Howell/Roan 283

Okay, much better. My apologies for ranting and sharing too much (my third ex-wife, who is from Virginia, would call it "showing your ass") in yesterday's post. I hope it was at least amusing, and gave some hint of credit to my present wife and companion of over ten years for her tolerance for those of us who thrash through life with an uneven temperament. But this isn't a diary - I apologize again.

Neill Archer Roan, with whom I've become friends through the pipe collecting (translate: obsession) community and other common interests, has written an outstanding blog for over four years now called "A Passion for Pipes". Suffice to say that it makes my site look like a junior high school newsletter. To celebrate his longevity on the web (really just an excuse, right Neill?) he persuaded pipe carver and musician Jack Howell to take orders for up to 100 specimens of a unique historic Comoy shape for his "Pipe of the Year 2011". They're gorgeous, perfectly balanced, timelessly styled pieces. To try to redeem myself from a lousy effort yesterday morning, I spent about an hour and a half before work hours this morning out on the balcony, doing a careful drawing. And yes, my patience did run out when I kept dropping pencils from my overstuffed left fistful and kept forgetting which color I was holding between my teeth, but I did not scribble, swear, or behave in a hostile fashion towards anyone. I even made coffee for Tina before I started. But anyway, this morning's effort is for Neill and Jack. Hope you guys enjoy it!

"A Passion for Pipes" Pipe of the Year by Jack Howell, 8 x 11, watercolor pencil and 2B graphite

detail of the pipe


Cranky start

Whoa boy do I ever NOT have much patience for drawing this morning. Of course, feeling cranky as hell, I chose to draw the most difficult thing I could think of (the old church we live in and the neighbor's from across the street) and sat on the concrete curb trying to lean against a fire hydrant, couldn't get comfortable, didn't like the view, and had a bad attitude to begin with. I'd much rather have just sat on the balcony with a cup of coffee and a pipe. And now I'm crabbier because I couldn't get my head into the scene in front of me enough to deal with all the layers of tree foliage, the difficult forms of the buildings, the cars parked out front, well enough to understand the perspective angles. Then my across the street neighbor Rick, in front of whose house I was fuming at my sketchbook, pulled up to the curb, got out of his car, and stood over my shoulder asking me how much I'd charge to do a drawing of his house. I tried to be civil but instead made a lame excuse and grumbled something evasive in a "go away" tone, and he slunk away after complimenting my HORRIBLE SKETCH. I'll have to apologize when I see him again if he doesn't run the other way. I know - I'll further humiliate myself by posting a photo of what it really looks like so everyone who comes here can see how badly I screwed it up along with enduring my rant! I'm going to have to do some work, let my mood reset, and try again later. God, I'm like a grumpy six year old!

hasty scrawl of our house (right) and the neighbor's (left)

the actual scene


Old Saab in Syracuse

I almost didn't put these up. The rear quarter panel in the color sketch is too short and the rear wheel too small, and the foreshortening is a little whacked. But hell, cars are hard to draw accurately. Besides, I can't just show the good stuff if this blog has anything to do with process. The car is pretty cool, though. It's late and I just got in from six hours on the road, so I won't talk about my little Saab obsession right now. Maybe tomorrow.

1972 Saab 95 in Syracuse, NY

a much quicker and more accurate sketch of the same car


Scribbly mood

Honestly, I get more pleasure out of this when I don't think at all about trying to make a nice picture, and I just cut loose with a 2B pencil. It goes quickly and follows my mood and my pinballing attention. I can concentrate on a profile that I want to capture accurately, then I can scribble, responding to how a shadow or texture makes me feel. It's great fun. Sometimes I enjoy drawing much more carefully, but not today. Just like sometimes I like a neatly arranged desk, but this morning, scattered pipes that need cleaning and no place to put anything down suits me just fine. But I did empty the ashtray . . .

messy desk with pipes and paraphernelia, coffee press, phone, and kleenex box

Rad Davis, Jack Howell, and Trever Talbert


What you see or what you feel

Lately I've been looking at lots of work by other artists. Full time painters I mean. Fine artists whose focus is creating work that patrons might buy, who teach or do whatever else they can to make the mortgage payment and buy groceries and art materials. Some of the work leaves me marveling at the skill and sensitivity that these people have developed, many in media that have intimidated me forever. Oil landscapes painted on location that leap off the canvas or paper, that make me think "oh, I can feel the heat and the beating sun or the cold and fine, blowing snow across that field." I will probably never do work that approaches what these hard working artists have accomplished.

What it is for me has more to do with what I'm feeling. Sometimes - often - raw, impatient, angry, exuberant, energetic, overwhelmed with emotion. Pencil leads break, pastels shatter to dust, the paper gets smeared. Sometimes quietly reflective. What's valid? I don't know. All of it. But there has to be something in it for the viewer or it risks being narcissism, or at best, art therapy. Trying to find and maintain the right balance between technical practice and the experience of seeing and the feelings that are churned is like trying to ride a wild horse. I'm a perfectionist but I hope I never break that horse's spirit.