Tag Archives: Art

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

Dr Seuss

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” – Dr. Seuss

Today is the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day. Part of me is sad that we have to dedicate a special day of the year to motivate our kids to read. But today is also Dr. Seuss’s birthday, so the other part of me encourages this celebration.

Dr. Seuss’s books have been an accessible entrée to reading for millions of children across multiple generations. I still remember my Dad teaching me to read Green Eggs & Ham. So if we have to choose a day to encourage our children to read, then we could not have picked a better one.

But why does Dr. Seuss continue to entertain us? It’s because he blended unique illustrations with wonderful stories, while using simple, yet poetic language. One could argue that the moral messages Dr. Seuss weaves into his stories resonate with us, particularly with children. But I wasn’t surprised that the unnamed character eventually tried green eggs and ham and liked them, or that the Grinch finally realized the Christmas spirit does not come from a store. The ends of those stories warmed my heart, but what I really wanted was a fox in a box, or one ride down Mount Crumpit. And how cool would it be to run your own circus? Through his unique art and captivating stories, Dr. Seuss ignites imaginations, and that’s why we love him.

Most parents will have read to their children before today, and will continue to do so afterwards. But while it’s Read Across America Day, let’s read to our kids, and let’s celebrate a brilliant artist who may just inspire the one who you are reading to.

P.S. Speaking of inspiration, Jason Seiler inspired my portrait of Dr. Seuss. Seiler, an artist who my friend at Adobe suggested I would like, is one of the most talented illustrators out there, and I encourage you to check out his website at www.jasonseiler.com. His work has been featured in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Der Spiegel, Business Week, and many more titles. What I found unique about Jason is that he often paints using digital technology (using a Wacom Cintiq tablet and Photoshop). He uses traditional methods (i.e. lights over darks with an emphasis on values), but the technology allows him to speed up his process and easily make refinements to his work. I used Brushes Redux, an iPad app, to create this portrait of Dr. Seuss. Brushes Redux is not as powerful as Photoshop, but I enjoy painting digitally, and I’m going to continue to experiment with it.

In 2013, Jason created the cover art of Pope Francis for TIME’s Person of the Year issue. That’s a long way from drawing caricatures of his high school teachers. Congratulations on your success, Jason, and thanks for sharing your work with us.

The Nitty Griddy

jim grid

“It doesn’t upset artists to find out that artists used lenses or mirrors or other aids, but it certainly does upset the art historians.” – Chuck Close

A few friends have asked me how I drew James.  Apparently, “With pencils, paper, and a well-worn eraser,” wasn’t a sufficient answer.  So for those of you who are curious about my methods, I used a grid.

Originally described by Leon Battista Alberti in his treatise, “On Painting,” to explain how a landscape could be accurately transposed using a gridded window, Renaissance artist, Alfred Durer, used the grid technique to draw live models.

Durer_Perspective

By looking at a model through a window frame, strung with a grid of black thread, Durer could draw an accurate image of the model onto a corresponding gridded piece of paper (as seen in the image above).  This technique allowed Durer to capture a truer likeness of the model by breaking a complex subject down into smaller, more manageable bites.  Since my uncle lives in Paris and wasn’t available for a live drawing session, I used a gridded photo that I took of him as the source for my drawing.

I have heard some argue that using the grid technique is cheating and that an artist should be able to draw the likeness of a person using freehand only.  My recent drawings of Maya and of Tommy Kane were both done without the use of a grid, so I’m confident that I can draw reasonably well.  But if Chuck Close, Paul Cadden, and Jonathan Yeo sometimes use a grid in their paintings and drawings, then I figured I could too.  Some of my favorite artists even trace projected photos that they have taken onto a canvas before they start painting.  Artists have long employed technology in the production of their works, but their ideas and talents are no less impressive because of it.

I appreciate seeing how other artists create their works, so I took some “play-by-play” photos of James with my iPhone.  These photos are not as clear as the final scan, but I thought it would give you a good sense of how I approached this drawing.

P.S. For an incredible story on how one of the world’s most famous artists used tools and technology to create his paintings, I recommend watching the documentary, Tim’s Vermeer.  This film surely upset some art historians.

