Sketching: The shorthand communication of Artists.

Several years ago in high school, as I sat in English literature class listening to my instructor talk about writers, and how they made it an art form to jot down bits of information quickly using shorthand writing, I was instinctively sketching the entire classroom. After the class ended, I analyzed the sketch and discovered all the actions that really took place in that moment in time, and how in the blink of an eye scatterbrained boys who simply wanted to get on to the next class forgot them. My sketchbook told a story.

In later years, I came to understand the importance of sketching. Similarly to how writers use shorthand writing to document quickly, artists use sketching to the same effect. Not only is it a form of documentation, but to the artist it is an intimate language that communicates more than just what is rendered- it also communicates who the artist is, and what better words to hear from an artist than “go ahead, take a look,” as he/she willingly allows you to enter their mind through their sketches.

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Aspasia (sketch) by Eugene Delacroix.

 Artists like Eugene Delacroix filled numerous sketchbooks with drawings and journal entries, and even said: ” Perhaps the sketch of a work is so pleasing because everyone can finish it as he chooses,” and how right he is! For when one peers into that window of the artist’s mind through the sketchbook, one gets to somehow be apart of that creation, without actually being apart of it. Delacroix further said: ” The artist does not spoil the picture by finishing it, for in abandoning the vagueness of the sketch he shows more of his personality by revealing the range but also the limitations of his talent.” This leads me to say, it is important to develop your sketching ability.

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Study of War: 1833-37 by Eugene Delacroix.

INCREASE YOUR ABILITY

Try not to worry about the subjects you draw at first. Just draw, focusing on expression and capturing the essence of the subject quickly. Do so through practice, and even the willingness to make it your own art form. Make sketching fun. Treat it like a pastime, rather than a chore or task. Just like how writers use shorthand, which is oftentimes very personal, use sketching as your personal shorthand to record visions, or translate your opinions, as many artists have throughout history.

TYPES OF SKETCHBOOKS

There are so many different types of sketchbooks out there on the market these days, you only need to browse through the aisle of say a Hobby Lobby to see the ever growing types, sizes and styles to choose from. But consider these three factors when purchasing a sketchbook:

  • Shape: Portrait (vertical with horizontal binding), landscape (horizontal with vertical binding) and square. There are a great many variety in these, and the sizes will vary as well.
  • Binding: Stitched (hardbound or softbound), spiral bound, or tape-bound. Artists who keep illustrated sketchbooks oftentimes prefer the hardbound sketchbooks, primarily for comfort, but these can be tricky, for writing/ drawing close to the binding can pose a problem because it isn’t flat. Spiral and tape-bound are far more common. These are more flexible, and oftentimes are perforated as well, so the artist can remove pages easily if needs be.
  • Paper: Paper type and quality can never be underestimated or overstated, for it can dramatically affect what the artist creates. A great many selection of sketchbooks containing acid free, recycled or speciality papers are on the market today. If you sketch in soft mediums, and smudging is a pet peeve, I recommend sketchbooks that have glassine interleaves between the sheet. Most sketchbooks are intended for mixed media, but if you work in water media, use sketchbooks with heavier papers, such as watercolor paper that can handle the saturation. If you desire heavy, high-quality drawing paper with tooth, try sketchbooks with hot pressed watercolor paper.

Get hooked on it. Develop a habit of sketching. Use the process to channel your creative side, warm you up and get you loose, even if no one ever sees them.

On The Easel Today.

On the easel today July 5, 2017 features my newest painting titled “Complete Surrender”. This piece culminates a series of work that I have been brainstorming for some time. The title of the series is: “Beauty, Strength & Grace”, and features two other works, which you have possibly seen a time of two before: “Blissful Reminiscence” and “Finally Free”. All three paintings embody the essence of the title of the series; yet stand alone in their individual meanings.

