This week in my bit of art writing I’m going to take a look at a little something that I forgot existed until I pulled it out of a drawer of drawings when I was looking for something else. It’s an odd drawing in that I haven’t done many in this size and shape. Three of them as a matter of fact because I found two more along with this one. Only one of the three had a date written on it but I’m pretty sure all three are from about the same time. That would be December of 2005.
The paper the drawing is drawn on is three inches wide by seventeen inches tall. That’s not your average piece of paper out there in the larger world but it is to me. I like to draw on eleven by seventeen inch bristol board but the pads of bristol that I buy are fourteen by seventeen inches. So I cut three inches off the side of my paper. Before I learned it was fun to make art cards, little baseball card sized drawings, and cut those strips of bristol down into a bunch of two and a half by three and a half inch pieces I used to have a bunch of long strips of paper hanging around the place. I never did much with them besides use them for scrap paper. A three by seventeen inch pieces of paper doesn’t have many uses.
Yet it seems for a couple of days back in December of 2005 I decided to draw on a few of those long and narrow sheets of paper. It looks like I was drawing with a Rapidograph technical pen. I can tell by the blackness of the ink (it’s India ink) and by the lack of line weight. Technical pens are pens that you fill with ink and they make a rigid single weight dark line. They come in different sizes and this looks like one of the larger sizes. I don’t even have this pen anymore. It was probably fifteen years old back in 2005 and it finally wore out on me some time after then. I replaced it but it’s replacement wore out in a couple of years. They don’t make them like they used to. That’t why I haven’t bothered trying to get a new one. Expensive and crappy is not a good combination.
These are spontaneous ink drawings. That means there was no planning involved. No sketching in pencil first. Just putting pen to paper, moving it around, and seeing what comes out. I’ll start at the top because I’m pretty sure that’s where I started drawing. It almost looks like I drew in in squares. At least at first. That must have been my way to get into such an unusual shaped piece of paper. The first square consists of a slim woman in a see through skirt, a cyclops, an odd swirl haired and one eyed profile, a smiling and helmeted man, what appears to be a dwarf, plus a bunch of shapes. That’s a weird collection of things. No one of them in particular stands out to me but together they make a fine interlocking square of drawings. An okay start.
In the second square of drawings we get a strange-faced portrait, a wide woman with her limbs coming off, a small three quarters view of a face, and some more shapes. Thought I kind of like the strange-faced portrait it’s the tiny three quarters view face that catches my eye most. I like the round eye with the line that comes of it to form the line of the hair. The line that encircles the top of the eye to make the brow and bridge of the nose is good too. I’d have no idea how to turn it into t larger drawing though. That happens a lot. Something that works at one scale won’t work at another. The nice balance of black and white line and shape that I find appealing at this scale will probably be hard to duplicate at a larger size.
With the third square we start to see the drawings blend a little more with the ones above and below. We get a man with a weird thing over his eye, two small busts, and what looks like a figure drawing of a mouse woman. The tops and bottoms of this set of drawings aren’t as square as the previous ones soon the squares will disappear all together. Meanwhile I like that mouse woman. Whiskers and mouse ears. What’s not to like? The man’s shoulders with eyes on them are reminiscent of a jacket I painted for myself.
The fourth square starts to really stretch out into a rectangle. We get a small bust, a large profile shot, and a small figure with a hat. The profile overlaps with the woman in the geometric fruit hat thus ending the theme of squares. I was getting more comfortable with the length of the paper and stopped breaking it down into smaller pieces in my mind.
Next to the fruit hat it looks like we have three people in a boat. I like them. Once again a nice small drawing that it would be hard to make into something larger. I like how there are waves under the boat with arches under that. It reminds me a little of Roman aqueducts. I find that neat. I’m not sure what that is under the aqueduct but it leads into what looks a little like a dog’s head.
Then we’re done with squares and rectangles. The bottom third of the drawing interlocks and we lose the geometry of smaller rectangles in the larger paper rectangle. Among the interlocking shapes are various forms and figures but the woman in the bottom left seems to dominate them all. We see her full figure and she’s bending an ankle, knee, hip, and elbow to turn and look at us. She’s in the middle of a gesture. She’s got a fancy hat too. I also like the face in profile that’s right next to her feet. It looks like a fancy dowager giving us a look of disapproval as her friend in front of her doesn’t even notice our presence. There might even be an exclamation point over the dowager’s head. Neat.
So there is a look at a bunch of little drawings that never went on to become anything else. They never gained a larger purpose or added up to anything but what they were. Some cool little drawings on an odd size piece of paper.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got eleven new comics.