Hyperrealism and the Spurning of Milli Vanilli

James_sm    James (8″ x 11″), pencil on paper

“A face is a road map of someone’s life. Without any need to amplify that or draw attention to it, there’s a great deal that’s communicated about who this person is and what their life experiences have been.” – Chuck Close

The other morning, Stacie said, “You know, it would be a lot easier if you just took a black and white photograph and told people you drew it. You could be the Milli Vanilli of the art world!”

When I started painting a couple of years ago, I thought I wanted to paint like Vincent van Gogh, or Canadian artist, Tom Thomson. So I surprised myself when my artistic interests gravitated away from Impressionism and towards Realism, and most recently, Hyperrealism.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Hyperrealism is, “realism in art characterized by depiction of real life in an unusual or striking manner.” Hyperrealist artists capture meticulous detail in their works (mostly aided by high-resolution photography). But they go beyond just reproducing a photograph, and often express some underlying message or narrative: hence why Merriam-Webster includes, “in an unusual or striking manner,” in its definition.

After seeing paintings by Chuck Close and Gottfried Helwein, and drawings by Paul Cadden, I was inspired to give Hyperrealism a shot. I am not yet confident enough with oil paints, so I figured that for my first attempt, I would try a pencil on paper drawing of my uncle. James is the result.

Drawing James took me over 30 days to complete (mostly in 30 to 45 minute increments before work), and given the continuous attention to detail (particularly in the beard and the plaid shirt), there were times when I thought my head would explode. James is nowhere near as good as Paul Cadden’s drawings, but I worked through a challenge, and I learned a lot in the process.

I appreciated Stacie’s suggestion, but I admire the talents and work ethic of hyperrealist artists. As Igor Babailov said, “It is far easier to debate about realistic painting than it is to paint one.” There is no easy way to produce hyperrealist art, and after completing this drawing, I have even more respect for Chuck, Gottfried, and Paul.

P.S. Chuck Close is one of America’s greatest artists, and he deserves a separate post. Gottfried Helnwein’s works are disturbing and not easily forgotten, but they are important – for why, read this article. Separately, I took to Helwein as much because of his dedication to his family, as I did due to his paintings. As for Paul Cadden, he’s a good Scot, who can just bloody well draw.

Drawing in the Afterimage

Maya (drawing) - compressed

After completing the drawing of Tommy Kane (see my last post), I wanted to draw another artist who inspires me.  If you have followed my blog over the past year, you know that I am a fan of Artists Anonymous (“AA”), a group of artists in London and Berlin, who are known for painting in the afterimage.  You can read more about AA in my posts, “For the Love of the Game“, and “Artists Anonymous“.

AA’s paintings are impressive.  Even more remarkable is that the afterimages of their works often look more intentional than the originals.  It is rare to find contemporary artists doing something truly original, and yet AA is doing just that.

The members of Artists Anonymous prefer to remain anonymous.  They do so in part to see what happens if they take authorship away from their works.  As a result, AA is as much a social experiment as it is a moniker.  Nevertheless, one of their founding members, Maya van Malden, is their spokesperson, and the only artist whose identity we know.  So in order to draw Artists Anonymous, I borrowed a photo of Maya, and drew her portrait.  Given AA’s unique method of painting, I thought it only appropriate to draw Maya in the negative (see above).  Below is the afterimage of my drawing.

Maya (afterimage)

Artists Anonymous is among my favorite artists, and there is much more to their art than just their painting techniques.  To see some online images of their works, check out www.artists-anonymous.com.

P.S.  It’s been over two months since I wrote my last blog post, and recently, I had been thinking that The Hipping Post experiment had run its course.  But blogs, Facebook, and other social media, can serve a greater purpose than just throwing a voice into the void.  Used thoughtfully, social media allows you to share, collaborate, and connect.  THP has allowed me to connect with people I never otherwise would have met, and for that I am grateful.

I draw and paint for myself because I enjoy it, and I also write mostly for myself.  But I have enjoyed sharing this blog, so I am going to continue with it.  The posts may come more sporadically, but hopefully I will add some value to those of you who continue to visit and give me some of your time to read my posts.