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In this painting, my subject is adorned in a warm, radiant light, which envelops her in a rather intimate fashion and crowns her with a halo. Her posture and subtle expression is that of complete surrender, as her stark beauty is glorified. I challenged myself with this piece, as I do with all my paintings. This challenge was creating transparency and softness in texture in the fabric that adorns her. Those two aspects of painting are two of the most difficult for any artist, but in trying numerous approaches I am at the brink of accomplishing what I intend to.  There is more work to be done however, in spite of the current successes throughout the piece. My paint is still wet, and my brushes are eagerly waiting to be summoned.

The Irony of our time.

Isn’t it ironic that everything we do these days revolve around digital media, or more technically, algorithms? Over the past decade there has been more and more intense debate as to what direction the world is headed. Is it headed to artificial intelligence at our beckon and call like in I-Robot, or simply outright destruction because we can’t seem to stop going down the slippery slope of technological advancement? In my illustration, I raise these questions, because as a millennial, I find that not only is everything easier to obtain and create, but I also realize that some aesthetics are being lost, and at a very rapid rate.

The Irony of our time

The Irony of our time. 

As an artist, and one who enjoys the fine arts, especially the traditional painting styles where the artist has a connection with his materials – paint, brush and solvent, I often wonder if those aesthetics will become something of the past one day. The beauty one can create based on his natural born talent, without the use of a mathematical calculation behind a screen is something that is tremendously special. Nowadays, that beauty in creativity is somewhat lost, for the challenge of finding and developing that innate talent is substituted by the help of technology. Yes, the graphic arts are engaging, exciting and colorful, but there is a sense of being out of touch, especially in comparison to the traditional fine arts. That is the greatest disparity I identify between the digital age, and the age we are being ushered out of since the invention of print media.

Certain things that we have grown up with and experienced as children – story books, comics, magazines and the like, will they become obsolete in a decade or two? Will we be looking at issues of National Geographic and The New York Times as antiques that should be preserved? Many in the print media industry have faced this very issue, where there is a consensus that print media is dying, in so much that some companies have left the business entirely to become solely digital. The essence of a collector’s item will be lost, for everything is on a screen and can just be wiped away with a click. I think about this when it comes to my art. Will the emergence of digital art mean the death of fine art? Where will the real beauty lie?

I often wonder what changes will affect the arts, and artists in another twenty, thirty, or forty years. When I consider that many artists do not get the deserved recognition for their talent until they are considerably older in their careers, say thirty years after they have begun; what then will it be like for artists in the future considering that technology is dominating every aspect of artistic creativity? What of the traditional aesthetics we learn of from the masters of the Renaissance and Baroque period?

The relevance of these points cannot be understated, for we see the changes around us every day if we are aware. Following some of the assertions of the avant-garde artists, a big part of my job as an artist is to keep you socially aware, whether it be through my two dimensional compositions and the messages contained in them, or through my thoughts put forth in writing. Your engagement is priceless, because art is never just about the artist, but more about the message we convey – and for me, the traditional aesthetic beauty that aids the message.

Freedom in Creativity Solo Exhibition.

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“The Studio is a laboratory, not a factory. An exhibition is the result of your experiments, but the process is never ending. So an exhibition is not a conclusion.” – Chris Ofili.  In quoting one of the most inspiring black artists of the age, I want you to understand how I see my art, my career and my ambitions in being an impactful artist. Freedom in creativity comes from that gut feeling you have to create based of pure emotion, thought and love for what you believe in; your god given talent to effectively communicate visually.

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My first solo exhibition Freedom in Creativity was held on April 6, 2017 in Athens Ohio at the Arts West building. That day was special for a number of reasons. Not only was it the reception of my first solo show, it was also my birthday. It was a day I will never forget based on those two things primarily. Tremendous thought was put into the title of the exhibition, where I wanted to convey my thoughts on not only my art, to those who were to be exposed to it, but also my thoughts about art in general, and the challenges artists face as we journey along our individual paths.

