Sketchbook Club: Dan Eldon & Peter Beard

Sketchbooks don’t just have to contain sketches. This week in the Club, I discuss how two photographers document their lives in Africa using collage, calligraphy, and gorgeous photos.

This week we will discuss the following books:
• The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon

And, by Peter Beard:
The End of the Game
• Fifty Years of Portraits and
• Beyond the End of the World

 

Sketchbook Club #2: d.price

We convened another meeting of the Club to discuss the work of one Dan Price of Joseph, OR. He was one of my earliest and greatest mentors.

Some notes: 

Moonlight Chronicle back issues: http://www.moonlightchronicles.com/issues.html
I see that on this site Dan said he doesn’t have back issues in print anymore but will be making e-versions of them. If you email him and bug him, maybe he’ll pull some out of the attic. It’s worth a shot. Otherwise, you’ll have to make do with his books — which are pretty awesome too.

Books:
Moonlight Chronicles: http://amzn.to/2oXK9mU
How to Make a Journal of Your Life: http://amzn.to/2oXFstp
Radical Simplicity: http://amzn.to/2qhFZdj
Learn about his simple life in this film about d.price: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdLAM-wChxY

How I make art before I make coffee.

Recently I was invited to participate in a lovely series called “The Original” Documented Life Project™”. Guest artists are asked to document their process in making a piece. I was emailed the following assignment:

“The theme for this month is ‘MAKING YOUR MARK (DOODLES & MARK MAKING). The art challenge for this week is ‘AS A FOCAL POINT’, and the prompt is ‘COMING INTO FOCUS”

I’m not always awfully good at following assignments so I just sort of did what I do. I hope they like it.


 

1dog-focus
The theme is “Coming into Focus.” It’s 7:17 a,.m. and I am decidedly not in focus yet. I need coffee and ink.
2-coffee
Purists may cringe, but I will be enjoying Trader Joe’s Half Caff® this morning.  In my advancing years, I find that if I drink a small amount of full-bore caffeinated coffee, I will snap peevishly at people all morning, be wrung out all afternoon, and wake up at 3 am, thinking about my tax return.
3-bread
This is pretzel bread.  It’s sort of a baguette but crustier and slightly salted.  Most importantly it makes nice crumb, pits, and crevices — ideal for close-up drawing.
4-eggs
Drawing, like all grueling physical activities, requires protein. Like Kevin Bacon*, I take mine in ovoid form. These are large brown eggs, free-range, organic, anti-biotic, hormone and steroid free. Despite all that palaver,  they still taste great with some Tabasco.
5-breakfast
This looks like a balanced breakfast — compositionally, if not nutritionally. But, before I can eat it, I must make Art Before Breakfast (yes, that’s the name of my new book, available wherever life-changing books are sold).
6-supplies
My trusty art cart. Ready to roll at any hour.
First I do a contour drawing with a brush pen, drawing the outlines of the major shapes.
First I do a contour drawing with a brush pen, drawing the outlines of the major shapes. Honestly, before I’ve had my coffee, this is about all the detail I can handle.
8-contour-details
Next, I draw some of the inside shapes. I define the contents of the plate, which keep jeering, “Eat me!”
9-shadows-lines
The shadows are super-long so I add their outlines next.
10-watercolors
I open my watercolor palette (various brands all squeezed into a metal box) and a big, fat, soft brush.
 I mix up some diluted Payne's grey and add the shadows.
I mix up some diluted Payne’s grey and add the shadows.
The shadows need  a second coat so I add more Payne's grey  so you can see its cool blue nature. It's the Miles Davis of colors and my favorite.  I eat it by the tube.
The shadows need a second coat so I add more Payne’s grey so you can see its cool blue nature. It’s the Miles Davis of colors and my favorite. I eat it by the tube.
13-toast-details
As the shadows dry, I scrutinize the crusty surface of the bread slices, pretending I am an astronaut mapping Planet Crumb. I use a Tombow Fudenosuke brush pen (WS-BS 150, for you pen nerds).
14-toastB-details
Next I visit and chart the sister planet, Crusto Maximus.
15-coffee-details
There’s a lot of stuff going on inside my french press and now that I am pretty much awake, I can draw all the grounds and bits.
16-doc-martins
Good morning, sunshine! I pick out a couple of lovely yellows from my Doc Martin’s collections ( I have a bottle of every color they make and love to guzzle it).
17-yolks
I hit the juice and the yolks with a blend of two tones and various degrees of diluted Doc M. Pop!
I like my coffee with three or four browns and a purple.
I like my coffee with three or four browns and a purple.
I try to approximate the various light values as the sunshine passes through the deep lagoon of java.
I try to approximate the various light values as the sunshine passes through the deep lagoon of java.
Time to toast the bread with the same palette of browns and purple.
Time to toast the bread with the same palette of browns and purple.
While the paint is still wet, I sprinkle in some salt to suck up moisture and make an interesting texture.  Plus, it tastes better.
While the paint is still wet, I sprinkle in some salt to suck up moisture and make an interesting texture. Plus, it tastes better.
Okay, I'm starving and  the eggs are getting cold. So I pause to digest my subject.
Okay, I’m starving and the eggs are getting cold. So I pause to digest my subject.
As I eat, I think about the day ahead. I drew some hasty sketches to make up my to-do list.
As I eat, I think about the day ahead. Then, burp, I drew some hasty sketches to make up my to-do list. I use a dip pen and India ink. Which reminds me, I think I’ll have Indian for lunch.
Full tummy? Time for a little white pencil to add highlights and reflections to the glass 'n' crockery. Burp.
Time for a little white pencil to add highlights and reflections to the glass ‘n’ crockery.
I give my page a headline.
I give my page a headline.
I do a little journaling, commemorating the day, counting my blessings, splattering some ink.
I do a little journaling, commemorating the day, counting my blessings, splattering some ink.
The sketches look a little sketchy so I hit 'em with  a fresh coat of sepia Doc's. Martins.
The sketches look a little sketchy so I hit ’em with a fresh coat of sepia Doc’s. Martins.
Okay, time to do the dishes and get on with my day.
Okay, time to do the dishes and get on with my day.
What th'?  I left out a couple of letters. Squeeze em in, man!
What th’? I left out a couple of letters. Squeeze em in, man!

