Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Cosmopolitan Sketch Class

Every Tuesday and Thursday at the Society of Illustrators in New York you can sketch for three hours with a live band, drinks, and space to just draw. On Thursday, we did just that.

'We' was me and my friend from home, Tracy, a second-year student on Leicester De Montfort's fine art degree. Armed with little more than a handful of Japanese calligraphy pens, one bluntish pencil and a tiny brown sketchbook, we went on the understanding that we could, as the flyer says, buy some materials on arrival. Erm...nope, no materials for sale, so having not wished to lug an A3 sketchbook, 78 Faber Castells and 50 Staedtler Tripluses to up 63rd St., this was an impromptu chance to 'improvise'.

Improvisation started with scrounging some drawing paper from the chap next to us (A2 ish, brown - the paper, not the chap) after the host's deeply disappointing offer of Xerox sheets was dismissed. Further improvisation continued with drawing in the tiny sketchbook pages turned sideways and ripping the brown scrounged paper in half. But the improvisation REALLY took off when we escorted our cocktails back to our desks - two pink and rudely generous Cosmos made by Matt the Charming Barman, whose Moleskine I later knocked carelessly into the bar sink (well, daft place to put it wasn't it?)

So there sat two giggling English girls, slightly louder than the rest of the (largely male) sketchers, swallowing gulps of 'inspirational' pink liquid to the sound of live jazz played by fellow SOI members. This got looser as time wore on...when we got to Maple Leaf rag, I was really loosened up. Creatively speaking. (Look - I don't normally drink, OK?) Very quickly I saw that Tracy was all about fast and furious, grabbing the line, capturing the pose. I was straight into detail - face, hair, eyes, clothing - and she worked big, I went in small. The painter and the illustrator. The impressionist and the narrator.

The night was a fabulous three hour process of remembering what it is to draw with no agenda other than to try to record what you can see. It wasn't long before I remembered my drawing classes of yesteryear, and my habit of ignoring the slightly passe poses of the life model (we had two here, a semi-naked female and an often-starkers male) and focusing instead on the faces of the sketchers. The concentration...oh, the concentration.

Following on so quickly from Barron Storey's sketchbooks, I felt old processes awakening and recently-acquired hang-ups disappearing. I took my sketchbook and a handful of tools to Providence that weekend and drew some more. In the car, on the rocks, in a cafe. I want to do it right now and only tiredness prevents. Someone famous I can't remember once said 'try to draw something every day, even if it's only something little', and I would really, really, like to practice that.

Here, for better or for worse, is a selection of images from the night and a couple from the next day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Barron Storey at the Society of Illustrators

Me and my friend Anthony Saint James (a gentleman of lenses as opposed to pens) were looking around the Society of Illustrators last week (I was checking out the Members' Gallery as I'm having a show there next year) when we saw that Barron Storey's 'Life After Black' exhibition was being put up in the main gallery downstairs.

With the show just about ready to open, Mr Storey himself was there, pasting pieces into little books and directing. But what we didn't know was that this was a show absolutely stuffed full to the gills with sketchbooks - and only sketchbooks - of all sizes, packed with minute drawings, pen and ink, notes, faces, type, motorbikes, trees...I've never seen anything like them in my life. And d'you know what? You could TOUCH. As it dawned on us the purpose of this show was To Touch (or rather to rifle excitedly through page after page) there was an almost audible sigh of relief so big that we needed to lie down for a minute.

They are, in the authentic sense of the word, awesome; just writhing with thoughts and humming brain activity. You do get the feeling that if he didn't do these, he would just grind to a halt. I had the pleasure of talking to him briefly and got the impression of a straightforward, kind, passionate man with pencils where fingers should be, dreaming in pictures and paper.

If you get the chance to go, you must. His work reminded me that sketchbooks are not just for Christmas, they're for life

Thumbs courtesy of Anthony!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

My New York Pen Stash

This is my new haul from Kinokuniya opposite Bryant Park in NYC. I first went when it was suggested by Maria at the Altpick and it happens also to be round the corner from Bernstein & Andriulli's office. Very handy.

I COULD have spent about forty thousand dollars; instead I went for double-figures only, and settled for these (left to right):

- 3 x 2"x3" narrow-lined notebooks with manila and GOLD - yes gold - covers. Back pocket/handbag stuff.
- 1 x Pentel calligraphy brush with two spare black cartridges, with bubble of three spares.
- Set of three very cute BUT surprisingly robust mini-fountain pens with spare carts. In blue, orange and black. Am drawing with the black one tonight.
- Refillable calligraphy brush pen (fat) - GREAT not to have to chuck it out when it's done!
- Double-ended calligraphy brush; narrow stubby end for fine detail and fat end for more 'confident' strokes.
- Bog standard 2H pencil. The Bs are hard to rub out before scanning.
- Lovely stubby biro-like calligraphy brush pen. Has a sneakily disguised marker end with a VERY fine but firm brush tip. Exquisite.
- A tool to carve your own stamp from stone. Includes two stones. Looks sharp and scary and all the instructions are in Japanese so, wish me luck with that one.
Includes rub-down Arabic letters in upper and lower case Helvetica and an unknown Third Reich-style font.

Also Edward Gorey's never-filmed script for The Black Doll, in hardback.

Can't wait. I'm likely to go back before leaving NY so get your orders in now!


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