Thursday, October 6, 2011

Portrait Noir

“I’ve never seen an October rain like this in all my years in LA,” says my friend David Starrett as we arrive for lunch yesterday at Gus’s Barbecue in South Pasadena. At the back door we drop our umbrella in a bucket full of other half-dead umbrellas.

David was one of my art teachers when I was a student out here. Later he was the model for Lee Crabb in Dinotopia. He’s the nicest 82-year-old gentleman you’ll ever meet. His ear is the model for “subsurface scattering” on page 155 of the book “Color and Light.” He’s also a natural actor, and he obliges me by being a character actor while I sketch him.



He orders barbecued ribs and I order coffee. I unholster my colored pencils. Robert Johnson’s blues pour out of the speakers. Rain gushes out of the gutters outside. David turns up his collar. I squeeze the handle of my black Niji brush pen. A drop of Higgins Eternal bleeds out of the tip.



Somehow he starts to look like a hard-boiled film noir detective, the kind of guy who works best after hours on rainy nights when the rest of the guys have gone home. “That’s when they dump the evidence,” he mutters, as he saws loose a rib.

11 comments:

Tom Hart said...

Thanks for this wonderful opportunity to watch one of your sketches grow, James.

Am I jumping to conclusions, or would you say that wc pencils have taken precidence over pan water colors as your preferred medium for sketching in color? If that's correct, I'd be interested to know what you would list as the primary reasons for that. Portability? Convenience? Less space in your travel bag? Do you find that you can work quicker with the pencils? Inquiring minds...

Super Villain said...

awesome sketch, also curious to hear about your visit to blizzard, i think i saw that on your events calander?

i hope you were finally able to meet the master of warcraft samwise didier!

Daroo said...

Excellent picture AND words...

"A drop of Higgins Eternal bleeds out of the tip."

Poetry aside, Higgins eternal is permanent and non-waterproof? So the permanent refers to lightfast? I feel like with some pens/inks the "permanent" refers to waterproof-ness not lightfast-ness (because they're clearly not light fast).

JonInFrance said...

Nice! In good shape for 82!!!

Jared said...

Crazy rain here yesterday. Hope the rest of your trip to LA is beautiful.

John Fleck said...

This is great to see!
(Second only to a video of you making this kind of a drawing)
Thanks!

Eric Haddad said...

I agree with Tom, it's really great to see your steps in this sketch.

Thank you!

G. Edwin Taylor said...

The piece and the explanation behind it are wonderful!

Unknown said...

I'm sorry that you didn't get more of the stereotypical "California" weather while you were out here.
Hopefully you get sunny skies the next time you come out.

James Gurney said...

Tom, yes, I'd say I use those colored pencils for most of my non-oil sketching at the moment, combining with pure watercolor for landscape or cityscape pieces where I can spend more time. You're right--it's both portability and convenience, but I really like the drawing touches a pencil can give for certain textures.

SuperV: Blizzard was awesome, and I got to meet a whole lot of the art crew, lighting folks, and environment designers. More later when I get around to posting.

Daroo, yes, "permanent" is used in various ways on different art products. In the case of Higgins eternal, it's a really fade-resistant water-soluble ink. So once you lay it down and it dries, you can soften edges later. If you want ink that dries water resistant, those Japanese brush pens are fantastic.

JoninFrance, yes, he runs circles around us.

Thanks, G.Edwin and Unknown. Actually the weather cleared up right after the rain (I love LA in rain, actually), and it's been sparkling clear.

Lene said...

I got really inspired by this piece. Nice work!! :)