* I love Kevin’s latest.

 

L.A.Tte

latte

Late weekend morning and Jenny and I were on bench outside a local motorcycle shop/café, eating breakfast and perusing the Sunday Times (N.Y. — Like a proper NYSnob, I haven’t been here long enough to forgo proper journalism for the local paper). 

We had a croissant and a fresh and elaborately made latte apiece. I am not normally a latte person but when in Rome… (where, incidentally, I never saw anyone drink latte which is normally reserved for infants or the feeble). While reading the Book Review, I absent-mindedly chugged down the contents of my cup. It was warm, creamy, slightly sweet and, soon, disappointingly gone.

I immediately hopped up and went to order another. A young woman with multiple face-rings rang me up and a man with a waxed mustache and neck tats handed me another steaming cup full of ambrosia.

I plunked back down and resumed chomping on the NYTBR. Suddenly I started to feel, well, unwell — pulsing waves of liquid anxiety coursed up my arms, my bowels felt like quicksand, my heart thundered like Secretariat, beads of sweat dribbled down my pate.  It wasn’t a stroke;  it was the effects of far more caffeine than a normal, unsedated person should consume. And I had yet to touch my second cup of well-milked amphetamine.

My point is not to warn you again the evils of the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Life would be duller without it. Instead, this episode made me pause to think about my gluttony and impatience. My need to rush into things that seem vaguely interesting and to find immediate solutions to potential problems that have yet to crest the horizon.

When I came to LA, I had an urgent need to furnish my home and my studio as soon as possible. Within days, I had built truckloads full of furniture and knocked out dozens of drawings and watercolors to fill the walls. I had a shelf-full of guidebooks and had visited all of the decent museums. I had contact everyone I even vaguely knew in-town and planned get-togethers.

Something inside me felt imperiled if I didn’t get a move-on. If I hadn’t built a bulwark against the dimmest view of my future, I couldn’t feel safe.

This is an impulse I have wrestled with my whole life, a need to rush to results. Hurry up and wait. I handed in my thesis three months early — my advisor scowled at me and said he wouldn’t be even looking at it till Spring. I envy procrastinators. This isn’t false modesty. It’s the same impulse that had me ruining model airplanes when I was a gluey-fingered kid, that had me making wonky, ill-fitting covers in bookbinding class, that caused my journal to burst into flames in the microwave as I tried to hurry the drying of a watercolor. If I took my time, I might come up with more thoughtful, deeper, better crafted stuff. Instead, I splatter ink, drop glasses, and dash for second helpings.

My commitment to drawing has been an attempt to slow the hell down, despite my twitchy nature. I really do want to do things well and carefully, to stick to it, to focus on the process instead of obsessing the purpose and value of whatever I undertake. When I wrote  A Kiss Before You Go, I forced myself to go slowly, to carefully check each draft, to take my time with the watercolors, to make the best book I could. It was hard and I still managed to get the book out fairly quickly, more quickly that I sometimes think was altogether decent.

Maybe advertising was the right career path for me. Thirty seconds. And all that money at stake meant I was surrounded by people who made sure I slowed down and polish every detail. I was known for making really well crafted commercials, again, despite my nature.

I left my job three months ago and I have been in LA for seven weeks now and already I am impatient. I had committed to myself that I would take six months to a year to figure out where I was going next. To explore, to reconnect with myself, to have an adventure. But the anxious monkey in my head wants another latte, wants results, clarity and purpose. It’s not enough that I am painting and drawing and blogging and writing my next book. He wants the path all worked out, wants an answer, any answer, now.

