Tag Archives: reportage drawing

Polska part II

3 Oct

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Drawing in Polska

3 Oct

These drawing are from a recent trip to Poland to attend a conference on word and image at Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz. I was presenting a paper about the experience of creating my graphic novel and how it posed some interesting questions about the dynamic relationship between text and image and how the narrative of the text takes on new dimensions through the medium of the comic. Some of the work from the graphic novel can be seen here

To my eyes, Bydgoszcz was a friendly and beautiful city. I hope one can sense the warmth in these drawings through the clearly satirical bent, as there was full respect for the complex social, political and cultural landscape of the Poles. I got caught a few times, most notably by an old woman who sat next to me after I had quickly turned the page of a drawing I had just started of her. She sat next to me and rather unnervingly stared as I drew, giving audible bursts of approval. Needless to say I needed to find a new perch from which to draw.

Reportage drawing is the central focus of my Mphil/PhD study at the Royal College of Art and Design. I am looking at how the act reveals intuitive visual language and speaks to the multiple layers of both perception and commentary on the social, political and cultural conditions of the subjects themselves. I am also bringing in other reportage practitioners to contribute to a greater understanding of this highly challenging and revelatory act.

Enjoy Polska!

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Walking the dog

8 Feb

These drawings have been eagerly awaiting the warm glow of the computer screen for months. I have been meaning to get them up here but it has not happened. Finally, the dog gets walked. From the Isle of Wight Zoo and streets to Brighton and Bath, these drawings have little in common other than they were produced for pure enjoyment and, in regards to the colour pieces, as a kind of controlled experiment. I am starting to tap into the English frame of mind and I am constantly being surprised. Like any people of any nation, complexities abound especially when you move beyond the surface. My students are also inspiring me. As much of an old dog as I am, (an old dog that needs several walks) there is always a desire to push my image making capabilities to even greater heights. The shape of that is being formed in my head as we speak and may represent a further departure from realist subjects. For now, these drawings have their walk on the cyber stage. Enjoy.

The Drawn Out Debate – A Happy New Year in Drawing

30 Dec

As a draftsperson working in the modern world (although ignoring a considerable chunk of its visual culture) I am regularly considering the significance of drawing in relation to other media and how drawing itself is being pushed and often re-imagined by artists. The debate has been clearer than the problems that have spawned the debate.

The debate is anchored in two deeply held beliefs. One, that drawing is a practice utilizing traditional materials and built on an observational craft typically grounded in the acquisition of representative drawing skills. Those skills based on well defined western ideals. From a foundation of traditional skills, the artist can then depart on one’s own and develop into an art maker with a singular voice.

The other belief is that drawing is indistinct from all other art making activity. Where the previous belief puts drawing at the center of the creative process, (or at least an independently important endeavor) they see drawing indistinguishable from installation art or painting and see it as fluid, above and perhaps beyond the limitations and restrictions of craft.

While this is an oversimplification of an important debate, it does show the inherent problems with both arguments. While the traditionalist may believe that the contemporary approach to drawing is resulting in half-born art, lacking in a fundamental understanding of form and therefore a mere exercise rather than a grounded piece of the art continuum, the contemporary artist sees that as an archaic limitation to a more expansive view of drawing as the delineation of just about anything and that this perspective expands the art and practice of “drawing for drawings sake”. Either way, both parties, stuck in their ideological camps, are failing to see the bigger problem. That problem is quality.

I could talk about quality and the guardians at the gate, (seemingly asleep at their post) but I am interested in something else. As we are getting warmed up in the twenty first century, I propose that drawing take on more important matters. For one, I believe it is important to look at drawing as a distinctive activity bringing a level of personal expression and communication that achieves what no other medium is capable of; an encapsulated autobiographical record (Berger) of the artists thoughts and intentions. Whether that is in the form of a line of bricks in a gallery installation or a pencil drawing on a napkin in a bar, we need to renew our love of a media that is, at its core, profoundly human and filled with the surprise and invention that result from the mysterious connection between mind and hand.

I say we re-dedicate ourselves to pushing our media and make the power of drawing self evident.

 Drawings above are from recent trips to England and Spain.

Flesh on Parade

22 Sep

Here are some more drawings from North Carolina. After three days I had nearly filled up my sketchbook and exhausted my tolerance for drawing fat people. I had also found what I was looking for. Pushing yourself to always finding something new can render a prescribed result. 

On a cheery note, these drawings have become the springboard for some pretty funny animation ideas that will be brought to full moving color very soon.

