myself, or embittered or hurt by someone, I have high expectations of people, and then I feel let down…. So I reason through those thoughts and feelings and I talk about them with a trusted friend, usually my partner Scott… or Chris or Fa… and afterwards I feel I’ve found my way again…. But it’s hard being lost in the sea without a boat or a compass… it is scary and I fear the sharks are all out to get me….in those moments I’ll often seek my bible and read passages such as Psalm 91 which calm and soothe my soul…and I will pray and I will wait in prayerful state until I feel a sense of being heard and answered…it makes a large difference…. Better than reassurance from friends even… as I take it as a special privilege in life, that we are considered friends of God… and I believe there is a real sense of companionship there…I’ll imagine God to be with me, or holding my hand through difficult circumstances, using visualisation.

I also often use goal setting as a way of assisting myself to retain my course through life, and try to set short term goals, as they help me to take the little steps in achieving the ultimate perfect bliss, my long term goal.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

You Don't Pull No Punches But You Don't Push the River

Since my last brief post last week and along with the spirit of review that comes around the beginning of a new year and now a new decade, I have been thinking about art, my life, my mission and what I want to see for myself this new year. I chose as a theme a line from a song by one of my enduring favorites, Van Morrison. While it is difficult to find a few words to convey all the nuances we live with, I think this line from Van Morrison covers a lot of what I want to be in this coming year, and my life for that matter. I think that following your bliss requires that you develop the discernment to know when you need stand firm and when you need to bend. My great friend Bob commissioned the illustration that I included with this blog to illustrated this very point for the word he coined, wolflow, a palindrome that expresses the same point I am addressing here. Bob is a master for finding imagery to express such points, here suggesting one sometimes needs the active, aggressive qualities we can associate with wolves and at other times one need to go with the flow, like a river which leaves its indelible mark over the ages.
In the course of following dreams, it can be easy to get too obsessed, letting the rest of the bounty of life that appears outside of your dream fall by the wayside, all in the name of keeping your eyes on the prize. I recall an old Twilight Zone episode that ends with a man sitting alone in a cavernous library, the last man alive on Earth, saying, " At last, time enough to read." While I certainly love to create and draw, I think that my earlier decision years ago to make my entire life a work of art remains the correct one. I would hate to leave this life remembered for beautiful pictures but miserable in all other aspects on my life. Again, the juggler metaphor seems appropriate here as I review all the balls I have in the air- artist, teacher, husband, father, friend, son, human. I have at times lost track of some of these really important things trying to 'catch' another of these these things. Sometimes the wolf in me takes over and I can be a beast and sometimes, the flow in me drowns me. I can see I am at my best when I am balanced between the two. So, in my review of the past year and my plans for the next, I have no great course corrections planned, I will just keep to the work I have set in motion and continue to show up to the work I have created for myself to achieve, working to keep a healthy balance. I am grateful for all of you who are sharing this adventure with me and I look forward for new adventures and companions along the road. I would love to hear from you about how you will life your dreams in this coming year.