staying put

On the shelf next to my drawing wall, my studio bunny keeps an eye on my progress. (and also holds spare change, since she’s a piggy bank). Getting ready for the studio tour, I’m doing more drawings, and trying to keep a steady momentum going.  I used to keep a small Kathe Kollwitz self-portrait sternly gazing out at me, but the bunny seems less accusatory somehow.

Now, that I am home more, there are upsides to be sure. The garden is really taking shape early, and it’s wonderful to sit and enjoy the birds and flowers during the day.  But those pleasures come with a price of distracting me from the painting and drawing.

Recently I told a friend who also has a studio in her home, that I’m still a bit challenged when it comes to arrivals and departures from my basement… ie: I can’t stay put all the time.

There’s a difference between leaving the house at 10am, going downtown to a small room where nothing else can happen vs. being at home, and needing to tell myself that I should be downstairs working, and that nothing should distract me from that process.  In fact the building where I used to work was often very quiet during the day, so I could work with my door open.  I had my supplies, and my pot for heating water for tea, and could occasionally walk a block or two for snacks, or head to the library.

So, how do I replicate that focus in the midst of this largess of distraction?

My friend’s ingenious solution was as follows.   Leave the house through the back door, walk around the house and come in the front door and down the stairs.  There needs to be some ritual that triggers my brain to make the transition. I have a suspicion my best working hours are afternoon, evening- but that also depends on what task I’m tackling. (still figuring out that one)

Just finished this one…

"In the Weeds" 22x30, charcoal pencil on Stonehenge paper ©Nanci Erskine 2012

isn’t that my drawing on the floor?

well, parts of it.  As you can see, I love to erase. Actually, I think of it more as drawing with a skinny stick of rubber.  I just bought a new little gizmo that holds these round white erasers in a holder, and you click it like a mechanical pencil.  Sweet.

But I digress.

fallen crumbs of drawing.. plus a small cobweb it looks like

There are several ways to modulate a line when drawing, which is another way of saying, to make it more expressive and responsive to the subject.

One technique involves learning how to alter the pressure of your touch when you are moving the medium over the paper. Pushing and releasing as the line is moving along, and perhaps turning your hand as you go.

Another method would be redrawing the same line again, but adding bulk or weight in certain places.

Then there is the reductive approach. Which can happen at any time, really.  This involves using an eraser to carve away at parts of a line, or erasing the line and redrawing it slightly shifted to another place.  You can see evidence of this kind of work in Matisse and Diebenkorn, and many other artists’  drawings.  The ghost of the former line creates a visible history of the artist’s process.

this is what brought the end results of all those erasures on the floor… I’ve been carving some lines.   Do you draw?  Is the eraser your friend too?


p.s. I think it’s a hoot that there is a Wikipedia entry about erasers!

pruning and editing

Yesterday was a winter anomaly. A day in the high 50’s with sun shining.

Well, OK it’s almost March, but in these parts the snow can seriously fly this month.

prunings on the ground
30x22 charcoal, ©2012 Nanci Erskine

So, after consulting our recently made list of “stuff that we need to do around the house outside” I set out to get some pruning done on some bushes.  There is a lovely place by the side of our house where a natural doorway is made in a tangle of trees and shrubbery, that fleetingly bloom in late spring- but with winter snow loads, and time, it can get a bit out of control- bending and spreading in ways that become too dense; starting to shade out a bed where I put in some lilies a few years back.

As I began to sort and cut, deciding which branches and twigs to eliminate, I was struck by how analogous this process is to what I do in the studio with drawings and paintings now.  First, the impulse is to let things fly and get too overgrown,  and then I am compelled to go back in and start wacking away; removing and letting air and space back into the work.

It’s a process I like and find challenging, because it often means painting over passages, and then repainting on top of that, or scraping off something and rehashing how it works.

Putting it on paper

in the last few weeks, I’ve found my way back to drawing and am playing with various ideas about tangled-ness.   Grasses. Vines.  Sometimes it moves more toward the more complex and sometimes less is more.  But only if the “less” still embodies more.

"Nest" charcoal, graphite ©2012 Nanci Erskine