Still shaking the sand out of my sketchbook

21 Sep

Here are some more drawings from North Carolina. It isn’t quite the deep south but as you can see, it is deep enough. It is a strip mall paradise and too hot for rational thought. I found myself having much more sympathy for the people I was drawing. Usually I snicker to myself and gloat as only a Northeastern liberal can when witnessing the true ills of Red State America. Instead I felt sad. Sad for them and sad for me that this country doesn’t work very well. We have let our Southern neighbors figure it out on their own and they aren’t doing a good job (neither are we for that matter).  So I ventured forth. With pencil in hand I drew the voluminous patrons of Ocean Isle Beach and imagined that maybe all is well (or at least as it should be). After all, they are only fulfilling their duties as gross consumers of all things. As a Blue State liberal, am I just horrified at how American they really are? Damn right!

Drawing at the end of the pier (and contemplating the dive)

18 Sep

The next few posts will be sketchbook drawings from my vacation in North Carolina late August. These drawings reflect a shift in my thinking and drawing. For one, my ideas about America have been crystallized. Unfortunately, I no longer see the promise of a more perfect union because as I have come to realize, this country’s brain damage is permanent. On the drawing front, my sketchbook drawing is becoming the center point of all of my creative work. My next animation and a new series of etchings will be based on the drawings I will be posting here.

Confirming my suspicions, on the spot drawing opens up the brain in ways that a thoughtful and considered drawing can’t. As I have told my drawing students in the past, thinking can kill drawing. Strange but true. Intuition is the driver of great drawing not slow plodding hammering away.

So, at the end of the pier and looking down at the American paradise. It is a sea of broken bodies and broken souls. You be the judge if these drawings reflect something sad, cynical, decaying, bloated, broken, busted, vacant or all of the above or none of the above. I see an endangered species roaming around like a large animal too big and too weird to live with no idea that with each high fructose soda they creep closer to a stressed gurney under fluorescent lights at the end of their world.

The meek shall inherit the earth – at least what’s left of it

17 Jul

Here are some summer drawings. They were all done either this summer or last in a variety of places. I can remember the time and place I did these drawings with such clarity that I could almost tell you what I was drinking and wearing when I did them. Beer and shorts would apply to many of them.


I wonder what the founders of this country would think if they saw us at the edge of a more perfect union measuring our success in flat screen TV’s and cars the size of small houses. The poor are fat and the rich are skinny. I think they’d be booking their flights to Paris tout de suite.

Drawing is enough

9 Jul

This is a collection of random drawings from the Westchester area and NYC. Looking at them brings back memories. Some are strange sightings from the corner of my eye as I am driving, others are close encounters. Either way it proves that when you are paying attention, it is a frightening world out there. New York in particular is always surprising. For me, the clash of the wealthy and the poor is always jarring. Those worlds don’t often mix but when they do they reveal the dirty little secret that the American Dream is a myth and that the poor have as much of a chance achieving their dreams as the rich do giving up their hard fought dominance.  I am keeping this short because I have finally realized that drawing is enough.

Drawing the end of the world

15 Jun

Last Saturday night in the pre summer mugginess of Baltimore, I was drawing and thinking about what a strange and magical city this is. A Yankee Oriole’s game had just finished and dumped its fans out into the streets looking to continue the good times. Win or lose, the pace of a baseball game is conducive to drinking and eating too much and when it is over, dawning sobriety in a city of sin like Baltimore is unthinkable.

The people of Baltimore are extremely nice and physically to these eyes, it seemed that short and plump was the city standard. Unlike the menace I have felt in other poor cities such as Hartford, Connecticut, Baltimore has a friendly vibe like the forgotten city eager to please and prove that it is worthy of your time. In my estimation it is and after being glued to the HBO show the Wire, I realized that a city can be deeply flawed in many respects and still be incredibly charming. The night I spent their also had an air of nostalgia. People get very drunk in Baltimore and late night scenes of young women drunk with smeared lipstick and men standing outside of bars smoking large cigars, evoked scenery more befitting of the 1890’s than the start of a new millennium.

The inner harbor was crowded with Yankee fans mostly looking for an overpriced bar that would make them feel more at home. I heard a local say sarcastically, “I love it when the Yankees come to town”, like the ugly Americans have arrived. From the looks of it, they were dead on. Yankees, like the English on holiday in continental Europe, were a loud and obnoxious bunch quickly claiming ownership to the establishments they stretched out their elephantine bodies in. After paying for a few expensive beers I nearly called it a night until I spotted out of the corner of my eye a great little bar called Peter’s. It glittered with decay and the promise of great characters. I was home, and my drawing pencil was furiously dashing about trying to get it all. Above are all the drawings I did that night…