Saturday, December 29, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Well, I did promise a Holiday post... Whatever you're celebrating these days, I hope you're having a wonderful time with your family and friends. James and I are enjoying our days together, spent drawing, watching movies, cooking, exploring and planning for 2008.
Happy New Year to you all, and my best wishes for health, hope and happiness!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Archives V

Finally, the last whispers of my old Fabriano sketchbook:
some quicksketch and a few itsy bitsy watercolours of me.
(Pure vanity - which is why I stopped doing them!)

Great. Enough from the past, on to The Now!!!
And in the very near future, a Christmas post... until then Merry Blogging!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Archives IV

The penultimate installment in my series of archives was inspired by William Wyler's "Roman Holiday".

On top of being famous for propelling Audrey Hepburn into stardom, this 1953 picture featured a debonnaire Gregory Peck, a hilarious Eddie Albert and was secretly written by the most famous of the infamous
Hollywood 10, Dalton Trumbo. Impressive, sure, but wait till you see Edith Head's costumes!

Let me show you my (quick) versions of the outfits worn by Miss Hepburn.

Pencil and gouache on 3"x4" paint samples.
And speaking of Roman holidays: a photograph of The Spanish Steps I took in June 2003.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Archives III

Moving along, here is a more recent attempt to draw and learn from a few of my heroes.

In selecting these, I was mostly concerned with shape and simplicity in design. There was a lot more peripheral writing in my sketchbook, only it was the straight-out-of-bed variety, which I owe myself to spare you. I'm not even sure that the drawings are worth much (look at the originals instead!), or that my design sense has drastically improved since, but they sure were fun warm-ups!

They are based on: a Hepburn-inspired Aurora study by Marc Davis, characters by Aurelius Battaglia, paintings and sculptures from the Legion of Honor Museum, Miroslav Sasek characters from "This is London", Jean-Jacques Sempé drawings and Mary Blair's "I can fly" girl.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Archives II

The second collection of oldies is from the summer of 2005 - a few quick watercolour sketches done in Toronto. I fit two of these per page in my Fabriano book, but isn't it fun to enlarge smallish works?

Respectively: Alternative Grounds, Grange Park, Baldwin Street, High Park, our old backyard, Sorauren/Fermanagh intersection, and a photograph taken at Howard Park and Roncesvalles.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Archives I

- I have a love-hate relationship with most of my drawings.
Who doesn't.
- I have a superlative love-hate relationship with my old drawings. So what about that!

I'll tell you what: they are important. For one, they could be the closest I ever get to writing an autobiography (without even writing)! And, unlike romanticized memoirs penned in hindsight, my drawings will have the distinct advantage of remaining stone cold facts. Because they will have been drawn in the past, they will forever display my past shortcomings.
So what's not to be happy about?

What's happy is that everything becomes precious with time!

Unfortunately the drawings I'm about to archive don't go THAT far back. As if to annoy me, they sit only just far enough to inspire simultaneous embarrassment and longing. But then again if they didn't, they probably wouldn't be worth a damn.

This first collection is a record of a Toronto-Montreal train ride I took in September 2005. I began drawing accidentally and I did not rest for the entire duration of the trip (not even in the restroom). I painted it all from memory later that night.

To make this extra special, I'm throwing in a couple of photos of the Old Gare Bonaventure - today Gare Centrale de Montréal (and hoping that the blog police won't throw me out for thieving).
From Bilan du Siècle:

Here's the station in 1975. Notice that a few skyscrapers are still missing, notably today's tallest, "1000 de la Gauchetière" (at the far right in the last painting above).

And here's the original station in 1900, before a fire destroyed it in 1916.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Early Winter

Oh, you Mean men's coat on that wisp of a woman!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Making FUN!

