Matisse by Murnau


Matisse in Tahiti, spring 1930
after a photo by F. W. Murnau
Charcoal and graphite, 7 x 10 inches


I inherited a wonderful, weighty tome on Matisse from a late artist's sister-in-law (and friend of mine) last fall — Henri Matisse: A Retrospective by John Elderfield. It's a book that accompanied a Museum of Modern Art exhibit from September 1992 - January 1993.

Leafing through in search of another painting to copy, I stopped at one photo and thought, "Wow! That's really a good composition. Almost cinematic."

Well, no wonder! I looked a little closer to see that the photograph was taken by F. W. Murnau. The F. W. Murnau? I did a bit of research and yes, the F. W. Murnau.
"He [Murnau] discovered Takaroa lagoon, a 'marvel of color' in which the green of the ocean shaded to the blue of the sky and the downy white of the clouds, in contrast to the red of the natives' loin-cloths. Nowhere was the color so alive and vibrant as here on the atolls of the Paumotis. It was there that Murnau met Matisse, who said 'the color here is a revelation.'"
—from Murnau By Lotte H. Eisner
When I was reading up on Murnau, who's poignant film Nosferatu is a great favorite, I learned that Bram Stoker's (Dracula) widow sued Murnau for copyright infringement and won. The judgement ordered that all copies of Nosferatu be destroyed. Thank god some prints were saved!

Click here to watch the entire silent film Nosferatu.

So I used this photo to try out a combo of General's charcoal pencils and graphites. Smooth. Their mediums apply so beautifully. But charcoal is just too clunky for details (even with sharpened points), too messy for me unless I'm doing quick figure sketches (which is almost never.) However, the charcoal pencils are nice and I'll try them out on some better suited paper, on a subject requiring less detail.

This Matisse monograph wasn't the only book I inherited from Mary Campbell and I'll probably be copying from others. Many thanks to my friend, Margaret for giving me these great resources.

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Bohain-en-Vernandois Studio


after Matisse (2)
L'atelier sous les toits
Watercolor pencil on Lana hot press, 7 x 10 inches

So this will be my practice for a little while. Making copies.

In between solid series, I can barely stand my miscellaneous piece work as I fight for time to draw and paint. Making copies of other artist's works from books will have to do. This week, Matisse.

It's a good in-between project. I learn a lot a lot from making copies and all I have to do is pull a book off a shelf. It's fun to try and mimic the strokes and texture of one medium with an entirely different one. Not only am I copying oil with watercolor but with watercolor pencil. Of course, I'm also working from plates of paintings, having no clue as to their veracity to the original painting.

I chose this piece because it's dark with blacks and browns and oranges. I wanted to see how dark I could go with the General Pencil watercolor pencils without getting muddy. I am sure that I could have gone darker but am experimenting my way into the use of black watercolor pencil and its effect on other colors.  I keep reaching for the gouache to get the opaque quality of the oils but then remember that I'm trying out new pencils. I'll leave the gouache for later.

Out the studio window is a sunny winter view of the place where Matisse grew up: Bohain-en-Vernandois.

The original:


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Corsica Door


after Matisse
Small Door of the Old Mill, Corsica, 1898
Watercolor pencil on Lana hot press paper, 7 x 10 inches

As a pre-announcement on my personal blog here, I'm very pleased to report that General Pencil is coming on board as a supporter/sponsor for Drawing America. A perfect partnership all around!

As we gear up for going live with this partnership, I've been trying out their products. To my absolute delight, I'm discovering what beautiful workmanship goes into creating the General Pencil graphite and watercolor pencils. I would never have guessed from the mild-mannered packaging.

Last week, I showed a drawing of Keen Newports made with the General Pencil Drawing Pencils pack and a few watercolor pencils used only for color. The other night, after another long day working on Drawing America, I plunged into a scribble fit with General Pencil's Watercolor Pencils to make the copy of an early Matisse (above). I'm wowed by the smooth application, the vivid eruption of color upon water application and the ease with which I can work back over dried layers.

Here's a thumbnail of the original Matisse:


I am so looking forward to working with these pencils more and more. It's just a matter of making the time in what is currently my very demanding schedule. Soon, I'll try out their pastel pencils. I can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, come on over to Drawing America. Read posts I've written on drawing in the US by all sorts of people.


Ginger Ale in Charlottesville


Ginger Ale on favorite chair
Pen and ink, 9 x 12 inches


Eat, sleep, groom, sleep, eat, sleep, poop, sleep, play, sleep, eat, sleep, meow, sleep. Purrrrrr.

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Alonso in Charlottesville

Alonso 1


Alonso 2

Alonso 3
All Pen and ink, 9 x 12 inches
2004


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Brooks Hall

Brooks Hall, UVA
Pen and Ink, 9 x 12 inches


I lived walking distance to the University of Virginia lawn and frequently walked up the lawn, around the rotunda and past Brooks Hall. Thomas Jefferson's magnificent architecture notwithstanding, Brooks Hall was one of my most favorite buildings on UVA campus.

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Charlottesville Kitchen

Charlottesville Kitchen
Pen and ink, 9 x 12 inches
2004


My blogging time this week is usurped by yet another layer of cleaning in my studio. This time, the supply closet. A big project but already I can feel the fresh breeze in the air.

I flipped through several old sketchbooks including one from Charlottesville, Virginia, the year before I moved to Nashville. I'm posting some drawings from that 2004 sketchbook this week.

