The Artist’s Way
“The Artist’s Way” Coloured pencils October 2018
The artist’s way is a journey where sometimes one feels certain about the path ahead only to become thoroughly lost at the next turn.
When I visited rue Quincampoix that night in October 2016 I was in familiar territory and was delighted to see it illuminated so vibrantly. I took photos and walked in a happy daze. Continuing home (so I thought) I turned up one street, thinking it was another, and led myself into an unfamiliar area. Alone. At night. Lost in Paris. After some hasty and intimate time spent with my map, I righted my wrong and got home.
Similarly I went into my most recent exhibition full of certainty. But over the two weeks in the public gaze I lost my bearings. Certainty dissolved into a state of trepidation as I experienced the full spectrum of reactions; from praise, through indifference to actual hostility. (Only one person was truly hostile.)
To be lost, found, and lost again in an endless cycle throughout a life, questioning one’s art and one’s very existence, is the artist’s way.
In the end the thing that you feel is your undoing is also your way back to sanity – art.
Another drawing from the same photo-shoot is “Guiding Lights”, drawn in 2016.
The drawing below shows the way I drew this street back in 2012.
“Conversations at Dusk” 2012
Café des Arts
Café des Arts coloured pencils 35 x 32 cm
“Café des Arts” is a true story.
I saw these two couples (one painted and one real) at the Café des Arts, 3 place de la Contrescarpe, near Panthéon. I had to surreptitiously acquire my source photo by pretending to focus somewhere else and then quickly swing my lens to the desired spot.
I wonder if the absinthe drinkers in the painting “Dans un Café” were aware of being watched back in 1875? (The painting by Edgar Degas hangs in the Musée d’Orsay.) My human couple remained oblivious to me.
Artists have to break rules in the quest for a good visual story whether the year is 1875 or 2018. Life imitates art. Art imitates life. And sometimes they both end up in the same picture.
Here is the source photo for “Café des Arts”. If you look closely, you’ll see that I made a few simplifications by reducing details.
“Boulevard” 19.5 x 25.5 cm. Coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle smooth.
Bright lights and shadowy figures marching across the boulevard merge to create a lively kaleidoscope at Place Blanche. This is the final drawing (I mean it this time) for the “Remember Paris” exhibition opening in five weeks’ time.
To view the catalogue of 30 drawings for the exhibition, click here.
Urbane Saint Germain
“Urbane Saint Germain” Coloured pencils, 208 x 240 mm. July 2018
A small piece of Saint Germain des Prés I have photographed and drawn many times is a corner where rue de l’Echaudé splits off from rue de Seine.
For this piece I have to wait patiently for a person to walk into my frame. Who is it? It could be male or female (perhaps it is you) though I sense my subject has a European air – as urbane as the surroundings. Having drawn the streets so many times in great detail, this time I seek only an impression.
Below are more drawings of this immediate area, drawn at intervals over several years.
“The Liberation of Art” drawn in April, this will also be in the “Remember Paris” exhibition in September 2018.
“Rhapsody in Blue” 2014
“de bonne heure” 2012
“Rue de l’Échaudé” 2014
“Paris en hiver” 2011
“Urbane Saint Germain” is the final drawing for the “Remember Paris” exhibition this coming September. To view the catalogue of 30 drawings, their descriptions and prices, click here.
Coloured pencils. 210 x 288 mm. June 2018
On my way home from a before-dawn photography walk, I stop on Pont de la Tournelle and look east. Morning light reveals an overcast autumnal sky.
Some of us primarily enjoy a view under sun and blue sky; cloudiness may be described as “a dull day”. To my mind an overcast sky creates a meditative and subtle beauty. Eyes need not squint against strong light.
Grey day, reflection and introspection; peace.
“Overcast” is the second drawing featuring Notre Dame for the “Remember Paris” exhibition. I like to portray a subject in different ways…
“Far from the Madding Crowd” drawn with Sennelier oil pastels combined with coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle. 330 x 365 mm. October 2017.
A Small Act of Love
“A Small Act of Love”
212 x 308 mm
coloured pencils and oil pastels. June 2018
“A Small Act of Love” is the second drawing I have made from a single source photo. When the first drawing “Just a Moment” sold last year I was both happy and sad; happy as it is always a pleasure when a drawing sells; sad because it was destined to be a part of my “Remember Paris” collection – to be shown in September 2018.
“Just a Moment”
Coloured pencils, drawn January 2017.
