Monday, November 12, 2007

The Laundromat & the Non-Motif

I welcome being stuck at a laundromat because it means finding a “non-motif.”

You know how it is when you’re driving along looking for a picturesque subject to sketch. You never find it. Everything rushes by too fast as you look out the car window. Being plunked at a laundromat forces you to make the most of wherever you find yourself. Instead of a typical artistic motif, like a barn or a fishing boat, you have the chance to paint a non-motif, which is always more interesting.

Yesterday we spent a couple of hours at Benny’s Coin Laundry in Geneva, Ohio. All sorts of magnificently ordinary subjects presented themselves. Jeanette did a pen sketch of the Hong Kong King Buffet across the street.

I followed the ninety degree rule and faced toward a cell tower and a telephone pole. A guy came out of the laundry and said, “I’ve lived here 25 years, and I’ve never seen an artist painting the CVS.” He told us about how the old dance hall above the general store still has its parquet floor and gas lamps, but it is going to be cut up into apartments.

I used a Kuretake water brush pen. It comes in several sizes and has a tip of nylon fibers. I filled the clear plastic handle not with water but with the same Waterman brown ink that I use in my Waterman fountain pen, which I used for the line work. A second Kuretake holds a lighter tone of ink.

I had never really studied a cell tower before. This was the self-supporting kind, unlike the monopole or the guyed tower.

As we drove away, everything looked paintable, and I had to tear myself away from this one, a fast food sign in front of an abandoned Carnegie library. Non-motifs are all these candid vistas we take for granted in our everyday surroundings. They're attractive not because they are ugly or beautiful, but simply because they're there. They are the ubiquitous universe that we look at but rarely see.

6 comments:

bobnelson said...

James,
I'm really enjoying your "non-motif" sketches. It's very interesting what you say about not seeing what surrounds us. I don't know how many other artists are interested in rendering the strangely homogeneous corporate and wire polluted landscapes we see everyday as opposed to the idyllic landscapes one tends to imagine when referring to landscape painting. Not that I have anything against idyllic landscapes, I'm just saying that in terms of realist depictions of our day to day environment, the non-motif is particularly significant. especially when one considers how the art will be viewed by future eyes. not that our world isn't well documented between photographs, film, television and the like. anyway, i'm done rambling on.
I really enjoy your blog and your excellent work. Cheers and good painting!

bob

Kactiguy said...

Beautiful little sketches. The thing I like most is the picture of you and your wife sitting in front of Benny's. You look like you get along so well. What a great couple.

Jafabrit said...

I enjoyed looking at the sketches. I hadn't thought about using ink for the watercolour/pen brush.

K_tigress said...

Do you start with a simple pencil line before you add the ink or do you just jump right in with the ink?

I have done drawings with just water paint at a life drawing session so I'm just wondering.

Michael said...

Love looking at the sketches, Mr. Gurney!

Emily said...

I'm so intrigued by the water brush. Does the water in those last for a decent amount of time (as in, you don't have to refill while out sketching)?

I keep finding out about so many interesting techniques and ideas from your blog. Thanks!