The History: This is my story and I’m sticking to it… for now.
Back in 1996, while living & teaching in Madrid, I gleefully discovered Picasso all around m but much more than that, I started seeing all the beauty he saw around him. I walked the streets, imagining I was getting inspired by what he might have seen neatly a century before me. I was in a heaven of inspiration that only increased when I visited Barcelona a few months later.
For me, Madrid was a city whose life-blood was art. It was obvious in the buildings, museums, and galleries. To my great joy it was weaved into the fabric of every aspect of life I experienced there. The restaurants & bodegas were always decorated with azulejos and the proprietors and guests all boasted they had the most beautiful tiles and mosaics in the city. The market places were a photographer’s delight and the proud vendors loved the attention of my questions about their food. Every store and boutique was carefully and lovingly displayed as a feast for the eyes.
I had a few regular places to go for meals and this drawing was done in a previously designate gentlemen’s cafe I frequented on my way to an early morning class. While all were now welcome, there were still many nudes decorating the place, mostly sculptures and mosaics done in a classic Greek style. Almost daily I would sit there for my cafe con leche and churros, observing the clientele, always amazed that they would take their morning coffee with a preferred shot of alcohol, especially the manzanilla, or local apple brandy, which was like a punch to the throat first thing in the morning. And, yes, I tried it and much of what they had. I wanted to experience it all!
On one morning, I got there much earlier than usual and started sketching the sculptures around the bar. I hadn’t given myself this challenge before and decided, after a couple of spiked coffees, that it was hight time I did! I’m quite certain this model I chose for this one didn’t look anything like a Modigliani painting, but I had been to the Reina Sofia museum the day before and fell in love with what I saw from him there! I still feel he is one of my biggest influences. As I look at it now, it very much reminds me of beauty of the Mediterranean women that were all around me there. A beauty that is both internal and external. This drawing is my vision of Spain and my experience there. Beauty from bed to end!
In preparation for this article, I looked long at this drawing and realize how much I miss drawing like this. I may have to start again. What a blessing to sometimes revisit ones own work.
The Technique: How I did this awesomeness!
At this time I was using conte & graphite pencils, then plating at smoothing lines by licking my fingers and rubbing them. Trying desperately to remember my lessons learned from art classes and from the tons of books I devoured.
This was al older drawing, so it is scanned as such and only the detail is made clearer with my photo editing.
The Influence: Confessions of a Plagiarist, sort of…
While I feel Modigliani is the prominent style, I cannot deny the influence of Picasso’s Les demoiselles D’Avignon. When you see it live and the studies that lead up to it, it is impossible to un-see. At the Prado, I found myself stopping and staring for hours at Velasquez & El Greco as well. I feel comfortable to admit their influence on me.
Help Me With My Hoarding Of Crazy Socks: Buy The Artist’s Prints, Mugs, T-Shirts, Pillow, Shower Curtains, and other awesome stuff.
What inspires an artist?
“All they see” is the first and most literal answer. For me, that is literally hundreds of gallery & museum exhibits, thousands of books, and tens of thousands of images online.
When asked where to start a book collections, I almost always recommend these art bibles:
Janson’s “History of Art”
Phaidon’s “The Art Book”
Both give a nice overview with good pictures. Once you’ve discovered what you are attracted to there most, you can then dig deeper into that area.
If I had to pick only a few of my major influences, which is a very difficult task, it would be Modigliani, Picasso, Van Gogh, & Andrew Wyeth. Here are a few of the best books I recommend from them.
If you have the time, you are free to visit my GoodReads library to see a fraction of the books I’ve read. These are the ones I remember, that is. Or you can visit the ever growing collection on my Pinterest account
The Materials: Quick! Order this stuff right now, AND You too, can make masterpieces!
Graphite Pencils: The Review: This is a brand I picked up when I lived in Spain, and I’ve been using some of the same pencils for nearly twenty years now. Partially because I don’t use a lot of graphite; Partly because they haven’t broken and crumbled during sharpening and travel in my flimsy pencil case.
Moleskine Sketchbook: The Review: Some may ask if I’ve succumbed to the marketing of Moleskin and that is why I pay the higher price for these watercolour paper notebooks. Maybe, if you take into account that this tope of sketchbook has been used by such artists as Van Gogh, Picasso, & Hemingway, then I have been sold by that bunch of so and sos. I love the texture of the watercolour paper and find it the most enjoyable to draw on with pen, pencil, and ink. These books have solid covers, and always seam to inspire some new creativity, be it giving me the chance to draw on one side, and take notes on what I drew to figuring out how to incorporate the seam into the drawing. I love them. They come in a ton of different sizes, and I’ve used quite a few, but prefer the smaller ones for ease of carrying around. Check out their website for other options Or just type Moleskine on Amazon and have fun choosing one!
Photoshop for Mac: The Review: You could use the free “ MAC Photos” program or Picassa and possibly get the same results, but Photoshop offers you the flexibility of presenting yourself as a pro photographer, like no other program. There’s a reason it’s considered the best of the best, after all. So, this allows you the possibility of selling this service to others and funding more of your creativity
Apple MacBook Pro 15.4″ Laptop:The Review: You may choose to get an iMac for the bigger screen, and I couldn’t disagree with the beauty of working with the 24” screen. I picked the laptop, because of the need to be mobile and the flexibility of multi-purposing it to use for client demos. As an alternative to the weight of this model, I would suggest the MacBook Air 13”. Most of us have become accustomed to mobile device size screens and it is much easier to carry around.
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR: The Review: My first DSLR camera was the EOS Rebel T3. This one is vastly superior to the old model. Canon has a well deserved reputation of having top rated cameras. It requires a little play time to master it, and that time will be lessened by defining a clear idea of what you want to do with it, then jumping on YouTube for the multitude of How To videos. If you want a smaller camera to carry around, try Canon EOS M10 Mirrorless Digital Camera OR go small & powerful with the Canon PowerShot Digital Camera with 3-Inch LCD & built in wifi.
Canon PIXMA MX492 Inkjet Printer:The Review: For me this has been the easiest to us for cleaning and cartridge replacement. It works reasonably well with recycled inks and the wireless is easy to set-up. The Canon has worked best for me on ink usage. When purchasing printers, always consider the cost of ink replacement… for the most part, this is the big difference right now in printers. For big reproduction lines it is better to outsource. For scanning, they are as good as the camera in them… this is one reason I’m a fan of Canon products. It does do a nice job on printing photos on good photo paper, and the black print is crisp and clean, provided you do regular cleanings and keep it dust free.