Monday, August 31, 2009

Hipster Drawing Circles

Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School is just one way in to the drawing+drinks+newartfriends circuit - options abound around the globe. 3rd Ward in Brooklyn hosts weekly "Drink N Draw" - they provide beer and models, you bring art supplies and $15 ($10 if you bring a friend); Word of Art in Cape Town has weekly drawing fiestas, culminating in a fundraiser in November (blog from last year's event); Fivepoints Arthouse in SF hosts weekly gatherings for the graphically inclined. And major events like The Big Draw in the UK and NYC are almost too good to be true for the dedicated drawer/draweuse.

Once again, drawing shows itself to be about something more than just putting lines on a page - it lends itself to organic forms of collaboration and sociability. If there is a social drawing night near you, please share via comments; I know they are everywhere!! Sidebar resource will ensue.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pedagogy Puzzle

This link takes you to one of several posts on a tucked-away blog that outlines (albeit vaguely) a course on creating your own systematic ways of generating drawings, or "drawing machines". I am assuming that "machine" here is more a theoretical construct, although there are also several drawings of machines in here as well. There is clearly an institution of higher learning involved in all this, but it's not clear who or how. What is here, though, are some interesting starting points for thinking about contemplative drawing practice, ala Marden and Yanagi and more. I found the post "on and on and on" to be the most interesting.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Brett Littman on The Big Draw, NYC

Director of The Drawing Center, Littman shares insight into the main events of July's "The Big Draw", and says some Good Things About Drawing.

915 and Counting

New York artist and animator Scott Bateman has undertaken numerous drawing-to-exhaustion projects, including the Bateman365 (creating one animation a day, for a year), and now the 10,000 3x5 drawings project. They pop up often in the grab bag below, and I just had to see more - the count is at 915.

Undertakings like Bateman's, and anyone else who creates daily, highlight the positive shift that can happen after initial discomfort. Yesterday marked the first studio session with the advanced drawing students at USC. Our goal was to draw to exhaustion, and I think we came close in the form of 50 drawings of one object over three hours. It may not sound like much, but to go from zero (summer) to 60 (school) in one class is enough to make anybody pant a little. It also opens up a sense of confidence in one's own capacity to do something hard. When was the last time you drew to exhaustion? Have you made a drawing today? Why not?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Daily Serving

I have an image in my head of a stream I saw while camping in Yosemite - it would flow along, multiple small whirlpools would develop, combine, dissipate, and reform. Accordingly, blogging about blogs feels like the forming one of those small vortices - giving circular momentum to a particular informational bit.

Today's vortex is Self-described as an international forum for contemporary visual arts, they have been doing it daily since October 2006, and have since amassed quite an impressive cache of drawing-related posts. They take submissions of image and prose on a quarterly schedule.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Art School // Anti-Art School

It is the first day of class at the University of South Carolina and the art department is abuzz. Drawing classes are full-up and all is well in the world of markmaking pedagogy. Institutional allegiances aside, I was thrilled to see a sexy poster in the hall for Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, right here in Columbia.

Born in Brooklyn in 2005 as a figure drawing cabaret, Dr. Sketchy has spawned over 60 branches around the world, bringing together figure drawing, burlesque, and cocktails. Bring your own art materials, pay the small admission fee, and partake in an evening of live modeling-cum-performance art. In my efforts to find a video trailer from a Dr. Sketchy drawing session, only this one from Glasgow qualified as appropriate for all ages:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New American Draintings

Okay, so 'drainting' has the same ring as 'drawer', but 'pawings' doesn't work either. What am I talking about? The latest issue (#82) of the Open Studio Press' New American Paintings is out, and I was fascinated to find that about 30% of the content fits into what I perceive as the drawing category - dry mediums on paper, or ink, watercolor, gouache, also on paper. Charcoal and graphite are particularly well-represented. The introduction by curator Ron Platt of the Birmingham Museum of Art alludes to only 'a diverse range of materials' used to generate paintings today.

This excites me and also raises some questions - is it necessary to make a distinction between painting and drawing? Is that just so 'pre-mark'? Are these categories helpful? Where does painting end and drawing begin and vice versa? Is some kind of disciplinary integrity lost or gained when we shift to thinking of 'original 2-dimensional works' vs. the P or the D? My vested interest in the question begins on page 140 (shameless self-promotion).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Laying on the Sauce

The last time I was in City Art, Columbia's fantastic independent art supply store, Randy brought out a box of Assorted Sauce for me to try. Given the regional propensity for barbeque, one might immediately assume a spicier offering, but what I encountered was a material between charcoal, conte, and China marker, water soluble and subtly shaded. It goes down with a smoothness that reminds me of talc, silky and light, but with an impressive permanence on the page. Add water, and it handles like ink. Distributed by Jack Richeson (as Yarka), these clay-based pastels originally hail from Russia, where they have been popular for decades. List price appears to range between $8 and 16 (USD) from major art supply outlets.

