Getting On With It


As a self confessed and
proud perfectionist I admit that I drive myself a little crazy at times. I’m not ashamed of being nit picky at all as that keeps mediocrity at bay at all times but sometimes I do feel the need to just jump in and get on with it. Spontaneity doesn’t mean that quality has to suffer. Solid draftsmanship is solid draftsmanship and that doesn’t change.

Lately, I’ve felt the need to loosen up a bit and shove my hands into the creative dirt. The main thing about all this is that I’ve decided to stop overthinking things and just do them. The only thing that matters now is creating and everything else takes second place to that. Interestingly, this approach is a throwback to past era of my life when I was much more willing to be spontaneous and experimental. Those things have their importance but there must be skill beneath them to give them support otherwise they’re there’s really nothing there.

The drawing that accompanies this post a drawing of a good friend of mine that I recently did in my sketchbook. If you have beautiful friends you should draw them. There’s nothing better than drawing a beautiful woman and capturing her beauty. I’m fortunate to have quite a few highly photogenic friends so I am not too worried about the scarcity of subjects for my pen. There’s definitely more to come. This drawing was fun to do; I left a bit of pencil in for the shading and finished off the rest in pen and ink. I’m pleased with the results I’ll probably rework this and refine it a bit and turn into a proper finished piece so as to do it’s gorgeous subject justice.

Empathy and Finesse

It’s late on an August evening and I’ve spent the better part of my day behind my drawing table working on a myriad of projects, including this blog post. It’s stifling in my studio tonight, but work must continue. People often ask me how much I work on a daily basis, perhaps a better question would be how much I don’t work. I’m up early, around 7:30, and I’m in the studio a great part of the day. Lately, I’ve been racking up the hours — I’m starting to slowly edge back to those 14 hour days that were so common in the past.

The drawing that I’ve chosen for this new blog post is one that I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time. It’s been quite a while since my last post; I’ve put off making a new post because I just couldn’t bear to bring myself to publish yet another journal page filled with drawings of food or coffee-swilling patrons. These things are so commonplace nowadays that they have become cliche. Surely there’s more interesting things to draw, right? There has to be more tto a post for me than the shine of silverware and the ritualistic act of daily caffeine ingestion. 

Recently, the world has felt so dark. The news can be so overwhelming and it’s easy to feel a sense of hopelessness and despair. As always, though, there are those that burn like beacons in the dark, showing us the way forward. Powerful women are stepping forward worldwide to guide us. These include Americans like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ruth Bader Ginsberg as well as international figures such as Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate activist, and Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. On March 15, 2019 the city of Christchurch, New Zealand suffered a horrific terrorist attack where a gunman killed 51 people and injured 49 others at two local mosques during Friday prayer. In the wake of these attacks, the Prime Minister reached out to the families of the victims and held them close to her as they came to grips with such a senseless and cowardly act. Most importantly, within a month she helped pass legislation that banned assault style weapons in New Zealand. 

I remember seeing images of her comforting her bereft countrymen on social media and I was moved by the great empathy that the Prime Minister showed them. Her actions were the exact opposite of what I see here in the United States — her actions were heartfelt and genuine as opposed to being just another photo op. This portrait is the first in a series of new drawings that will celebrate exceptional women. 

What you see here is basically a preliminary drawing that will lead to a finished piece. I’m still working it out and finessing her features. It may look finished, but I can assure you that this is far from done. Her face is the most important element of my drawing, so her features have to be spot on. I hope that I’m able to capture the sincere and heartfelt empathy in her gaze. Showing such emotion is a challenge that I’m excited to be undertaking. 

My Life On Paper

Keeping a sketch-journal for the better part of three decades is respectable to say the least. I used to go to cafes to draw and I’d never see anyone else doing the same thing. It was strange to see that. Okay, maybe every once in a great while I’d see another bloke with a sketchbook but it wasn’t very often that I did. Nowadays, that’s changed. Now, it seems like everyone is lugging around a sketchbook — I think that’s great. I, personally, can’t imagine myself not carrying my sketchbook around with me. What if something amazingly awesome were to happen in front of me? Can’t draw it without my sketchbook.

Over the years, I’ve written and drawn about all sorts of stuff in my journal: ideas, thoughts, feelings, opinions, you name it, I’ve written about it. Throughout my years of graphic journaling I’ve felt like there’s never been a real balance between what I write and what I draw. I think that a successful sketch-journal should reflect both aspects in equal measure. Ah, the ongoing struggles of a working artist. I wonder how many people ever imagine such things when looking through my sketch-journal? My gut instinct tells me not many. I’m not surprised and ultimately I don’t really care.

There’s always something to write about and there’s always something to draw; every single day is filled with strange and wonderful things done by people who are strange and who do strange things all the time. You just never know what you’re going to see and hear on any given day. Good, bad, stupid, pompous, disgusting — it’s all game for my trusty Rapidograph. There’s going to be a whole lot of that in my forthcoming journal pages. What will make it all different is the approach that I’ll be taking: a little more honest, a little more reflective, a little sarcastic, a little more to the point. It’s the only way to do this. Barbara Bradley, the head of the illustration department at The Academy of Art College in the 80s used to say, “Put it down with authority,” when it came to drawing; those sage words can also apply to writing as well. When someone looks at my sketch-journal my life has to be on those pages otherwise I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.

Lastly, a word about the sketch for this post. I’d been sitting at my local coffeehouse drawing and sucking up the free AC for the better part of a Sunday Afternoon and I had started to pack my things up when suddenly, outside the window, I saw this vision of beauty appear. There was no way that I was leaving before drawing her. Beautiful dark eyes, long lashes, long dark thick hair, how could I resist? Thankfully, she sat for quite a while as she conversed thus allowing  me to immortalize her in the pages of my journal. Job done.