Recently as I was reviewing the “Remember Paris” drawing collection so far, I once again mourned the loss of “Just a Moment”. However I saw the possibility of a second chance as I had cropped the composition the first time. This time I would draw from the entire photo – making a whole new composition. And I would use oil pastels as well as coloured pencils. (You can compare the two pieces – above and below – here.)
“A Small Act of Love” June 2018
coloured pencils and oil pastels.
The thing is, I want my exhibition of drawings to be more than merely sumptuous views of Paris. My aim is to show a wide range of her personality traits. The essential ingredient of this piece is intimacy – an everyday moment of a mother assisting her child.
Last weekend I visited one of Australia’s major art galleries. I felt like I was in a void while I viewed the traditional and modern grandiose works. What was my place in art? Did I have one? Back home again, finishing off this drawing gave me a sense of perspective. Perhaps this is my place in art; what I do day after day is a small act of love.
Note: The drawing is made to be seen from across a room so it is a good idea to stand back a few paces from the top image…and then it makes sense.
Non, je ne regrette rien
happy with undercoat beginning…
This morning I photographed my first layer of a big drawing (380 x 505 mm) after a week of laying on the under-colour in Sennelier oil pastels.
A couple of hours later… Uh oh – I’m not feeling the love.
And…that’s it. No regrets.
A few hours later: In hindsight, every work which is labour intensive needs to be believed in. It is a huge effort but it will be worth it. In this case, I didn’t have quite enough belief (or enthusiasm) in the piece for all the effort I knew I was going to have to put into it. That’s probably the primary reason I let it go.
PS: Another reason for dumping the picture above was that it was too similar to “Rhapsody in Gold” drawn in 2017.
“Rhapsody in Gold”
pastels and pencils
240 x 255 mm. May 2018
Have you ever waited at traffic signals after dark and observed how surrounding colours change depending on whether the signal is red or green? In “Wait” the colours of île de la Cité are also made bright by a boat’s high beam illuminating the arches under Pont d’Arcole. (We can’t see the boat but we know it is there.)
Here is a deep dark “Walk” (partner of “Wait”). Notice how light from the signal casts a different glow on the sky in each of the two drawings.
A much lower key “Walk” than “Wait” as the green walking man gives off lower light than the red standing man.
In recent posts I have been showing the oil pastel under-painting (before coloured pencil is layered on top). In comparing the under-painting stages of these two drawings (drawn several months apart) I see that this primary stage is now richer and more consolidated than it was in mid 2017. It is fascinating to chart the evolution of a new idea.
oil pastel undercoat of “Wait” (May 2018)
oil pastel undercoat of “Walk” (August 2017)
Next time you are sitting in your car waiting for the lights to change, or standing at a pedestrian crossing after dark, observe the colours as the lights go through their paces. (Trust me, it is more entertaining than merely being impatient.)
The Liberation of Art
“The Liberation of Art”
oil pastels and coloured pencils – 290 x 420 mm. April 2018
One of my favourite Paris spots is in Saint Germain des Près where rue de Seine forks one way and rue de l’Échaudé forks the other. I returned there on my last trip and was delighted to find a blue neon sign in the window of Galerie Lumas saying “The Liberation of Art”. What a subject! All I had to do was decide on my composition and wait for passers-by.
Soon enough I had my people (and dog). They’d do very well!
On the left of the composition is a corner of Galerie L. de Puybaudet and on the right, Galerie Lumas – 42 and 40 rue de Seine respectively.
What IS the liberation of art? Perhaps the couple are discussing this very question as they stroll on a peaceful October morning past the galleries.
The undercoat of the drawing in Sennelier oil pastels, before coloured pencils were applied.
Past drawings of rue de Seine and rue de ‘Échaudé in coloured pencils –
“Paris en hiver” 2011
“Rue de l’Échaudé” 2014
“de bonne heure” 2012
“Rhapsody in Blue” 2014
oil pastels and coloured pencils. 240 x 350 mm.
“We weren’t in love oh no far from it” (Bob Seger sings in “Night Moves“). Nor am I in love with Moulin Rouge but I certainly am captivated by her lit-up sails and their effect on Place Blanche. “I used her, she used me but neither one cared/we were getting our share“. She gives me art, I give her publicity (not that she needs any from me)!!
“Night Moves” is a partner to “Irresistible Blanche”. They are the same size and will hang side by side when exhibited in September.
For those of you interested in my technique using oil pastels as undercoat to coloured pencils, below is the drawing when the oil pastel/undercoat stage was completed. At this point I was ready to begin layering coloured pencils on top. You can read about this technique in my post Brush and Pencil
You could say the cake was the oil pastel and the icing the coloured pencils. Cake + icing = delicious!