Screw the monkey. I have to be careful. That’s why I haven’t blundered into going workshops or contacting galleries or shooting all of my online classes videos or writing the five other book proposals I’ve been kicking around. I worry that I am just sitting in this garage and that cobwebs will grow over me but I must sit still.

I am trying to grow a new me. And that takes something the old me has in short supply. Patience. Calm. A long view.

And less latte.

Seeing the light.

lacmaOnce a week, usually on Friday, I check out one of LA’s museums.

Two weeks ago,  I went to the James Turrell at the LACMA which really dazzled me. I’ve seen his piece in Phoenix but missed the show at the Guggenheim. The Skyspace at ASU’s Tempe Campus is a rectangular room with an open donut ceiling. You sit on a bench against a wall and if you are patient, the relationship of that hole in the ceiling to the room you’re in changes. It soon starts to seem continuous with the walls and you begin to notice the shifting colors of the light. Soon the walls and the sky are on the same plane and it is startling and hallucinogenic when a cloud drifts by or a planes slices the sky.

As Hector, one of the museum guards said to me in LA, “His work rewards your patience.”.

Several of the piece in LA were really mind-altering, making me feel like Wile E. Coyote with spinning kaleidoscopes for eyeballs. You stand in a room like something out of Kubrick’s 2001 and gaze into pure color which slowly shifts; when you look away everything is now bathed in the complimentary color as your rods and cones go nuts.

If you have never heard of Turrell or seen his work, I urge you to soon. There have never been as many opportunities to experience his work as there are this year.

Boldly going where I have not gone before.

tommys

I am journaling these days in a way I haven’t been able to in years, just recording the day as it flows past, honoring the moments I am living and trying to be as present as possible.  In doing so, I realize how far I have drifted from my original intentions with my journals, and how sporadic my practice has become,. Now I can easily fill up several spreads a day and it is a rich and fun experience.

I am also experimenting with my line quality, going for a bolder, more immediate feel. i am using Sharpies, my wider Lamy Safari, bamboo pens, and a juicy “Big Brush” PITT artist pen from Faber- Castell.

And finally, thanks to my new garage/studio, I have the luxury of just reaching down into a handy drawer and grabbing a palette loaded with gouache and painting myself a fresh glass of lemonade.

The art of living.

 

Life is not an oil painting, sealed behind varnish and clamped in a golden frame, hanging in a white walled gallery in Chelsea, waiting to be bought by a hedge fund manager’s third wife.
Life is not an edition of etchings, a long series of identical impressions.
Life is not a mural, intended as a public display or the backdrop to an expensively furnished room. Life is not wallpaper.
Life is not a bronze sculpture, cold, monumental, an abstracted, idealized image of a hero long forgotten.

Life is a shelf.
A long shelf partly filled with journals. Some of the journals are hand-made, some store-bought, some in ornate covers, some stained and dog-eared.
Some of the journals are completely filled, others are abandoned half-way, maybe to be taken up at a later date. Some of the books are filled with paper that felt just right under your pen, smooth and creamy, bold and bright. Others were experiments that failed or overreaches, made of materials you weren’t ready to master quite yet.
Sections of the shelf may be filled with identical volumes, a type of book that you found comfortable at the time and stuck with it, disinterested in experimentation and change so you kept filling one after another. On the shelf, they may look the same, identical spines all in a row like a suburban cul-de-sac. But inside, each page is different, drawn by the same hand and pen, yet recording unique observations, days that fill up identically-sized boxes on the calendar but were all filled with different challenges, discoveries, lessons and dreams.
Each page of each journal is always different. Some are perfectly drawn and brilliantly written, insightful and illuminating. Others are a failure, with poor perspective and distracted lines. Some of the pages are dappled with raindrops or a splash of champagne, others are drawn in haste, still others crosshatched with great intensity and care. Some contain shopping lists, phone numbers of new friends, boarding passes to far-away places. Some are bright and colorful, witty and bold. Others are intimate and personal, never to be shared. Some pages describe loss and death, others a drawing of a gift you took to a baby shower.
None of these pages is an end in itself. No matter how good it seems at the time, eventually, you turn each one over. Even the ones at the end of a volume are merely leading to the first fresh page of the next. You fill the page, maybe you like what you drew or maybe it was a disappointment, but there’s always another to follow and another beyond that.
You try your best with each blank page, try to make something fresh and beautiful. Some of the time you feel excited and proud of what you’ve made, at other times you are disappointed and desperate. Often, a page you thought was just a turd looks a whole lot better when you come back to it years later. The drawing you thought was clumsy and flawed reveals some new insight and truth about who you were at the moment, fresh energy, naiveté, hope, darkness before the dawn. Each drawing, whether you know it at the time or not, contains truth. You just have to trust it and keep on drawing and writing and living your life.
Life is a process, and every one has the same end result: that last volume, partly-filled, cut off when we thought there was still art left to make. No need to rush to get there. Make the most of the page that lies open before you today.