Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Ugly Art Comes First

Sufi Practice at Unity Zickr, 10-31-15
I'll tell you a little secret: I do a lot of ugly art. OK, yes, some days my work comes out very well, but
that is not the norm. Most days the first sketches I do--and sometimes all of them--just don't please me. You don't see those. I hide them.

Not today. Today I will show you some of my ugly art.

You see, people who don't draw seem to think every  beautiful finished piece an artist shows came easily and quickly to the paper.

Not so.

Cat Gestures
Every nice little sketch, not to mention every finished painting or drawing, is the result of lots of practice and many ugly pieces, or pieces that don't quite work.Some whole sessions result in work I would not ordinarily show.

Yesterday at the Coffee Roastery on Vashon was like that.

The Roastery is a popular gathering place. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming. The walls are lined with a hundred varieties of tea and herbs for healing or cooking, all in glass jars. You can get drip coffee and drink it on the porch, or you can sip your latte inside. You can curl up alone with your Chai and newspaper,  you can chat with the person at the next table, or you can meet up with your buddies.

I want to capture this atmosphere in a little watercolor sketch, or maybe in a larger work. So I shouldered my sketching back pack and went off to the Roastery for tea and sketching.
Playing Cards

There is so much to look at! Not just the jars, but antique coffee making equipment, framed burlap coffee bean bags, baskets of fresh island produce, stained glass window, tables laid in mosaics....

It was visually overwhelming. And the result for me was ugly art.

Yes, people move before I can sketch them well. That's no excuse, though; often I can still catch a semblance of the person I am drawing, something that has grace and character. Not so much this time.

I tried drawing with ink, then adding just a little color--which became fully colored with washes that made the ink run.

I tried water color over a pencil sketch, adding just a little ink at the end. That didn't work either.

No happy ending yet, but I did learn some things:

  • Ink smears when you try to wash over it.
  • Blue clothing on the people make them stand out against the warm colors of the setting. 
  • Using a cooler red behind the people makes the people stand out better than the warmer red does.
  • Ink lines are freer and more interesting when I do them first
  • Leaving white space really draws the eye.
  • The pose of mother and child I captured on my camera--which I won't show, as I don't have the mother's permission--is much more interesting than the one I drew. 
  • I want to use these sketches and the photo to create a much better painting, hopefully one worth showing.

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