I missed the gestures in life drawing this week, and, while shaped like a Venus, the model was so persistently "vertical", she could have given David's contrapposto a run for its money!
What do you do when you get no tilts, no tension, no character, no visible energy from the figure in front of you? Well, I say look at all the people drawing around you: they hunch, they squint, they calculate, they look up and down, they dance from side to side, they move fast, think fast and are entirely alive.
So forget what you were supposed to draw, rethink the possibilities and make your own fun!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Searle's Paris

The "Paris Sketchbook" arrived on our bookshelf by airmail - as a wonderful surprise. It was intended for my husband, so, being its secondary (if illegitimate) safe-keeper, I've been marveling at its drawings after hours.
In fact, I hesitate to call them drawings because they are much more. As I see them, they are energetic notes on a thriving post-war Paris, unselfconscious personal reflections, and tiny tastes of music, poetry and romance. Above all, they are a glimpse in Ronald Searle's bright mind and a testimony of his extraordinary life.
Here are some of my favourites (on lifestyle and nightlife), with selected words by Kaye Webb, Searle's then-wife and travel companion:

" 'I THINK EVERY WIFE has a right to insist on seeing Paris', wrote Sydney Smith to Lady Grey, in 1815.
There is little doubt that his sentiments are endorsed by the ladies who can be seen throughout the spring and summer ogling the shop windows in the Faubourg St. Honoré and sitting, exhausted but still animated, on the pavement outside Café de la Paix. Their sensible English and American heads are all adorned with French hats which, on a swell of remembered gaiety, they will wear once in their native town before slipping into a hat box against the 'suitable occasion' which never comes."

"Of the endless stretch of cafes lining the Champs-Elysées we chose to record Fouquet's. Not only because it seemed to us to have the most character but because, it is said, Edith Piaf was discovered there one night as she sold violets and sang for sous."

The Lido.

"Toward morning the market grows more business-like. At dawn, buyers from houses and restaurants come to do their bargaining. By breakfast-time they are replaced by the smaller fry; the little restaurateurs, the enterprising housewives. These are followed by the tragic and the destitute. Beggars who turn over the sodden piles of refuse in search of scraps for soup. Crippled ex-servicemen offering bunches of faded parsley given to them in pity by the merchants. Hungry-looking women asking for five francs' worth of vegetables with which to make a meal. It was at this hour that I remembered that Les Halles stands where there was once a graveyard."

"The Square du Vert-Galant is on the extreme point of Île de la Cité and we chose to imagine that the ancient poplar, which is at the foot of the steps below the centre of the bridge, was a sapling in the days when the King courted here. Perhaps it even witnessed his anguish in the days after his lovely, and loving, mistress had been poisoned in a nearby cherry orchard, and had died before he could reach her."

Café des deux Magots.

"[At Club Saint-Germain-des-Prés] The dancing is the main entertainment. On the evening we visited it, the 'stars' were a lively American girl wearing no make-up, and a tall, thin, collapsible negro. These two never talked to each other and rarely smiled. When they stopped dancing to wipe their wet faces, they immediately separated."

"[The habitués of The Club du Vieux Colombier] cling to 'pure' jazz which is served up to them around midnight by an enormous negro. Bouncing every pound of his seventeen stone and streaming with perspiration, he sang brilliantly while a group of delirious female youngsters sat gazing up at him from the floor, wriggling and jerking with every beat."

"The Bal Montagne" is a dancing establishment not generally visited by tourists. Its most numerous clients appeared to be women who preferred to dance with each other. The band played perched on a platform against the ceiling, the cabaret was limited to a naïve dramatic recitation followed by a bawdy song and dance routine from a female impersonator."

"Down a side street we found a normal-looking pig complacently advertising a charcuterie.
Ronald set his stool up outside a shoemaker's. He was unseated twice by crocodiles of sight-seeing schoolgirls being hurried rapidly up to the purer atmosphere of the Sacré-Coeur, and was finally scared away altogether by the two young women in the picture, who refused to believe that his interest lay entirely in the pig."

(From the first American edition of the "Paris Sketchbook", by Ronald Searle and Kaye Webb, published by George Braziller Inc., in New York, 1958.)

If you'd like to see (a lot) more of Searle's work, please visit Matt Jones' wonderful Ronald Searle Tribute and Chris Beatles Gallery's Searle Section (and make sure to look at the rest of their amazing art!)