It’s All About The Work

 

Abstract 1 - February 2016

After a nice long break from blogging, I feel refreshed, energized, and ready to jump back into it. My break was good for me; it allowed me to reconnect with myself and things that are important to me, and it also allowed me to put things into perspective.

So, here I am. Most people who know me well know that I am hugely influenced by both American and European comic book art, especially French bande desinée. I get just as excited by seeing an original Robert Crumb or Dave Stevens as I do by seeing an original Jean Giraud, Philippe Druillet, or Enki Bilal. I love comic book art, but I also love Picasso, Burne-Jones, Lord Frederick Leighton, and Joaquín Sorolla too. As an artist, I must be able to express different things in different ways and still retain my own identity. Doing that is the trickiest thing for any artist to do but, ultimately, you have to deal with it; otherwise you’re doomed to becoming boring and one dimensional. I’m not too impressed with artists who are limited in their outlook — it’s like talking to someone who only talks about one culture or one interest and nothing else. I’m even less impressed with artists who put creativity over craft. The quick, slap-dash style doesn’t mean crap unless you’re a strong and competent draftsman. Trying to be cute and clever is even worse. Learn to draw first, then get creative. People want skill for free today. They don’t want to work for it, they want to acquire it by an act of magic. Get a clue folks. It doesn’t work that way. Bust your ass, master your craft, then come and talk to me about it.  

Retaining your identity despite stylistic changes is one of two huge challenges an artist faces. The second, and more important, is being yourself through and through no matter what. Maturity and experience have taught me that it’s not about what school you went to, or if you’re self taught, or if you have a drop of fame, or if you have a million followers on social media or whatever. It isn’t about any of those things — it’s all about the work. My credo is and always will be Draftsmanship is craftsmanship. If you don’t draw well, then you simply cannot move forward. You can’t break the rules when you don’t know them. It’s all about the work. When I was 19 years old, I was accepted to one of the best art schools in the world and I’m also an ex-student of Barron Storey, an illustrator who’s a noted figure in the history of American illustration and whose students have influenced a generation of comics artists, BUT it’s not about any of that. Someone can brag all they want about what they do, who they know, or where they studied, but that won’t hide anything from a trained and experienced eye. In less eloquent words, at this stage in the game I’m not easily impressed and I can see right through people’s bullshit. If I come off as arrogant because of this, then so be it. I’ve been drawing since the age of five and I’ve been a professional since the age of 25, so it is what it is; take it or leave it. Beautiful, well-crafted work will always take precedence over ego.  

The drawing that adorns this post is something that started as a smaller doodle in my current sketchbook. My love of Picasso’s work is pretty clear here. As I often do, I scanned the page with the doodle on it and posted it to my social media accounts. Not long after I posted my page, Michael Kalman, co-founder of Stallman & Birn sketchbooks (my faves), came along on Twitter and kindly left me a very encouraging comment. His comment inspired me to expand my original doodle idea into a bigger drawing. I feel as comfortable working in this style as I do when I draw a portrait of someone, when I do a comic style drawing in brush and ink, or when I paint in watercolor — it’s the same thing to me; all those things are part who I am. I’m fortunate that I can easily do different things equally well; t’s something that not everyone can do. Switching between different approaches is something that I’ve always been able to do, but not something that I do too often. That is going to change.

In closing I’d like to inform all of my dear readers that I reached an important Twitter milestone a couple of days ago: 500 followers! I’ve been on Twitter for quite some time, but the majority of my new followers have come in the last 2 years – 430 followers in that time. I am so grateful to all the people from around the globe who follow me here and on social media. THANK YOU to each and every one of you for helping me reach the big 5-0-0 on Twitter. I greatly appreciate your continued support. 

 

 

 

 

 

It Is What It Is

El Arte No Es Para Imbeciles Color

Sometimes, an idea and an opinion come together in a spontaneous and very satisfying way. That’s basically what happened when I drew this page. I wanted to play around and experiment and see what would come of that, so I started with no preconceived idea in mind. I used to use this approach a lot years ago — Usually, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. 

I started with a shape and that shape led to another and another – you get the idea. Despite the fact that I drew this directly in ink, it still took me a while to finish. As you might guess, adding the crosshatching and building up the shading takes me a while. I’ve been drawing this way for 20 years; it stems from my love of drawing in ink that began in my teens and the satisfying feeling of repetitiously drawing line after line. Maybe it’s some sort of OCD thing, I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s very gratifying to me. 

As I got closer to finishing my cubist-inspired image, I started to feel that it needed some text to accompany it. I started to think what I could make a statement about. You know it didn’t take me long to come up with an answer. As an artist, I have some very definite ideas when it comes to art. Sometimes, I come to my wit’s end with people’s simplistic opinions about art and artists. Therefore, I decided that a straightforward, no holds barred, statement is what was needed here. The statement came fairly quickly: “El arte no es para imbéciles.” Yes, it’s true, sometimes I really feel that art is not for imbeciles. Is it ever? Does that sound elitist? Maybe it does — if it does, then so be it. I offer no apologies for this. 

Art isn’t supposed to always be beautiful; if you view art with such a narrow point of view, then you fail to understand what art is all about. That’s like thinking that life is always good or bad — we all know that it isn’t either of those things all the time. Things are getting interesting in what i’m doing and I’m liking it. This whole other side of me is spilling onto the page and that’s bringing forth all sorts of ideas. Watch out, here I come!