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I Mean, Look at That Ass

Oftentimes when I’m in the middle of a fairly involved piece, there’s a point about halfway through when I stop and think, I could just leave it like this. There’s a roughed-out sketchy quality that happens to capture the kinesis of the moment. But as tempted as I am, I always end up finishing it off because I didn’t go in with the intention of creating a sketch; if I did, well… then I’d simply draw a sketch.

The above drawing of Larry Fitzgerald is an overt example of simply throwing down a sketch. I need to do more quick exercises like these, just to keep those muscles sharp. I’ve also made the decision to do more work like this going forward, with the intention of selling it at a reduced rate for the benefit of people who can’t splurge on a full-blown piece. Again, all part of the win-win school of artmaking that I heartily espouse.

Plus, I mean, look at that ass.

The Beatdown

My kids like to draw, and I often have them down in my studio when I’m working so they can scribble away with colored pencils while I’m doing my thing. It’s a way to spend some time with them, as well as getting them out of my wife’s hair, because Lord knows she needs a break every now and then.

I don’t think they’re artistically inclined, not that it matters in the long run. My son is almost 5 and my daughter is almost 4, and their drawings usually end up being a bunch of squiggles, interrupted by the occasional stick figure. Anything can happen, of course, latent talents emerging later in life and all, but by the time I was their ages I was doing fairly representational drawings of whatever was inspiring me at the moment: Clifford the Big Red Dog, Spider-man, etc.

The point of this observation isn’t to lament my children’s apparent lack of artistic skill. Quite frankly, I’d rather their gifts lie somewhere more practical anyway. As long as they have fun drawing, I’m a happy guy. So far so good. No, the point is twofold: 1. Either you’ve got it or you don’t. 2. And you don’t have it, there’s no getting it. 

People often wonder how I’m able to make something look like it does, and to me, it makes no sense how everyone can’t do that. I draw what I see. Here’s an arm, a leg, a face, I’ll draw it just like I see it. Obviously the rational side of me realizes that it is a quirky gift that few people have, but my gut tells me, “How hard is it to make it look like something that’s sitting right in front of you?” It’s like taking a test while having a cheat sheet full of answers right there on the desk.

Ah, the hubris. Stick around, you’ll like this.

I’m currently working on a painting right now, acrylic on canvas, and as I’ve written in past blog entries before, I’m not a very seasoned painter. This is only the third acrylic painting I’ve ever done. It’s been going OK for the most part, about as well as one could reasonably expect from such an inexperienced painter, but there’s one particular snag I’ve hit that’s been driving me up a wall. The painting is of the Dave Roberts steal in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, which turned the series around, sparking the Sox’ comeback from being down 0 games to 3 against the Yankees.

The problem is a simple one, it’s where Jeter’s hand is poised over his lower leg as he awaits Posada’s throw. I can’t get the proportion or color of his hand right, can’t get the light and shadow right, can’t get the uniformed pant leg underneath his hand right. I’ve tried 20 different incarnations of it, I’ve thrown everything but the kitchen sink at this stupid square of canvas, and I’ve come up snake eyes each time.  I feel like I’m trying to think in English and for some reason it keeps coming out as French. I have no idea why it’s happening… just haven’t found the right combination of brush, color and stroke yet, but it’s clear I don’t know what I’m doing.

And suddenly, just like that, I’m the guy drawing the stick figure, wondering how anyone possibly can render a fleshed-out limb. A novel feeling, to be sure.

“Why can’t you draw that?”

 Because I can’t. 

I’m sure I’ll be able to figure this out eventually. Part of being an artist is having problem-solving skills, so I’m not too worried. I can already tell that some of the issue lies with the medium itself, as acrylics are pretty unforgiving because they dry so fast, so blending colors to create convincing shading is a challenge. Something I wouldn’t have known three paintings ago. There’s a reason why I’m doing this, even though it invites a figurative ass-kicking.

The feeling is alien. And probably needed.