Check them all out here:
The mundane habits of life. That’s what’s on my mind this evening. We all have them. Just little things we do to get us through the day to accomplish everyday tasks in life. Things we don’t really think about too often. What triggered this thought for me was my shoes. I took them off and there they are sitting on the floor. I have two pair of shoes that I wear. I have feet that are hard to fit so I get the same ones all the time. They’re size eight and a half 3x extra wide Rockports. I have a brown pair and a black pair.
I switch between the shoes every morning. I usually have one pair in the closet inside the shoebox they came in and one pair on my feet. Or at the foot of my drawing table where I leave them for the night. When I wake up in the morning and get dress I go to the closet, get out the box my shoes are in, takes out today’s shoes, put yesterday’s shoes in the box, and then put on today’s shoes. I do this almost every morning. It’s kind of a Mr. Rogers moment. Then there are some mornings when I say “I’m tired of this routine” and put on yesterday’s shoes.
Another routine that popped into my head was laundry. First off I’m lucky enough to live in a house with a washer and dryer. If you’ve ever lived in a place that doesn’t have those then laundry is a real chore. Having to go to a Laundromat ups the laundry ante by about a factor of fifty. But even though it’s less of a chore for me to do laundry it’s still a routine. But it’s one I surprisingly resist turning into a routine. I don’t know why but I don’t like to do my laundry on the same day every week. I easily could pick a day and just do my wash on that day but that bothers me. So I do it on a Friday this week and then a Saturday or Sunday the next week. I actually did it on a Tuesday this week. For some reason I resist routine when it comes to laundry. Strange.
Another of my mundane habits is flossing my teeth. That thing that dentists always tell you to do. I found it a hard thing to make a habit of until I changed the time I did it. I’m fine with brushing my teeth and do that many times a day but flossing was a little tougher. It didn’t help that my teeth are pretty close together and it was hard to get the floss in between then until I learned about a flat floss that was easier to use. I always tried to floss after I brushed my teeth before bedtime but couldn’t seem to do it consistently. It was late and I was tired. I switched my flossing time to after my after diner brushing and I seemed to have a lot more energy then. So that’s now my habit.
My exercise habit is, of course, my bike riding. I go five days a week taking off Monday and Thursday. There was a while there that the habit was so strong that I didn’t miss more than a single day for three years. That is I never went three days without a ride. Even all through the winter. That streak ended when I caught a flu or something and couldn’t ride for a week. Plus there was the really bad weather two winters ago where I also think I couldn’t ride for a week. Though I still don’t miss many days I don’t sweat it if I miss three days in a row. I know I’ll ride again as soon as I can. The habit is strong.
My other exercise habits are a lot more fragile though. I’ve gone through various routines over the years and they all seem to fade away after a while. One that I started recently and want to get back too is stretching. Y’see I was starting to get really stiff in the legs even with bike riding to loosen me up. I went onto the internet, looked up some basic stretches, and put together my own routine. I mixed in some pushups too. I kept it up nearly every day for about two months. I enjoyed it too. The I came down with another flu or some such and by the time I was better I just couldn’t get back to my stretching habit. I don’t know why. My legs weren’t as stiff as they used to be but I gotta figure they won’t stay loose forever. I need to start stretching again. If only I could get my routine back.
When it comes to my artwork I haven’t had many mundane routines except one. I have to get some work done. That’s the key. Doing something. There are times when I’m not at my best and don’t have a lot of energy or concentration. That doesn’t matter. I still have to get something done. Even if it’s not a big something I try to get a small something done. I work on some early stages of some drawings or I have a bunch of almost finished drawing laying around waiting for me to ink them. There is a lot of reacting in my inking as opposed to acting and sometimes that’s an easier thing to do when concentration is at a premium. I always have my ink book drawing to work in too. Sometimes it’s just the thing on a morning where I can’t seem to get anything started. I open up my ink book, draw a little box, clear my mind, and start drawing something where I have no idea how it will come out.
Oh yeah, and my socks. I wear to different color socks. A black sock and a white socks. To me this is just another mundane habit but to other people it seems to be a big deal. The world is a strange place.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got twelve new comics.
Check them all out here:
I was down in Bryant Park in New York City a little while ago. It was the second Saturday in August so “Summer Streets” was going on in NYC. Street photography is one of the things I like to do in the big city and in and around Bryant Park is one of my favorite places to go to take photos. I used to take a bus down to the city but in recent years (heck all the way back in 2008) they cut the bus schedule in half and it became unreliable. Luckily at the same time they built a new train/transfer station in Secaucus NJ cutting down the time it takes me by train to get there. I drive to the train station in Nanuet NY, take the train to Secaucus, and then catch another train from there to Penn Station in NYC. It would actually be a lot easier just to drive in the to the city (it’s only about 40 miles) but would cost too much in tolls and parking. So the train it is.
