Draw not write

Two excursions in my little sketch journal today but I'm in TOO BAD A MOOD to write now. Never mind why. You can write for a change. Leave a comment.

studio crow #3

a Rad Davis sandblasted prince on my antique arts & crafts smoker's stand.


Studio crow

My father taught himself to do taxidermy when he was a teenager, and my parents' house has a room with dozens of his mounted wildlife crowding the walls. Most of them are specimens that he found dead but intact along the road, or that friends gave him, knowing of his hobby. All kinds of birds, large and small, squirrels, weasels, a beaver, schools of fish, and even a bobcat from his high school days. He hasn't done much in the last few years, but when he was into it, he won professional ribbons at competitions even though he was an amateur. Like many things my dad does, (drawing and painting, for instance), he's easily good enough to earn a living at it. He just never wanted to. He just liked doing it and wanted to do it really well.

This crow has been downstairs, just inside the front doors, for the nine years we've lived here, startling guests and collecting dust and cobwebs. He came up here just 45 minutes ago because I knew he'd be hard to draw. Maybe he'll stay here so I can do it again. Until I can do it really well.

A crow preserved in a lifelike pose years ago by my dad, hanging from a PH 3/2 sconce in my studio.

Evening break, another stab.


To share or not to share?

Having a self authored website and blog has become very easy. Almost as easy as posting on Facebook or sending a text message. What has not become easy, and in fact, with the profusion of content out there from millions of people, what has become much more difficult, is creating content that is interesting and different enough to keep an audience engaged.

Like lots of people, I belong to a few interest groups online that are open to unedited posts from any member who knows how to add them. I get notifications via email from a couple of those groups when new content goes up. And increasingly, I ignore them and even become annoyed when the names of certain very frequent posters come up sometimes several times a day, partly because my time is valuable and I don't want to waste it reading someone's inane stream of consciousness, and because I just see those names too damned often. Makes me want to scream. I've hidden some of those folks using Facebook's filters, but too much of the crap that irritates me still comes through.

So here's the deal. At least for the time being, I'm going to keep posting a daily sketch, because it helps me hold my own feet to the fire and keep drawing every day. I keep adding new galleries and other content available on the navigation bar, and you can look to see what's new. But I'm going to try to write journal entries only if I feel like I have something worth reading to say, and I'll try to write them well enough that you'll look forward to the next one instead of saying, "oh no, another piece of dreck from that annoying self important idiot!". Ok?

a larger sketchbook format (16 1/2" x 11 9/16") on a morning so humid that it's like trying to draw on a cotton t-shirt.


Art school

This month, one of my 17 year old daughters is in Philadelphia at the Moore College of Art & Design, getting a taste of what art school is like. She's been there for a week now, and I know because she talks with my wife about it, that it's hard. And I remember freshman art and design core myself. Taking six hours of art classes four or five days a week then spending equal time or more outside of class working on assignments sounds wonderful. Then you have to do it, and man oh man is it hard. Keeping a mind that's full of random thoughts bouncing around like pinballs focused for hours on drawing or painting or developing an idea that squirms around and won't hold still, all the while hearing harsh whispers inside telling you that what you're producing is lousy. Looking around furtively at your colleagues and spotting one whose work is far superior to yours, and fighting the delicious temptation of discouragement. Then thinking of how many talented people are out there competing for visibility and the recognition that makes a livelihood as an artist or designer possible. Pretty soon depression and lethargy are inevitable.

It's still like that for me every day.  I have to say "Shut up. Shut up shut up shut the hell up!!! Stop thinking, get out of the way and just do the work." Self absorption is the inner chatter that fills us with doubt, not the exploration and manifestation of one's real inner vision. I hope my daughter is learning that. I'm working on it right along with her myself.

The pipe is a Trever Talbert pug. Coffee on the balcony.


Daily discipline

On Friday late in the day while Tina and I were walking down the street to get a light dinner, a call came in on my BlackBerry from Rad Davis in Foley, Alabama. I had sent him copies of a drawing that included one of his pipes as a subject, and subsequently on seeing his weekly addition to his online store, had dropped him a note admiring his dedication to the work. He was calling to say thanks.

Rad is an inspiration to me. He is one of a relatively small number of pipe carvers who makes his full time living this way, and he makes an impressive number of consistently excellent pipes at an even pace, week after week, year after year. What I said to him in my note was that in my experience, it's not so difficult, given talent and some skills, to turn out something terrific when the mood hits. Far more challenging is to do it every single day, at a high standard of excellence and with such fidelity to a recognizable and ever improving sense of form, proportion, and detail. Dependably. Whether you feel like it or not.

My contact with Rad has been very little for someone whom I would call a friend and colleague, but I know Rad through his work. The nearly ascetic qualities of iconically simple beauty in the forms he creates, without fussy frills or gimmicky touches tell me a great deal about who he is and how he lives his life. I can only hope that I can continue my own efforts as an artist, every day, whether I want to or not, constantly and patiently striving to improve over the day before.

Pipe by Rad Davis and Alex Florov for Quality Briar