From this week’s Drawing the Myth and Daydream class. Strangely also cherry-themed, like last week. He seems enamored with her trick; I’m borderline distressed by it.
“You collaborate with your peers, either directly (that is, you write works together) or not (that is, by parallel creations you form the work that comes to be recognized as that of a period style, the art of your time). Competitiveness is a form of collaboration. Addressing an audience—conceiving an addressee, a reader or viewer, for the work—you collaborate with that shifting phantasmagoria. Such sociability is what puts the work in the world.” — Bill Berkson, from “Working with Joe,” 2002
It’s these broad definitions of collaboration that gives me hope. Sociability, generosity and conversation at the heart of art-making and art-viewing softens the sense that the Art-World is a fractured and self-important megalith. I had an uplifting morning with Bill Berkson at SFMOMA; this isn’t a great drawing necessarily but captures the conversation as I experienced it. And the Ellsworth Kelly room was elegant.
In a book on the British painter Ken Kiff, the author refers to Art as a ‘species of Philosophy.’ I like this but wonder if there is more nuance. I think of what I do as a species of Philosophy, or sometimes a mutant relative of Linguistics, or sibling of literature. Seen from a certain angle, Painting could be considered a ‘species of Interior Design.’ Grouping like that helps me stay clear of the vortex of seeing one medium as in competition with another.
When I was in Glasgow, Painting was of no consequence, but Video Installation was of vital importance, now Social Practices (which could be seen as a ‘species of Activism’) is making Video Installation look like basket-weaving, and Painting is no longer a threat. Activism is seen as morally superior to intellectual pursuits now – not to mention the collecting of art objects – so Art that engages social issues and justice is at the top of the wheel for the moment. Will be interesting to watch the Art establishments domesticate Social Practices; reminds me of that quote from Octavio Paz: “More astute than Rome, the religion of art has absorbed all schisms.”
The above drawing: I made a note to myself and then did it, right there on the same page. Rare that happens in life.
Before exit 70 on the interstate that runs the length of Kansas there is a series of signs tempting one to pull off and admire the “incredible six-legged steer.” I just came across some notes I had drawn while driving (I know) and worked them up into more developed drawings. Maybe interesting for those who follow the Wastrels saga on this page, clearly the genesis of the eight-leg deer . . .
The next few drawings are of related oddities of beast at the same exit.
I do not want to close, and to worship, but you have my ears pierced. Sacrifices and sin offerings you will not, therefore, behold, I come from, we told him. The head of the book is about. I’m not asking you, you, I, and about the middle of your heart.
(this text is a mutation of Psalm 40:6-8, having translated the excerpt using Google Translate from English to Italian, Danish, Latin, Turkish, Bengali, Finnish, Hebrew and back to English)
When Jessica and I were designing the homepage for the new issue of Trickhouse (this one here), we wanted to use a paper alphabet, so I cut letters out of construction paper. This is the layering of the paper that remained. This is also I guess the first Workaday post that is neither a painting, nor a drawing, though an expanded definition of drawing would include any mark left which records a movement, action or idea. So, let’s call it a drawing. Not that it matters.
The title of this little drawing of Bookoo and Cilice in a cave of eyes is derived in part from Michael Hurley’s classic song of the same name, the opening lines of which are as follows:
ate a sack of poison sugar
crawling out of the barn
to the weeds to die.
Rolling his eyes.
8″ x 10″
This is a process drawing for the animation that is nearly finished called “Wastrels Find a Home.” A hopeful tale. Or something. In which Bookoo and Cilice tinker within the domestic arrangement. With exquisite writing and voice-over by Kate Bernheimer and forthcoming (and eagerly awaited audio) forthcoming from the Eric Jordan.
8 1/2″ x 11″
This was made in preparation for a class I’m teaching called “Drawing the Myth and Daydream.” The prompt involves picking a setting (in this case ‘under water’), a figure or animal (I did several), and a state of being (I chose ‘breaking into pieces’). I think I should have made it more obviously under water. Other states of being to chose from include: floating, flaming, blooming with flowers, tiny, covered in hair, dissolving, enormous, winged, and part-human/part-animal. The first class was highly enjoyable.
