Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mirko Listening

I did this little sketchbook portrait of my friend Mirko last Sunday.

He sat a few seats away from me at a choral concert last week. He was deeply concentrating on the music of Schumann and Tchaikovsky. He didn’t notice I was sketching him.

Those blurry pools of dark ink on his coat were done by first wetting the surface with the clear water brush and then applying a second water brush filled with black ink.

In addition to the two water brushes, my left hand held three water-soluble colored pencils: russet, brown and black. To avoid distracting people around me, I minimized all my hand and head movements. The tools are absolutely silent on the paper.


Roberto said...

Very nice job , James.
What about light! How do you illuminate your drawing under these kinds of conditions? -RQ

Paolo Puggioni said...

I am amazed by how you manage to carry around all those tools everywhere.
And once I tried to sketch ballerinas at a ballet, but people kept elbowing me in the ribs because they were annoyed by the pencil scratching on the paper:(

T Arthur Smith said...

I remember a time I was harassed for drawing at a concert, with oil pastels, of all things. I was a teen and this elderly woman told me I had no business being there since I obviously had no appreciation for music. How to tell her I've played violin since I was four? She was the same one who fought someone over the last parking space outside, I'm pretty sure she was last, too. Some people...

ZZDas said...

It's awesome that you can manage to do something as good as this in place like that, without nobody gives me ideas...
Nice Job!

Myrna Wacknov said...

Simple tools in the hands of a master!

John Fleck said...

Just wonderful, James.
If you ever were so inclined to make a video showing how you work with water-soluble colored pencils in this way, well...... I would love to see it!

Rebecca S. said...

Really lovely. And it reminds me of my dad. The focus and intensity of listening is very much present.

Anonymous said...

you're telling me you sat in a concert and painted with INK?
It's lovely, but... do answer the questions the other commenters asked you. I would like to know as well

Dangerous Don said...

I second the suggestion of John Fleck that you should do a short video explaining how you use water-soluble pencils so effectively.

Whenever I've tried to use water-soluble pencils, I always end up with noticeable pencil marks, even after wetting, creating a rough sort of look (I've learned to only use these pencils when the rough look is what I need).

Here, when I look at Mirko's face, where you must have been using the russet pencil, I see smooth watercolor paint. No pencil marks at all. What's your secret?

Unknown said...

He must have been an absorbed, listening, still-life-like subject.
Pensive expression - great painting job!

Shane White said...

I usually bring my sketchbook wherever I go even to the theater.

Oddly enough the one time I sat in the front row off to the side during a production of some Italian comedy piece. The lead performer was really good and even broke off to inquire what I was doing.

I told him I was sketching him and he started mugging for me...which got even more laughs.

It's hard not to sketch when the lighting is so great in a theater environment. Having done theater myself it's a whole lot better than seeing people sleeping. :\


James Gurney said...

Roberto, usually concert halls are too dark to see anything, but this time the house lights were up a bit and I was near enough the stage to get some spillover.

Paolo and T. Arthur, I haven't had anyone elbow me or complain, but most of the time I don't sketch at classical concerts for fear of annoying people. That's one reason I love sketching Irish musicians in pubs--definitely no one minds sketchers.

ZZ and Myrna. Thanks!--In this case, too, I was way over at the edge of the hall with no one really behind me or to the side of me, so I was pretty inconspicuous. Have fun!

John, I'd like to do a film sometime. Most of the portraits I've shown on the blog have been highly impromptu affairs, where I either had no camera or didn't want to have it intrude.

Rebecca, I'm impressed with really focused music listeners. My grandfather would write on the album sleeve the date of each time he would play an LP. I listen better while sketching.

James Gurney said...

Mimitabby, Yes, it was ink, but the ink was in a very neat brush pen (I think Niji is the brand). If you put "brush pen" in the search box of the blog, you'll get a bunch of other posts about the technique.

Ibisbill: two ways to reduce the pencil marks are 1. to use smoother paper, more of a hot press. 2. bring a little watercolor set and do big initial washes with watercolor--or fill a brushpen with the color you want. That works great for skies.

Richard, yes, but he didn't leave his hand like that for very long. 95% of the time he had his other hand on his chin, so I had to wait forever for that other hand to come up.

Shane, you get the prize for the best concert sketching story.

P.T. Waugh said...

Last year I turned the tables on James and sketched him while he gave a talk at the Delaware Art Museum. I was pretty far away though.

My Pen Name said...

Great work James. this is one my favorite of your impromptu sketches yet.

Do you ever try to mentally sketch something then draw from memory ?

as for people's comments about sketching, Yes, I have done it too - but I do feel it annoys patrons even if it doesn't make noise - the hand motions, etc. are distracting to people sitting next to you.

As James says, in a rowdy irish pub, no problem, but in classical music, where often the silence is as important as the sound, or ballet, where there is so much rich visual information to absorb, even a rustling of a paper or constant hand motions can be a distraction.

The Art Student's League has a great program where they invite a dance troupe to rehearse in the gallery and artists are free to sketch and photograph -that's the best of both worlds.

hg.barndt said...

Thank you for all of your good information. Iwish I could sketch as calmly in public - amazing - its what drawing is all about. an admirer.