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In speaking to the guests who attended the exhibit, I raised the point about artistic freedoms being challenged, even trampled on: “That which we create is born from inspiration, which come to us in countless forms. A double standard prevails however, that inhibits that full expression and sometimes hide what we create.” This was the meat to my exhibition that Thursday evening. My intent was to open eyes to my varied interests as an artist; never to be labeled as a particular kind, or be constrained to doing one type of work. Artistic freedom should prevail, especially in a societies that sometimes unknowingly confine artists to particular types of expression.

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For the exhibition I partnered with one of the most important organizations in Athens Ohio, Passion Works. This partnership arose from my interest in what they provide for special needs individuals in Athens and surrounding towns. Some of their artworks were on display, in order to raise awareness of their efforts with special needs, and also inspire further support of their members. The exhibition was a success in every aspect. From my experiments, I created- but the process continues. This exhibition was not a conclusion.

On The Easel Today.

This edition of On The Easel today March 27, 2017 features my second installment in the Boots and Bricks series. This painting is a little different from the first in the series. How different you wonder? Well in this piece, the bricks are those of Athens Ohio, and the shoes are different. In my description of the first painting in the series, I highlighted that it was created for the town of Nelsonville, and represented what the town is historically known for: its bricks and Rocky Boots, which headquarters there. In this new painting the bricks of Athens Ohio are immortalized by my hand, and the representation of the culture and people are in the style of shoes I placed in the composition.

Adrian Blake

Similarly to the rugged work boots which represent the hardworking and blue-collar workers who built the town of Nelsonville, the youth and modernity of the culture in Athens is represented by the shoes in painting. The Converse brand of shoes is a common sight around Athens, and in my interpretation of what best symbolizes the predominant age demographic in the town; it was fitting to use this idea. In all my paintings I aim to have you be apart of the piece, not just be an observer, and this piece is no different.

The seemingly magnified view of the elements in the painting is done to visually engage you in the artwork, bringing you close to what I actually see every time I look at the bricks while walking down Court Street on a rainy day. In painting this, I told myself that I wanted my viewer to not look at the bricks the same again. I want you to see the history, see the work put in to lay those bricks, and how similar those bricks are to the people in the town. A brick by itself is just another brick, and no two bricks are the same.Yet when put together, they create something special, and make a place that more historic based on what they created.

 

On the Easel Today.

This edition of On the Easel Today Tuesday March 7, 2017 features my newest painting titled ‘When The Rain Comes’. As many of my other pieces, this painting contains a particular mix of symbology that encompasses my interpretation of a number of feelings and situations in my life; and on a broader scale, topics, ideologies and feelings that many people face in their own lives every day.

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Upon analysis of the work, the imagery is in your face, bold and detailed in its presentation. My palette was deliberate, and specific to the overall mood I intended to capture. I tackled the topic of ideology and its emotional effect through my depiction of the figure in the piece. I’m confident that in your initial analysis, you will think of this figure as a black Jesus, but let us take that interpretation a step further from the norm of the popular Western religious ideology. This piece explores the system of ideas and ideals that cause us to all have such a first impression, and aims to broaden your thoughts beyond what you have come to so easily interpret at face value.

Particular elements in this piece serve to engage you in the significance of the ideas I propose. This work is not only about being black, and facing insurmountable challenges as a result of our affliction, but also about being human and apart of a system that causes one to sometimes feel crucified based on ones personal ideals, feelings and simply the day to day challenges, that sometimes outweigh the good that happened in your life a short time ago. The point of view in which the work is done is very intimate, and symbolical as well. Looking from a birds eye view down on the subject gives the you an observative perspective, similar to looking through a magnifying glass down at an anthill with the curiosity and fascination of a child.