11″ x 14″
For the last couple years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a long and rich conversation with one of my favorite English painters, Timothy Hyman; we will publish an edited version soon in Trickhouse. One of his paintings that came up in the conversation is I Open My Heart to Reveal London Enshrined Within, which I love so much, and I ripped off part of the title for this drawing. I’ll continue to loot his work, as one does, with the hope of absorbing some of his innocence.
5 1/2″ x 9″
Not the first time I’ve indulged a crackpot understanding of linguistics this year on the Workaday page. Bookoo’s lingering in the mirror stage.
“Writings scatter to the winds blank checks in an insane charge. And were they not such flying leaves, there would be no purloined letters.” – Jacques Lacan
9″ x 36″
This is a single panel from this triptych:
If you click on the image to enlarge the full drawing, you’ll see that you can read the text left to right as one big paragraph, up and down as columns, or in a staircase fashion. I wrote the sections vertically and assembled them as columns, so how they read horizontally is a surprise to me. Fun with permutations! Cilice can eat a bug in a snowstorm.
8″ x 9 1/2″
This one here has Bookoo being approached, by whom we do not know. The text (provided by Julia R. Gordon) can be read up and down as well as left and right. That’s kind of how I read, which is why it takes me forever to read a page, so I find this text very satisfying and unnervingly accommodating for the wandering eyes. I’m working more with this up-down-left-right text thing, feeling out how to make permutations. Maybe there will be another example tomorrow.
6″ x 10″
In Swannanoa, North Carolina there is a cluster of mobile homes on a circular street called “Good Loop” and when I’d pass by the Good Loop, Shirley Temple’s classic song “On the Good Ship Lollipop” always came to mind. There are a lot of trailers in the Blue Ridge Mountains, sometimes they appear to have fallen from the sky. I have made a lot of drawings and paintings of trailers, not for any social commentary, but seeing the trailer as a protagonist, in lieu of a figure.
4″ x 6″
I had a dream last night that I was a school teacher. I walked into another teacher’s classroom and on the chalkboard someone had written lines, over and over, like when you get in trouble as a child. I could not read what the lines said. As I was looking at the chalkboard lines, trying to make out what it said, a bombastic little girl bounded in and erased a section across the middle of the words and quickly drew a huge stylized horse and then ran out of the room. I stood there staring at the image and the text and thought “Oh my god, this is perfect.”
This drawing is not perfect like the girl’s drawing, but it is enough to hold the dream in place. Since I couldn’t read the text in the dream, the text in my drawing says “I will not think of a horse” after that thing about how if someone says: Do not imagine a horse, in order for your brain to not imagine a horse it first has to imagine a horse… which makes the whole thing impossible. I think it is a well-known psychological exercise. I just tried to find evidence of it online, but couldn’t, maybe I dreamed that too. I’ve used it in text/image classes for years, and will continue to do so.
4″ x 6″
Wherein Bookoo intentionally goes through a hole in the ice to demonstrate her ability to breathe under water. In previous versions, Cilice does not realize Bookoo can breathe under water so goes in to save her and nearly freezes to death for which Bookoo feels really bad. But in this version Cilice is unaware and Bookoo is trapped under the ice. Though not a tragedy since she can breathe, it is still a tense situation.
4″ x 6″
Español: Colón llega a América
English: Christoper Columbus arrives in America
Deutsch: Christoph Kolumbus trifft in Amerika ein
Русский: Христофор Колумб прибывает в Америку
Français: Christophe Colomb arrive en Amérique
Italiano: Cristoforo Colombo arriva in America
Česky: Kryštof Kolumbus připlouvá do Ameriky
8 1/2″ x 11″
Here’s another working cell (so to speak, I call it that, but a real animator might roll their eyes) for the Wastrels animation. The animation is made by scanning: I draw with lithography crayon on the acetate, scan, wipe off a bit, redraw it, rescan it and so on, forever. This one has a haircut scene, bookshelf with fish swimming scene (above) and a rendition of Shelton Walsmith’s painting that’s on our wall.
8 1/2″ x 11″
This is a transparency – grease pencil on acetate – from the Wastrels animation I’m working on. Each figure represents a stage in a movement of a spectral figure walking down stairs. The two pieces of acetate were lying on the floor on top of one another and I found it to be a good image on its own.
8″ x 9″
This is one of the (as of now) fifteen images for Kate Bernheimer’s captivating book coming out next year. In total there will be seventy something images, one for the facing page for each paragraph of text.