I am not giving up my charcoal (the elusive Demco, which I have only found in San Francisco and Montreal - any leads?) but there are new opportunities afforded by sauce which I am ready to explore.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Three Books (Justify my Love)

Three newish books on drawing theory, purpose, and process are available from Intellect, a media-oriented publishing house in the UK. I have them in my queue and will be ordering just now.

A question, perhaps, may be "Is there anything new to say about drawing?" Most texts on drawing start with the observation that this is something we have been doing as a species for quite some time now, and that recent resurgence of drawing links us back to primal practice in the midst (and possibly in defiance) of the digital age, while at the same time being very now-friendly.

I, for one, am always keen to read rationales for why we draw, how we do it, and what drawing(s) can be. It is both empowering and strange to work at the heart of a discipline that many people in the arts still consider subsidiary to other mediums (I am feeling debate fatigue on this one - it's real, okay?). But these are still fresh times for drawing, and the more voices in the mix extolling the virtues of the discipline the better, I think, especially in this economic climate of eliminating art classes and programs from curricula. It's harder to put a discipline in the 'irrelevant' pile when there are well-informed people making good arguments as to why drawing is not just relevant, but constitutes a vital contemporary practice of thinking, understanding, and expression.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Of Humble Bic and Biro

It's morning in my office and I can't find a pen. Charcoal, yes, twelve hardnesses of pencil, yes, and even a cattle marker, but nothing of ballpointed genus. Which leads me, of course, to look to the virtual.

Il Lee keeps Office Depot in business. His obsessively rendered texturescapes carry layers of ink, conspiring into dynamic forms and vibrant monochromatic miasma. Recent shows include the San Jose Musuem of Art, the Queens Museum of Art, and a compelling group show this summer at Art Projects International in New York. Lee has been drawing with a ballpoint for over 25 years.

An NYT review of the QMA show goes into a fair amount of detail regarding his process:

A question emerges from the article: How deeply does the drawing material impact your perception of the value of an artwork, especially when it comes to works on paper? Is there a heirarchy of drawing materials at play, with the lowly biro on the bottom? What is at the top?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Draw, Canada! Part II

Vancouver, BC's DRAWN Festival, a three-week city-wide celebration of drawing, reaches its conclusion with a wrap party on the 13th. In addition to artist talks, public performances, draw-ins, collaborations and classes, seventeen Vancouver galleries hosted drawing exhibitions for the month. Just looking at the shows makes me once again think of Canada as the Promised Land.

An interview with co-organizer Robert Kardosh in the National Post provides a short-but-sweet summary of what makes contemporary drawing a public good.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Silvia Bachli and Susan Hefuna

Recent posts have mentioned how drawing (especially while on vacation) slows and refines the act of seeing. While poking about the web looking for drawing's presence this year in Venice, two artists stand out as presenting the opportunity to look slowly at drawings (also while on vacation). Silvia Bachli, in the Swiss Pavilion, and Susan Hefuna, of Egypt, in the Italian Pavilion. Both artists present line works, diagramatic and gestural, and in such quantity that one is able to navigate the space of their ideas through serial unfolding. Shown both under glass and raw on the table (Bachli), the drawings offer up multiple entries for slow looking. Although, if you watch the video from, you'll see that the walk-past is still the standard viewing procedure for most.

Bachli Stills from Swiss Pavilion
Bachli Video

Hefuna Stills from Italian Pavilion

Monday, August 10, 2009

City Drawing at Home and Abroad

A student once said 'now that I can do gesture drawing, I don't need a camera any more - hello, Paris!' Seattle journalist and illustrator Gabriel Campanario started a fantastic drawing blog that takes this sentiment to heart -

USk features a Flickr group where anyone can upload drawings they have done of their urban surroundings, and the blog features selected drawings/artists from the larger pool. It offers the best of travel journaling combined with some fantastic drawings from all over the world. Look around, draw what you see, and join up!

On Gesture - I

Matisse said, “Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence.” The gesture has long occupied a central role in how I understand the act of drawing, as it affords a theoretical and practical intersection of body, vision, instinct, and material. A question that continues to fascinate me has to do with cathexis, or a mark's ability to transmit emotional content - how do marks 'speak' (to) experience?

Carrie Noland and Sally Ann Ness, in a co-edited volume called Migrations of Gesture, assemble essays that speak to gesture's ambition and capacity, from performance, to language, to drawing. Of particular interest is Noland's discussion of the work of Belgian artist Henri Michaux, who set out to create an iconic emotional language of gestural form.

I am curious, in the broadest sense, how gesture factors into your work - how do you conceive of gesture, and how does it manifest in your drawing? Do you think the gesture carries extra-semantic content? How does this operate? Theories and examples are welcome.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Simone Berti in Venice

In visual addendum to the conversation re: legitimacy below, please see Italian artist Simone Berti's drawings currently showing at the Biennale. Graphite and watercolor on paper.

Simone Berti website

Friday, August 7, 2009

Look Down

If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you'll see what Flickr-posters have labeled 'drawings', randomly displayed - everything from an Ohio 2nd grader's notebook sketches to elaborate Dutch murals.

