Thursday, June 25, 2009

Marilyn Musk Ox + Eagle Claw study

Couple annoying and amusing thoughts that have been continually poking around my head the past month; one is that you really don't need to know how to draw to be an artist anymore, which kinda bugs the shit out of me since I'm always trying to learn (and teach) to draw better, though looking at my own work I probably should count my blessings and just shut the hell up. 
And two; even though I'm supposed to have all this experience I still "waste" incredibly insane amounts of time working on something that really isn't all that great of an idea to begin with, and furthermore stubbornly refuses to materialize into what I originally envisioned. If I wasn't an artist I guess that would bother me a lot more, but beyond the frustration and resultant perseverance, that's part of the process, and is the single-most driving factor that keeps me bent over the sheet of paper hour after hour, day in day out, year after year. It would get boring real quick if I ever do find myself plateau-ing into a rote creative complacency and effortlessly create exactly what I "see." Case in point being this pen & ink demo I did in class weeks ago of a musk ox impersonating the famous Marilyn Monroe pose:

"The footage of Monroe's dress billowing over a subway grate was shot twice: The first take was shot at Manhattan's Lexington Avenue at 52nd Street and the second on a sound stage. The sound stage footage is what made its way into the final film, as the original on-location footage's sound had been rendered useless by the over excited crowd present during filming." - Wikipedia entry
Original image by photographer Matty Zimmerman from the set of the 1955 film "The Seven Year Itch" starring Marilyn Monroe. Lost track of just how many freakin' hours went into the finishing of the image: both the actual rendering of textures + the tinting and shading sessions that took forever - probably completed dozens of other drawings while this one sat first on my tabletop and then on the desktop while I absent-mindedly picked at it. And all credit for the caption goes to one of my students: after staring at it for days in the studio, Sarah Seifert (hence the street sign) thought "Diamond willows are a girl's best friend" was a stupid idea at first but it sure beat all the dumb ones I was coming up with ("Nice calves" etc.). Hell, it made me laugh. Absolutely no idea whatsoever as to where the initial drawing's idea came from or what's behind the juxtaposition; ironically it occurred while walking down the department hallway after teaching a class in doing just that - how to come up with ideas for cartoons. In one of the display cases was an etching of a musk ox, just your basic profile illustration in a representational style, nothing particularly unique or inspiring. Why Monroe came to mind after mulling over the distinctive, skirt-like pelage, I can't say, except that it's a perfect example of how non-linear, free-association thinking can lead to unpredictable and ridiculous results.

It might actually also confirm the working hypothesis I employ on occasion; putting on the "funny" prescription glasses and seeing the world all around you filtered through those distorting lenses puts everything into perspective. After total immersion in this habit of viewing the world as fodder for one big joke it becomes instinctual and reflexive, much to annoyance of the serious people in your life. Maintaining that outlook/illusion is a skill that can be a chore considering the undue influence reality tends to impose on one's activities throughout a normal day, but cultivating such an attitude has its own rewards. Mind you, that's entirely relative for an artist, as I'm sure they've incarcerated or institutionalized folks for entertaining similar visions ... one reason I try not to laugh out loud in public.
And, as per the last post, all this week's scheduled class field trips got rained out, and for one of them we huddled in the back room of the Creamer's Field visitor center for a couple fruitless hours in hopes of the weather letting up, to no avail; but the day wasn't entirely a loss as we did get a chance to sketch some specimens. One of which I did (yet another) pen & ink demo on: a detailed foot of a raptor (golden eagle). Of course later on I just had to go ahead and mess it all up by adding on another element...

I think this is the first time I've actually incorporated my two different styles of drawing into one panel, plus it's one of the few times I've ever used a computer font in place of my usual hand-lettering, which a bit more effective in imparting that cheesy glossy-brochure touristy flavor (lingo culled from remixing a dozen sightseeing tour-guide websites' verbage).

Nice little >poot< action too...

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