All of the pieces are on three layers of tracing paper (an archivist’s nightmare)so are pretty fragile, but the materials allow for all sorts of shenanigans. I’m somewhat pulling from Depression-era cartoons for these drawings.
Also, I’m remembering some of the drawings that my mother made on the wall of the uninhabitable third floor of my grandparents house, wobbly Little Lulu and others. They were still there when I was a teenager. If one were in a pensive mood, those drawings could call up feelings of fleeting innocence, or imminent absence. And nothing speaks to imminent absence like the ancient story of the origin of drawing according to Pliny (if I remember right… ahem):
A young woman from Corinth was spending the night with a soldier as he was about to go off to war with no chance of his return. Realizing her pending loss, she took a bit of coal from the fire and traced his shadow on the wall. The End.
12″ x 18″
(definitely have to look at the enlargement with this one, it’s all very light)
I made a drawing of Neil Armstrong the day he died and Hannah recently mentioned that she had written these lines in response to it. Luckily I had the beginnings of another N. Armstrong drawing and put her words in pink middle school curly script next to it to make a diptych. Reminds me of when everybody wanted to be an astronaut. Those were weightless times.
I am Neil Armstrong
I am on the moon
I am standing on a sheet
The sheet flows
The sheet is a moon
The moon of the Earth
12″ x 18″
St. Clare founded the “Poor Clares” order of nuns and was one of the first followers of St. Francis in early 13th c. Assisi. She devoted herself to a life of poverty.
Once when she was too ill to attend mass, she was able to see and hear the service projected on the wall of her room, so in 1958 Pope Pius XII designated her Patron Saint of Television. St. Clare is also the Patron Saint of against eye disease, Assisi, embroiderers, eyes, good weather, gilders, gold workers, goldsmiths, laundry workers, needle workers, Santa Clara Indian Pueblo, telegraphs, telephones, and television writers. Great that we still have a Patron Saint of Telegraphs.
I made this drawing and a few others like it a year or so ago, I can’t remember why now, had something to do with an interest in the sculptural quality of corset boning, and the idea of garments made of cotton and whalebone. The idea never went anywhere but I like the drawing still. Funny how one word can mean so many things. Search for “boning” online and you get at least three definitions, all vividly represented.
15″ x 17″
My big face is peering in on the antebellum South. There’s a house, a gate, a field, a flock of birds, live oaks and the popping bubbles of our mothers’ and fathers’ mothers and fathers.
It’s hard to work with images of the Old South without things getting cliché and problematic. Maybe not even possible, here’s another go at it.
In his memoir, my Great-great-grandfather writes the story of his father’s death in Natchez, Mississippi in 1884. The Rev. Marks was called to be by his bedside:
“When Mr. Marks came my father said, Mr. Marks I am absolutely saved, am I not? — Absolutely so! he replied. — There is not a doubt about it? he asked again. — Not a particle of doubt, Mr. Marks replied. — Pointing to his wife he said, Look at her. Why then should she weep?”
8 1/2″ x 10″
Herakleitos (c. 535 – c. 475 BCE, from Guy Davenport translation)
Awake, we see a dying world; asleep, dreams.
Nature loves to hide. [Becoming is a secret process].
The Lord who prophesies at Delphoi neither speaks clearly nor hides his meaning completely; he gives one symbols instead.
In searching out the truth be ready for the unexpected, for it is difficult to find and puzzling when you find it.
Frankie Rollins and I are working on a collaboration called “Sorrow for Beginners”, a kind of manual, or user’s guide. This idea seems to be related to that; I woke up the other night and wrote in the notebook next to my bed “write limericks about suffering.”
So the last few nights I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and written limericks and made a very small book of three of them. I might do more, or maybe this is all there is. I love that the cadence of the limerick makes me laugh before my brain has time to notice that it’s not funny at all, even a little bit. Even when I know what’s coming I still laugh.
approx 8″ x 10″
It was Marc Chagall’s birthday the other day. I love his paintings, gravity and logic don’t hold. I remember seeing an interview with him on the BBC years ago and when asked why he paints he said something like: To make my mother happy. Great answer. He had the eyes of a wild piglet. Maybe the greatest painter of dreams.
“Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life.” – Marc Chagall
4″ x 6″
“Mayday…mayday…mayday,” the international emergency distress signal, from the french contraction, me + aidez, m’aidez, or venez m’aider, come help me, conjugated with the formal ‘you’, the imperative ‘you help me’, or ‘I need you to help me’. Said three time: mayday…mayday…mayday to differentiate the distress call over radio air waves. Help me…help me…help me.
Here Bookoo and Cilice have gone to the underworld and are tempted to destroy one another, like in those great Poussin sketches.
9″ x 12″
The year was twisted like a towel. Monstrous forearms grabbing and twisting, grabbing and twisting. That is how the year got to be only nine and a half months long. Metastasis, the changing of position, state or form. The eighty-ninth of May.
Here we see the Wastrels covered in hair. Maybe they have had an encounter with the wildman seen so much in old manuscripts. Or maybe Cilice has taken his hairshirt one step too far.
11″ x 14″
The more I do these musician drawings, I think I’m still putting in too much information. The eye can figure out how the bodies and space fits together without much info. I remember reading John Berger’s writings about transcribing radio transmissions during WWII and how the mind can create (even with flaws) a whole image or idea from only a few staticky scraps. And then there’s this that I’ve seen floating around the internet for years:
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
In New York for the memorial of Julia’s grandfather, Meg. I find if you’ve been thinking a lot about someone, it’s easier to draw them well. Portraiture is about saturation, I guess, the more you soak up the more there is to wring back out. And I’ve been hearing a million stories from his long and rich life.
Somebody (John Singer Sargent?) said something like “a portrait is a picture in which there is something wrong with the mouth.” I remembered that half way through drawing this, so decided to put more effort into his mouth, which was to me the most expressive part of his face. But now I’m just talking shop. Rest in peace, Poppy.
9″ x 12″
Another excerpt from Periodic Companions. This one is a pretty good illustration of how the text and images work together. Laynie’s characters are personifications of chemical elements and their personalities are shaped by the qualities of their corresponding elements. The drawings are just schoolgirls. Well, not just, maybe elements of the periodic table appear as Edwardian schoolgirls, if seen under certain light or from a certain angle. I’m not a scientist so can’t say for sure.
9″ x 12″ (the drawing part)
This is one of eleven drawings that will accompany Laynie Browne’s elegant and strong new book. I’ll trickle some of these in here on the WaD, with occasional bits of her text. I am making the drawings as replicas of the illustrations from my mother’s Edwardian child’s primer “Emmy Lou: Her Book & Heart”. Basically illustrating Laynie’s text with another book’s illustrations, and they strangely work. Or, they work strangely. Either, both. Whatever.
One cryptic description of the collaboration, from the Valentine’s exhibition at the UA Poetry Ctr:
What happens when a Victorian childhood primer meets postmodern characters based upon the periodic table of elements? Love compels tears. Relationships are based upon chemistry and are represented through a series of drawings which emphasize gesture, hearsay, and indeterminacy.
9″ x 12″
A virga is a column of rain that sweeps out of a cloud and evaporates before it reaches the ground. Here one appears with an aqueduct as the children explore what may be a Roman village. I woke up with De Chirico in mind, but this drawing, like a virga is just a wisp.
11″ x 14″
These group portraits of musicians, they remind me of something Cézanne said about his still-lifes, like “I’m not interested in apples, I’m interested in how I perceive apples. I feel that way about the musicians (his apples are better paintings, but that’s comparing apples and…).
I went looking for that quote but couldn’t find it, but instead found lots of other things Cézanne said, some very odd, and decided to string them into a paragraph. It makes a strange little proclamation. I know you’re not supposed to jam together other peoples words, but it’s fun and I’m not a journalist, so here we go:
“Tell me, do you think I’m going mad? I sometimes wonder, you know. Painting is damned difficult – you always think you’ve got it, but you haven’t. A thousand painters ought to be killed yearly. Say what you like: I’m every inch a painter. I want to die painting. I am the primitive of the method I have invented. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not really possible to help others. We live in a rainbow of chaos. I allow no one to touch me.” – Paul Cézanne
3 1/2″ x 4″
This one is a tiny drawing of an idea that I may (or may not) realize in which I take some of the paintings from my Edelweiss series and add extensions to them. For instance, taking this painting, and adding a leaping hare addendum.
Those paintings were made strictly from old family photo albums, with the rule of ‘no invention’, but it may be time to let them loosen up and get out some dance moves.
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