The grab bag makes me happy - it has turned up unexpected humble treats, many on lined paper with a coil on the side. It reminds me of 8th grade social studies notes, the margins filled with the doodles that kept me listening to Mr. Moe's lectures. It reminds me of students in Cape Town who taught themselves to draw by meticulously copying magazine photos. And it reminds me that drawing is an intensely personal, often secret, pleasure, globally enjoyed. Please look down and see what's in the mix.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

David Kassan's "Portrait Anatomicae"

Figurative artist David Jon Kassan sets the realism bar high with his richly drawn portraits and paintings. His attention to surface and structure is translated into traditional figure studies as well as work that combines abstraction and figuration.

His self-published "Portrait Anatomicae" is a teaching aid for drawing the human head (with and without muscle, skin and personality), and my students have found it to be an extremely helpful resource. Kassan also provides an excellent benchmark by which to measure realism, i.e., "You want it to look 'real?' Keep going."

Portrait Anatomicae is $10 (USD) and is downloadable from his website at .

Also worth seeing is a time-lapse video of a three-hour portrait session by Kassan, collapsed into eight minutes:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New PBS Series is Draw-Positive

Colin Campbell, the host of Time Team America (which seems to be on every time I turn on PBS - please quiz me on the Clovis Period - I am prepared), provides an excellent role model for drawing enthusiasts. Moreover, he gives a wide audience running exposure to someone drawing in the field (literally), positioning himself between observation and imagination, not to mention providing a great running account of what is happening with that week's archaeological dig. If you haven't watched TTA yet, tune in to watch how smart and vital Colin's drawings are.

Please note I am still lacking a suitable label for someone who draws, and I can't bring myself to use "drawer". Please help.

Legitimacy Questions that Linger...

Joe R in Canada writes with : "Do you find that art galleries in the main stir clear of drawings? The prevalent attitude, at least in Canada, is that anything behind glass is a no-no. It is disheartening, the mindless attitude that somehow "works on paper" is less of an art form than paintings. Anyway, just some negative thoughts I can't shake."

My response at the moment it a bit skewed, as I just came in from hanging a gallery show of all drawings. The gallery owner is very open-minded and embraces multiple forms of image-making, but at the same time acknowledges that her buyers are less likely to pay the same for a drawing as for a painting (alas, the drawings going for about half of what a similarly-sized painting would sell for).

I have had the best luck showing my drawings in academic settings, versus commercial galleries (the most recent show being the first exception) - there, drawing can occupy the role of 'thought experiment on paper' and raise questions about the process of ideation and production. Selling isn't the goal, so it takes the heat off.

On a visit to New York last fall, I think it's safe to say that every 10th gallery I went into had drawings on display. Zak Smith stands out as a brilliant poster child - hundreds of his small drawings, posted right on the wall, nothing under glass, in the heart of Chelsea. I take inspiration from this, and keep doing what I do (without glass).

Other thoughts on commercial galleries' attitudes toward drawings as legitimate exhibition fare?

Monday, August 3, 2009

August is Drawing History Month?

Yes, why not. Two excellent exhibitions in New York, looking at what was hot 700-200 years ago in drawing.

METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART: ‘LIVING LINE: SELECTED INDIAN DRAWINGS FROM THE SUBHASH KAPOOR GIFT,’ through Sept. 7. This almost supernaturally beautiful exhibition presents 40 mostly small drawings by Indian miniaturists of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Rendered with amazing skill, the subjects include bearded aristocrats and bejeweled women; hunting scenes; wild animals and mythic beasts fighting; and gods, goddesses and demons ascending and descending. The art of drawing does not get much better than this. (212) 535-7710,

METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART: ‘PEN AND PARCHMENT: DRAWING IN THE MIDDLE AGES,’ through Aug 23. This quietly ravishing exhibition ventures where few shows have gone before, with 50 rarely seen works. They prove medieval drawing to be vital, diverse and essential to the medium’s Renaissance blossoming. They reveal the medium untangling from manuscript illumination and Christianity in general — although not without first reveling in some astounding Psalters, gospels, epistles and a saint’s life or two. It re-embraces antiquity and provides a framework for speculative (read, secular) thought. The show ends with the visionary drawings of Opicinus de Canistris, a 13th-century Italian cleric who diagrammed his own notion of the relationship between the earthly and spiritual church. (212) 535-7710,

(NYT 7/30/09)

Drawing = Longer, Better, Looking

Michael Kimmelman, in today's NYT

"Recently, I bought a couple of sketchbooks to draw with my 10-year-old in St. Peter’s and elsewhere around Rome, just for the fun of it, not because we’re any good, but to help us look more slowly and carefully at what we found. Crowds occasionally gathered around us as if we were doing something totally strange and novel, as opposed to something normal, which sketching used to be. I almost hesitate to mention our sketching. It seems pretentious and old-fogeyish in a cultural moment when we can too easily feel uncomfortable and almost ashamed just to look hard. "

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Interview with Jason Franz of Manifest

An interview with Jason Franz from Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati. Franz is editor of Manifest's International Drawing Annual, and has done amazing work to promote contemporary drawing.