Throughout the painting there are raindrops, and this is the basis of the title. Metaphorically the raindrops represents the aforementioned challenges of ideals and feelings that seem to fall like rain on us when life is, needless to say, tough. Those challenges are what oftentimes put me ‘in the shoes’ of Jesus, in the story of the crucifixion. The detail in the piece is done to involve you emotionally in the work, bringing a greater understanding to your period of seeming crucifixion and personifying it. So many people are soaking wet from feeling that rain of challenge and despair, while knowing that some go through this life seemingly impervious to those challenges that countless people face every day, and are subsequently incapable of empathetically relating to the feelings of others facing those challenges.

This painting is geared at allowing people to understand perspective, and as Bob Marley famously said in one of his songs “some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” So in your observation of this painting, keep in mind perspective, challenge yourself to let empathy guide your perspectives, and never forget to feel the rain, not just get wet by it.

 

Portrait of St. Leo (Usain St.Leo Bolt).

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Who is the fastest man in the world, do you know? If you are into sports, especially track and field this question is easy to answer: Usain Bolt. When I say his name it brings chills and goosebumps to me. Why, you may ask? It’s not only because he is the greatest sprinter in the world, and its not only because he has broken his own world records multiple times either. It’s because he has transcended the term “track and field icon”, and the fact that he is Jamaican makes it even sweeter. Usain St. Leo Bolt is not only the fastest man in the world currently, he has been so for quite a long time now, and will possibly stay that way for decades to come, possibly forever.

Usain is one of us. When I say that I mean, he is one of us Jamaican boys, having dreams of being like the sports icons we admired growing up, or one of the many people who have made a positive and permanent mark in this world, like Marcus Garvey did, and Bob Marley. Growing up in Jamaica and running around barefooted, playing football (soccer) outside with the other children in the neighborhood…just being rowdy island boys is the norm, and to think that Usain came from such humble beginning, to now being one of the biggest names in the entire world, words cant really describe the feeling it gives. When he shattered arguably the most iconic of all records, which he set a few years before at the IAAF World Championships, clocking 9.69 seconds in the 100m sprint and claiming the gold medal, a new identity took shape- a new identity for not only him, but for us as Jamaicans- for us as Jamaican men.

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Coming back in 2009 and outdoing what he did a few years before to clock a blistering 9.58 seconds, which to most was the most unbelievable thing they ever witnessed in their professional career, and in reality, ever, Bolt set in stone his mark on this world, and a mark for Jamaicans everywhere. A standard was set. A standard that makes Jamaicans everywhere walk with their heads high, flags high, and voices send out. For this small country, no bigger than Colorado to feel like it is the biggest country in the entire world, with the proudest and most patriotic people in the entire world, it causes chills and goosebumps. This is why I wanted to show my appreciation for him by doing this portrait. In this portrait, I aimed at capturing his intensity in profile and also this silent charisma, that plays well with his bravado.
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Artistic battle royal.

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Have you ever heard of the name Stewart Davis? How about Clarence Weinstock? Well if these names are familiar to you, you may be aware of the dialectical back and forth between them regarding their views about abstract art and representational art. Davis was a painter whose work tended towards abstraction, even though he rejected the art-for-art’s sake position. He addressed the economic condition of American artists during the period of the Depression, and was a prominent figure in the Artist’s Union.

Weinstock, assistant editor of New Masses and subsequent editor of the Artists Union bulletin, published by the WPA federal art project group in 1934, had his own opinion about abstract art that contradicted those of Davis- while expressing his support of representational art. This exchange sheds some light into left-wing artistic debates in the 1930s in the United States. Davis’ introduction to the catalogue of an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, February to March 1935 states his defensive stance of abstract art. Davis’ essay was placed in Art Front, by then magazine editor Clarence Weinstock (vol. 1, no 4, New York, April 1935).

Weinstock shot back with a response stating his position, which claimed that figurative art alone could adequately address the conflicts of the modern world. I am sure at some point in your life (if you enjoy looking at art) you have asked yourself while looking at an abstract piece, what is this saying? Or what is it supposed to mean? For me being an artist that enjoys looking at art, and who understands it, I have asked myself this question numerous times as I view an abstract or semi- abstract piece. This is normal I’ve come to realize, because to understand abstract art one has to understand how abstract artists view their medium of expression.

Davis, in defining abstract art highlights that the definition would vary, depending on each artist’s opinion as to what abstract art is to them; however he says that there is a general concordance of opinion that supports the generative idea of abstract art as a living thing that changes, moves and grows like a living organism. This outlook on art far exceeds that of any that I have ever heard before, and one that is important to remember when talking about any piece of art, abstract or representational. To an extent it defines how many artists see their work- and shows the personal value that it has to the artist.

Weinstock retorted by flipping the script a little, saying that ‘any painting may be considered abstract, at a certain stage of analysis’. His opinion here has some truth to it, where in that stage only the color-form categories are being highlighted for study. He furthermore stated that even the most abstract painting could be seen as representational to certain viewers, whether in simplicity or complexity based on the person’s perception of arbitrary space relations. His take is very compelling and adds a very different outlook on the perception of works of art.

Weinstock in his rebuttal of Davis’ opinions made some very exceptional assertions, that makes this debate one that will forever go on. At any rate, the battles of words over the years between the ideas of abstract artists and representational artists have helped to evolve our beloved craft. Now in the 21st century we see a culmination of ideas that pair both the usage of abstract and representational art to create new works of art, that cohesively intertwine the alluring aesthetics of both mediums of expression.

This cohesive relationship is seen widely in graphic design and digital illustration. We see that as the world advances technologically artists have evolved as well, and discussions are not so much now about the contradictions between the artistic expressions, but the fusion between them that will unlock ultimately a new frontier in art in the future.

The Essence of Woman Exhibition.

“Throughout time, women have been a favorite subject of artists of all mediums. There is both mystery and awe to be found in their femininity, fertility and the curvature of their bodies”. The Essence of Woman Exhibition was held on Friday May 20, 2016 at the Garrett Museum of Art, in Garrett Indiana. The juried exhibition featured a collection of works from a broad range of artists locally, nationally and internationally and boasted different works of art, from paintings and photography to sculpture.

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The gallery itself was a wonderful venue, with large exhibition floors both upstairs and downstairs, that accommodated all the pieces that were accepted for the exhibition. This was a great opportunity for me to be apart of an exhibition in a town where art is valued and appreciated, and gain exposure as an upcoming artist. Seen above are two of my three entries in the exhibition: ‘Blissful Reminiscence’ and ‘Finally Free’.

The exhibition kicked off with a silent auction May 19th, honoring Dekalb County Domestic Task Force- raising awareness to domestic violence victims. I donated one of my paintings for this cause, which ended up being purchased by a collector who happened to stop by the gallery that day on a business trip.

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The following day the exhibition officially opened with an artist reception, featuring a local jazz band, which set the tone for the evening. Hearing all the artists and patrons mingling and engaging in art talk was the highlight for me, as I not only got to meet some very interesting people, but I also engaged in discussion about my work and my creative process.

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Gallery director Jim Gabbard (seen above) along with his team did a wonderful job at curating, and ensuring that each artist felt at home there at the gallery. The painting in the background titled ‘The Star Maiden’ was done by yours truly, specifically for the exhibition, and received the honorable mention award at the show. The exhibition went very well, and at the end of the reception I was surprised to know that one of my entries was selected to represent the show in the Journal Gazette (here), a local paper there in Indiana, and the hard copy was presented to my by Mr. Gabbard.

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This was a great experience for me, and many of the other artists who participated in the silent auction venture and the exhibition. I’m looking forward to future exhibitions at the Garrett Museum of Art, and working alongside their team as I grow as an artist and continue on this splendid journey fulfilling my dreams.

My art collection: Beauty beyond the pane by Adrian Blake

Adding pieces to an art collection provides a thrill like no other. It’s like finding that perfect pair of shoes– you just know you have to take them home. I recently found my latest bu…

Source: My art collection: Beauty beyond the pane by Adrian Blake