I pull my camera out after I get to Penn Station and start taking street photos as I walk uptown to Bryant Park. It’s not easy taking street photos because everyone is walking and moving fast. It’s mostly looking for a good photo and burst shooting. That means pressing the button and the camera takes half a dozen photos in a row. It the world of photography you have to make the law of averages your friend. I realized the other day that I got my first film camera back in 1985 when I was in college and then got my first digital camera in 2000 (I was an early adopter). I’ve almost been shooting digital as long as I shot film. Another year and I’ll pass my film days. I wouldn’t have guessed that. Time flies.
I don’t miss film at all. I’m not nostalgic for it in the least. If I had to go back to shooting on film I’d be disappointed. Digital has taken over because it’s so much more convenient. I can shoot stuff and look at what I’ve done not only right away but as I’m doing it. And it’s so much cheaper. On a typical morning and afternoon in Bryant Park I can take a thousand photos (with burst shooting the numbers really add up quickly). I could never afford to do that with film. If a roll of film cost five bucks with another five for processing and twenty five exposures per roll that would be four hundred bucks of one afternoon of shooting. Instead it costs nothing. No wonder so many more people take photos these days.
I didn’t make it to Bryant Park right away that Saturday because it was a Summer Streets day. From 7AM to 1PM they close Park Avenue to cars and let people ride their bikes, jog, rollerblade, and walk up the avenue. I decided to take some photos up and down the street of all the goings on. It’s not easy taking pictures of moving cyclists. At least not good pictures. But I made the Law of Averages my friend and took a lot of them. Some of them came out okay but my batting average was lower than other street photos. The faster everybody is moving the tougher it is to find and take the photo. You have to be patient and quick. Not an everyday combination.
After 1PM rolled around I made my way over to Bryant Park. I’ve been making short afternoons out of my Bryant Park trips and catching a 3PM train back home so that gave me two hours to take photos. Bryant Park is a good place to take photos because of its wide open lawn in the center with trees and chairs all around it. A couple of different environments. Plus on the Fifth Avenue side of the park is the Midtown Library with its famous steps and giant sculptures of lions so there are always tourists stopping there to take photos. And I like to take pictures of people taking pictures. Weirdly that’s a common subject matter for photographers.
Often I take pictures of whatever tourist is posing in front of the library or I’ll take a picture of whatever tourist is taking the photo but on some occasions I can get both in one photo. I managed to do that on that day because they lined up in a nice composition with the stairs behind them. I try to make myself as unobtrusive as possible when taking street photos and the library steps is a good place for that. Not only are there a dozen people taking pictures at any moment in the day but there is a lot of space to stand back and then use a zoom lens to get closer. I’ve always liked photos of people going about their every day business.
It was a sunny day as I walked around to the park side of Bryant Park and there were lots of people milling about the place. It was a little strange arriving there after having already been taking photos for hours since it’s usually the first place I go. I was a little out of sorts so I sat down and had a snack. I had just been walking while taking photos for over two hours and sometimes I forget how tiring that is. Baby carrots and granola bars are my usual out taking photos food and that’s what I had. After I got settled in a little I started walking around the park looking for a photo to take.
What do I take photos of? I’d say I end up photographing women about two thirds of the time because, well, I’m a guy. But what I’m looking for are faces, expressions, interesting stances, body language, and gestures. I’ve noticed behavior and gestures changing over the years too. Like these days almost everyone is looking at a phone or some such device. It used to be books. And there is definitely a photo taking ritual that is nearly universal these days. Two people are standing there, one moves off and poses, the other takes a photograph, and then the subject of the photo runs over to the photographer and they both huddle around the camera to view the picture. It happens over and over. I take pictures of them huddled around the camera.
Finally I leave myself some time to walk back to Penn Station and take some photos along the way. Once again patience and quickness. One of my favorite type of street photos to take is at the corners of the big streets where a lot of people gather. Sometimes there are too many on my side of the street but if I catch it just right and traffic cooperates I can get a nice shot of anywhere from ten to thirty people across the street waiting to cross the road. Or even better just as they start walking. All the different shapes and sizes of people in all their different poses and walking stances makes for a nice photo. And then they all disperse never to be gathered in the same place again. Another ephemeral every day moment.