This view was of my kitchen sink and window, overlooking Lodge Creek running through the backyard.

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Keen Newports


Keen Newports
Suzanne McDermott
Pencil, 10 x 13 inches


While my laptop was in the shop again, I put my other work aside and had fun drawing with some General Pencils. General's sent me a box of their products so I made these with General's Drawing Pencil set and a few from the Classic Watercolor Set. I'm also trying out a new sketchbook. The paper is a bit rougher than I like for drawing but the price was right.

The General Pencils are beautifully made, smooth and secure to draw with. No breakage in drawing or sharpening. I look forward to using them more. I'll tell you though, a decent pencil drawing takes me soooo loooong to make. This one took three hours, easy. Really, that's not so long. Maybe it feels long because of other work looming.

Sitting on the floor, drawing my shoes made me feel like I was back in high school. So I called up my high school buddy, Maria who now teaches art at our alma mater and drawing classes at other schools over the summer. We gabbed while I drew. A perfect convergence.

Keen Newports are my most favorite shoes ever. I'm on my second summer of daily wear in this particular pair and there's barely any damage to the tread. When they're dirty, I throw them in the washing machine! They have pretty good support, are very comfy and and worth every penny!

Running Fast

Pen and ink, 7 x 11 inches

Remember that ad slogan? This is your brain. (A picture of an egg, perfectly intact.) This is your brain on drugs? (A picture of a broken egg, frying in a pan.)

Well, this is my drawing hand on too much coffee.

I'm posting this drawing only because it is too ironic that my mind was going too fast to make a steady drawing of a wristwatch and also because it's a good opportunity to share a list of my favorite books on time:

Time Wars: The Primary Conflict in Human Historyby Jeremy Rifkin

A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of a Social Psychologist, or How Every Culture Keeps Time Just a Little Bit Differentlyby Robert Levine

Time: Rhythm and Reposeby Marie-Louise von Franz

to which I should add

The Power of Nowby Eckhart Tolle

Click on titles and authors for links to learn more. All highly recommended!
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Non-attachment

"Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering."
       —The Dalai Lama at Harvard, 1988
I used to think of attachment and non-attachment in terms of material possessions, desired outcome of intentions, relationships to people, judgements, habits.

Recently though, under siege by thoughts of what is becoming of the waters and life in the Gulf of Mexico and all that will affect, I have been considering non-attachment in an entirely new light. As many others do, I have a strong emotional attachment to the water and life in the Gulf. To all water and life, really.

I recognized that my thoughts about the Gulf catastrophe were negatively impacting my daily life. What to do? What to do?

My old Buddhist lessons of impermanence and non-attachment arose and I found a place for my mind to settle though not exactly a solution to my problem. As I considered my mental state in Buddhist terms, I felt at home, as if I were sitting down in a familiar chair.

I tried to wrap my mind around the impermanence of an entire ecosystem on a little planet, me being part of that little planet. How can I practice non-attachment to something I consider my personal system to be a part of? I eliminated impermanence and simply worked with the idea of non-attachment.
"The teaching of non-attachment may be easy to understand, but it is not easy to practice. Nevertheless, it is very essential to cultivate non-attachment if we are to live a serene and happy life in a world of constant change."
       —Thich Thien An
Finally, it dawned on me. I don't practice non-attachment to the Gulf of Mexico, I practice non-attachment to my emotional connection to the water and the life there and to the outcome of the oil catastrophe. As soon as I connected to the awareness of the emotional content of my thoughts, I began to experience relief.

I have no control over what is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. I only have control over my own mind. Well, let's say that I can only practice working with my own mind.
"The process of practice is to see through, not to eliminate, anything to which we are attached. We could have great financial wealth and be unattached to it, or we might have nothing and be very attached to having nothing. Usually, if we have seen through the nature of attachment, we will have a tendency to have few possessions, but not necessarily. Most practice gets caught in this area of fiddling with our environments or our minds. "My mind should be quiet". Our mind doesn't matter; what matters is non attachment to the activities of the mind. And our emotions are harmless unless they dominate us (that is, if we are attached to them)---then they create dis-harmony for everyone.

The first problem in practice is to see that we are attached. As we do consistent, patient zazen we begin to know that we are nothing but attachments; they rule our lives. But we never lose an attachment by saying it has to go. Only as we gain true awareness of its true nature does it quietly and imperceptibly wither away; like a sandcastle with waves rolling over, it just smoothes out and finally Where is it? What was it?

       — Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen
Since late April, I have kept returning to the notion that the playing out of the catastrophic drama in the Gulf is offering some potential for a spiritual awakening. I'm sure that I'm not alone in this notion but I won't attach myself to any particular outcome.

Read other posts in my ongoing series — Life is the First Art.
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Professional!

Charcoal on newsprint
18 x 24 inches


I am sharing this only to tell you that I made this three minute demo surrounded by 6- to 8-year olds who kept exclaiming "Wow! You're so professional!" I had to laugh (as I signed my name with a flourish). Of all reasons to be considered professional... a charcoal sketch of toilet paper! Oh, well.

Here are my Saturday afternoon students this month. I think this is my first class of children in the studio. Darling little sponges, every one.


And while I'm at it, a glimpse from the loft of my studio in classroom form (waiting for the new morning adult group).


Modular furnishings miraculously transform space!

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Visit the source at Suzanne McDermott

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