Friday, April 25, 2014

A Flash of Light

I've written before of the sketchbook project we are doing in the Artists' Lab. We each begin with an accordion fold sketchbook, determine a theme related to light and create an image or text. We then send it on to other artists within a group of artists in Minneapolis, Madison and Milwaukee. Each artist adds to it and then sends it on to the next. Recently I got my first sketchbook from another artist, in this case a poet.

I found the sketchbook project a bit intimidating until I discovered an ap on the iPad called Doodle Buddy. I first started using it to sketch out paintings when I would wake up with an idea. Often I would reach for my iPad to record the image before it disappeared into the recesses of memory. Originally I was doing rough sketches, but then I began to experiment with more of the program capabilities and learned that I could develop a more complete image. It allows you to control the width of the line and the choice of colors. And you can smudge, my favorite technique. No tools or artist supplies are required, just your finger and a color printer. And miracle of miracles, there is an undo button, something I've often wished for when I paint.

In this case the theme was the theatricality of light and shadow that transforms an ordinary moment into something charged. The poem that was written was about a man lighting a cigarette and the charged nature of the moment. I began playing around with imagery that would accompany the poem and did a simple face cupping a cigarette, smoke emerging and an ember glowing.

Then we went on a trip to California where we drove along the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles. As night fell we passed cars on narrow roads and the green of their dashboard would cast an otherworldly glow in that split second when one glimpses the driver in the blur of headlights. One night at 2am when I lay awake thinking about what to draw, I decided to see if I could capture that moment. Then I decided I needed the opposing page to reflect the view ahead of our car in the opposite lane. I started with a black background and drew with white.

I'm not sure what it is about drawing on my iPad that lifted the intimidation, but I think it has something to do with not having to think about materials or working directly in the book. And if I don't like it, I just let it go and start again. It actually encourages more of an experimental approach for me and best of all it is there when inspiration strikes, often in the wee hours of night.

While we were in California I acquired a "doodle buddy" in my five year old grandson by teaching him to draw on the iPad. Rather amazing how quickly a five-year old figures out how to use an ap and teaches me new things too. I began to draw for him the things we saw during the day, from macaws to a snapping turtle in the moment before he swallowed a gold fish. He drew sharks and whales, his current fascination. When he finished a drawing he'd ask me to email it to his mom and then move onto the next. When we left his mom asked him his favorite part of our visit and he replied learning how to smudge. Ah, a kindred spirit.

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