Conversations in German

My grandfather, Richard Eugene Stultz, who passed away in 1980, was a cigarette smoker as long as I remembered, but he occasionally smoked a pipe. He once told me that we could trace our lineage to William Tell, and showed me a pipe he had acquired on a trip with the American team to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, carved in the likeness of the fabled champion of political freedom and of course, archery. When he died, my grandmother gave me the pipe. I had it professionally cleaned, resisted the pipe shop owner's offer to trade me any pipe in the store for it, and have over the years occasionally filled it with tobacco and smoked it. Otherwise, it has rested in a box or gathered dust on display.

Today, however, as I realized that I couldn't let myself avoid my daily drawing exercise, it came out on the balcony with me where I perched it on the stone parapet facing a contemporary Cornelius Manz bent apple. Although I didn't realize it until just now, it was an apple that William Tell shot from his son's trembling head with a single arrow - a great moment in the folklore of civil disobedience. So, we'll call this one "conversation in German".

8 1/4 x 11 9/16, watercolor pencils and 9B Caran d'Ache Swiss Made Grafwood graphite pencil


Calendar bound

Just a brief post this evening. Tad Herr, my friend and long time collaborator in projects requiring graphic design - I mean real graphic design, is working with me to produce a calendar for pipe collectors and enthusiasts for 2012. We're using either twelve or sixteen of my drawings, depending on whether it ends up being a twelve or sixteen month calendar, combined with Tad's exquisitely ascetic layout and typography. For those readers who follow and attend the pipe shows, we anticipate having it ready for the upcoming CORPS Exposition in Richmond this October. We selected a group of drawings today, and decided that I should do a couple more.

This little study will likely make the cut. And SHIT!! I mean WHOOPSIES! I just realized that I wrote "Barlings" on the drawing and that little billiard sticking out of the bag is an old BBB. I always get them confused. Too late for the original, because if I erase, the erasure marks will show. I was about to say maybe I'll have Tad photoshop it out, but maybe it can just be a little secret that only the readers of this blog will know about. But back to the calendar, Tad and I are excited to be putting this together. We've enjoyed a creatively rewarding fourteen years of working together on projects for the luxury kitchen design world, and it's great fun to be doing something in a new venue. I've wanted to do a calendar for years. We don't know what the selling price will be yet, but we want to make it as accessible as a finely produced piece can be. I think you'll like it.

Manz smooth mild blowfish and sandblasted bent fat brandy and old BBB, 8 1/4 x 11 9/16, 2B and 7B graphite and watercolor pencils




Plunging into pastels

Ten years ago, I did a series of pastel paintings of potted African violets, sitting on the cold hardwood floor of Tina's composing studio in the house that she'd owned for twenty years near the University of Pennsylvania. They were big, messy, wild bursts of energy, wrenchingly difficult for me to do. Two of them hang in enormous frames in our living room, and have reminded me every day for all these years that I need to muster the resolve to work in pastels again. I've done it a few times since then, and the painting that appears with the very first article on this blog is one of them, now in a collection near Philadelphia. But those instances have been isolated, separated by months and years of my pastels waiting to be used again.

So today, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, I've begun a new piece. It will not be a single sitting work as have been all the studies I've posted here in the last couple of months. I'm being a bit savage with my frankly sensitive ego and putting it out here in an early stage as it sits on my studio work table. We'll see together where it goes from here, and whether or not I do it again soon.

Beginning a pastel interpretation of the current pipe clutter on my worktable, 11 1/2 x 15 on BFK Rives


 Okay, I really can't see this objectively at all. Time to stop for the night and look at it with fresh eyes in the morning. Right now . . . well, we'll look again in the morning.


It was bugging me last night that the pipe tamper was a blurry ghost, but I didn't trust myself to go back into it successfully then. Good that I waited until this morning. I think we're finished here, Irene.


On drawing

I believe in drawing from life, so much so that I won’t do it any other way. It is the key reason that I seldom work on a piece beyond one sitting. Drawing is an intimate experience between me and the world that I can see, but it doesn’t stop there. Let’s say I’m doing a drawing of a couple of pipes, to take a completely novel and unlikely scenario as an example. I hold one in my hands, turning it in the light, noticing smoothness or texture through my fingers. The shape comes alive for me. When I set it down on a wood tabletop or a brick wall next to other objects, the qualities of light and shadow, and reflectivity, not just in the little view that makes it onto the paper but in the room or outdoors, all somehow translate into how I feel, and how I respond with a fistful of pencils or a box of crumbly pastels. Regardless of whether or not I’m able to accurately represent the profiles and relationships among the elements that make it onto paper, the experience is direct, intimate, and unique, rich in sensory information that is only available in the moment. And I’m not making a picture. Nor am I sketching. I’m recording an intense dialogue. It can get pretty emotional.

None of this is available if the source is a photograph. Photographs are already flattened, and it is only with skillful and sensitive shooting and processing that even a hint of what the photographer saw or felt can be conveyed though that medium. I love good photography, and consider it an art, but to use it as a shortcut or stand in for my own unfiltered experience seems to diminish both the power of the photo and the impact of my drawing. I only ever use it as a reference when I’m doing an illustration of a room or an object that I’m designing, when the actual material reality doesn’t yet exist.

I could easily ramble on. I’ll spare you the boredom and avoid insulting your intelligence with over emphasis, and I’ll stop here. Besides, I have a drawing to do.

Rad, Trever, Adam, Rad, Queen Charlotte and my ancient Sony Cybershot, 8 1/4 x 11 9/16, Prismacolor and 2B graphite pencils 

the same group plus three, with a few more objects, done eight hours later. A more detailed view can be seen under the "drawings" tab in the "pipes" gallery.


Brown breakers

Yesterday afternoon, I left the house with my son Gabe and drove three hours to spend a last few hours with my wife and daughters at the end of their two weeks of being at Tina's family vacation house on the Jersey shore. I was really too tired to make the trip, and it was ridiculously brief - we're all home now - but I got the opportunity to sit in the damp sand early this morning at the edge of a frothing ocean, trying to catch some essence of its movement, the sand laden breakers, and the pink grey light in a drawing. And since I'm still tired and now grumpy, I'm going to just make this statement, then elaborate another time: I love to draw from life and despise the idea of drawing from photographs.

daybreak on the beach at Mantoloking, NJ, 8 1/4 x 11 9 /16, Derwent watercolor pencils