Drawing Tommy Kane

Tommy Kane_smres

Tommy Kane is a New York-based illustrator and ad agency creative director who travels extensively, and draws on location wherever he goes.  His work has been profiled in a number of books, and he recently published An Excuse to Draw, his first full-length book featuring a collection of his drawings.  I ran across Tommy’s work almost exactly two years ago, when I saw this drawing of the Red Hook Yacht Club on the Urban Sketchers website, and I have followed his blog ever since.  Tommy is a talented artist, and if you are interested in drawing, particularly on location, I recommend checking out his blog.

Tommy is also on the  faculty of Sketchbook Skool, an online course that teaches anyone who is interested in drawing how to see the world, and to get the most out of their drawing and journaling.  Recently, Tommy asked his students to draw his portrait, and the result is an amazing collection of different styles and techniques, all based on the same subject (you can see them on Tommy’s Tumblr page).  Tommy also offered to send a high rez photo to anyone else who was interested in drawing him.  So I emailed Tommy and said that I would be happy to give it a shot.  The drawing above is the end result.  Thanks for inspiring me Tommy, and I’m glad you like the drawing.

Why I Sleep Better

Opa

My grandfather once told me that the hours of sleep before midnight were better than those afterwards, so he recommended that I get to bed at a reasonable hour.  In order to wake up early in the morning to draw, I try to get to bed before 10:00 P.M.  I always thought my grandfather’s suggestion was just some folksy aphorism, but when I go to bed early, I sleep better – go figure.  Thanks for the advice, Opa.

P.S.  My grandfather’s favorite expression was, “Courtesy costs nothing, gains much.”  He was a wise man, and I miss him.

Why I Sketch For 30 Minutes Every Morning

CJ

“We have failed to recognize our great asset: time.  A conscientious use of it could make us into something quite amazing.” – Friedrich Schiller (1759 – 1805)

In high school, my art teacher advised his students to sketch every day.  Even if it was just for a few minutes, he said that daily practice would result in dramatic improvements in our work.  It seemed like sound advice, but I could never last more than a few days before I got side tracked by some other activity.

In the last two years, I have been better about finding time to draw, but until recently, I have struggled with doing it every day.  But the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which I read based on Tim Ferriss’s recommendation, convinced me that not only could I manage my time better, but also that in doing so, I could draw and paint more often.

Mom

In Daily Rituals, Mason Currey writes about the habits of 161 creative people (writers, painters, scientists, composers, etc.), “to show how grand creative visions translate to small daily increments; how one’s working habits influence the work, and vice versa.”  Currey just describes the respective rituals, and does not suggest which ones might be better than others – although, I would not advise adopting Jean Paul Sarte’s daily habit of chewing twenty pills of Corydrane (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin that was “legal in France until 1971, when it was declared toxic and taken off the market”) to increase your writing productivity.

Although some favored creating whenever they felt the desire, many stuck to specific schedules, and would work at their craft at the same time every day.  Some had other jobs or obligations, so they would have to create either early in the morning, or late in the evening.  For example, in order to earn extra money to support her six children and sick husband, Frances Trollope, mother of novelist Anthony Trollope, “sat down at her desk each day at 4:00 A.M. and completed her writing in time to serve breakfast.”  Since my evenings are not always predictable, I decided I would try to draw early in the morning.  Since the beginning of June, with few exceptions, I have woken up at approximately 5:15 A.M. and sketched for 30 minutes.

CB

My morning ritual looks like this.  After I wake up, I go to the kitchen and make coffee.  I could make it the night before, and set the timer to brew so it’s ready for when I wake up, but I like the process of making coffee in the morning.  Doing so also allows me to start my day by completing a simple task.

Then I make a smoothie, or bacon and eggs, and once I finish breakfast, I draw for at least 30 minutes.  After which, I pack up my materials, have a shower, change for work, and then join my family for 20 minutes or so before I leave to take the train to San Francisco.

Me

If you want to increase your creative output or productivity, I highly recommend reading Daily Rituals for inspiration.  And wherever you are Mr. S____y, thank you for your advice.  I wish I had followed it 20 years ago.

P.S.   “Be regular and orderly in your life like a Bourgeois so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert