• Language

Balance Due

One of my Urban-Fantasy flash fiction pieces will be published in Canyon Voices–the literary publication out of Arizona State University. Balance Due is scheduled for publication December 2018.

Kinney is a proper ogre, raised to follow the ogre’s code. During a chance encounter on a late-night bus through the city, Kinney meets a goblin with no sense of honor and only one thing on his beastly mind-fill his own belly. Is it any wonder Kinney should lose his patience with the creature?

Link coming soon.

It’s Alive! 3 Ways to Bring Your Drawing to Life

What I  Learned From Egon Schiele

 

When we first learn to draw, so much of our effort is spent on getting it right—placing the lines, rendering the values, representing the objects just so.

Liegendes madchen

Liegendes Madchen (Lying Girl)

These are important first steps, because we are learning to really see the world. But if we want anyone to look at our drawings for more than ten seconds, then we need to do more than represent the physicality of a thing. We need to convey its life and energy.

This is where Egon Schiele can teach us all a few things. Schiele was an early exponent of Expressionism, and although he was dead by the age of 28, his artwork would survive him to this day. One hundred years after his death, we are still fascinated by the energy and emotion Schiele conveyed in his work.

There are three techniques in particular that we can learn from Schiele’s drawings to help us improve the life in our own work. Schiele worked primarily in self-portraits, the human figure, and landscapes. I’ve taken examples from each to help us understand the importance of going beyond mere representation.

  1. A Line is Not Just a Line

Like a jazz musician playing variations on a theme, it’s important to bring variety to the elements within a drawing, particularly line. So, how can we vary line? Consider these two qualities: weight and continuity.  By weight, I am referring to the thickness and boldness of the line. Is it wide or thin, dark or light? By continuity I am referring to a line being solid vs broken, as well as line that modulates its weight for effect.

Two Kneeling Figures

Two Kneeling Figures (Parallelogram)

Let’s take a look at Schiele’s Two Kneeling Figures (1913) to see how he uses line. We see thick, bold lines describing the contours of the garments worn by the figures and, interestingly, to describe the negative shape between the arm and body of the farthest figure. These heavy lines have the effect of blocking in or framing the young man’s gaze. By contrast, the figures themselves are constructed using thin lines, some bolder than others. We can almost feel the weight of the garments hanging on these fragile, young people.

Liegendes Madchen (above) is a great example of Schiele’s use of lost line. Line is broken and soft at her weight-bearing right shoulder that pushes into the surface she lies on. And the lines completely disappear at the outer extremities, placing focus and emphasis on her face and torso.

In our own drawings, it’s important to vary line weight and continuity. For example, thicker, darker lines can denote areas in shadow or surfaces contacting other surfaces. Thinner, lighter lines can recede a form into the background or curve it into the light. Highlights on a surface can be denoted by lost or broken line.

 

  1. The Shortest Distance Between Point A and Point B is Boring

In order to describe the world around us we sometimes need to use straight lines.  But unless you have a good reason to convey perfection, it’s best to leave the straight edge in its drawer. A nearly-straight line will almost always be more interesting.

Old Houses in Krumau

Old Houses in Krumau

Old Houses in Krumau (1914), one of Schiele’s landscapes, necessarily uses straight lines to describe the structures of the drawing. It’s evident, however, that these lines are not perfectly drawn. He didn’t use a straight edge. His lines are parallel and squared where they need to be, but there is a subtle looseness about them that keeps the drawing lively.

If you find it difficult to draw a straight line, the issue might be with how you are holding your drawing instrument. Instead of holding your pencil, for example, in the writing position, try cradling it across your fingers, thumb on top, with the tip pointed away from you. Then place your point and pull downward on the paper. The trick is to counter the natural pivot of your wrist.

The energy that straight lines drawn freehand can bring to your work is further described in our last point.

 

  1. Find a Balance Between Control and Fluidity, and Then Nudge Toward Fluidity

Schiele’s drawings have a quality about them that is best described at free. Take a look at Self-Portrait as St. Sabastian (1914). There is a looseness and fluidity in his work that comes with a familiarity with (and in Schiele’s case mastery over) the medium.

Self-Portrait as St. Sabastian

Self-Portrait as St. Sabastian

The closer you hold your drawing instrument toward the tip, the more control you will have. But you will begin to lose grace. As you move backward, away from the tip, you will start to lose control. But you will gain grace. The trick is to find the balance. If you’re drawing with a pencil, you have to be able to control it, but you don’t want to sacrifice the grace of line that will give your work life. When practicing this style of drawing, find that balance, and then give up just a tad more control. It’s practice after all, and you will get better at learning to control those graceful, fluid lines.

Schiele was an expressionist. He brought his own style and interpretation to the table. We can’t all draw like him, nor do we want to. But if we can bring that sense of freedom to our own work in our own way, our drawings will certainly improve. The goal shouldn’t be to merely represent a thing. If that’s the case, the best tool for the job is probably a camera. Instead, we should try to convey a sense of what we are seeing and, more importantly, who we are as artists.

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All images courtesy of www.egon-schiele.net.

Inventing Space

We are living in a world of our own creation.  I’m not sure when or where I first heard that idea, but I know that it resonates with me.  I remember as a teenager asking a friend, “What if we are all just parts of God?  Literally.”  Much later adding to the question with, “What if we have collectively agreed to invent this universe so that we could experience the novelty of time and space?  Sort of a metaphysical carnival ride.  I’m not really sure where I picked up these ideas, but I’ve always been an avid reader of both mythology and science fiction.  Somehow I got them along the journey.

[image action=”none” image_action_link=”#” target=”_self” align=”alignleft” image_size_alias=”200^262″ image_alt=”Madison Inn Room 235″ link_title=”” margin_top=”” margin_right=”10″ margin_bottom=”10″ margin_left=”” sc_id=”sc1420394975317″]http://www.silo34.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MadisonInn235Web.jpg[/image]Still, those questions fascinate me.  Much of my art deals with the issue of our passage through time, our role in this universe.  As I get older, the nature of time and space seem even more important.

When I first came up with the idea for The Madison Inn series (included in my Digital Paint and Photography gallery) the idea of inventing spaces excited me.  This is not new, I know.  Painters, writers, and even (arguably) musicians have always done this.  But these rooms would be of my own design–spaces steeped in imagery of fractured time and space, illusions  to spirit.  They are my way of time traveling–and at the same time revealing the illusion of linear time.

We step into The Madison Inn and instantly recognize its elements, but they don’t quite seem to fit either.  We feel at once both familiar and uneasy–which is to say (for some of us anyway) like we’ve returned home.

There are three compositions in the series, with a fourth on the way.  Hope you find them interesting.

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