Category Archives: Drawing

Marking the Change

As we move into September the days are becoming noticeably shorter and our evening temps here in Vermont have already dipped into the 40’s, making for great sleeping weather.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I know that many bemoan the last days of August, perhaps more so than the end of any other season, but I am happy for the change. I find comfort, not just in the reminder of natural rhythms and cycles beyond my control, but also in welcoming the chance to get back to activities I enjoy without the guilt of feeling I ought to be outside taking advantage of summer’s fleeting sun and warmth.

Garden

It’s time to bring in the harvest in earnest and to start putting some of the bounty up for winter enjoyment. It’s been a great year in my garden for garlic, blueberries, carrots, beans, herbs, and greens. My tomatoes, on the other hand, are slow to ripen and have had a relatively weak showing — a result, I’m sure, of all the rain and relatively cool days we’ve had on our hill this year. I’ve come to accept the fluctuation between what does well from one year to the next, and look to that variation as an opportunity to explore new recipes and to evade any sense of being caught in a rut.

Bookended tools

Bookended     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

When summer arrives, I’m ready for a break from the kitchen and try to avoid too much time cooking. But when we begin to see signs that the transition to fall is taking hold, it feels good to pull out my pots for “putting food by” and to get back in the swing of creating with food. It doesn’t hurt that there are endless opportunities for happenstance still-lives along the way, making sketching just another gratifying perk of the job.

Balanced

Balanced     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

These drawings mark the beans that were blanched, the batches of pesto mixed up, the turkey broth simmered & flavored with fresh herbs, carrots, and garlic…and of course the resulting piles of dishes, before and after washing.

Years ago my mother gave me a copy of the book Putting Food By. It’s a keeper; a trusty resource that never goes out of date. This link is to the most recent edition.

Also, for a bit of meaty reading, artist Anne Sherwood Pundyk recently contributed an essay entitled The Beholder’s Share to the online magazine artcritical. Pundyk discusses the neuroscience of abstraction and figuration, drawing on personal and professional experience in conjunction with consideration of two books on recent scientific findings: My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (2006) and Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures by Eric R. Kandel (2016). Fascinating! …I found it particularly resonating bearing in mind my ongoing interest in straddling a line between the two (abstraction and figuration) through composition and values.

Finally, a bit of gratifying news and shameless self-promotion: my piece “It Isn’t That Simple” was picked-up and used by the Surface Design Association to illustrate their Friday Fibers Roundup blog last week.

Reportage

There’s a lot to be said for keeping up the sketching habit while traveling. I love that drawing gives me an immediate sense of grounding in unfamiliar surroundings while allowing for more fully absorbing a new environment. Stopping to sketch is a wonderful opportunity to squeeze in a breather during a busy day of sight-seeing, and to pay closer attention to the common bits that define a particular locale. At the end of a full day of exploration, my husband and I have become very fond of finding a cafe or bar where we can sit with a drink and watch the world pass by while recapping our experiences. Pulling out my sketchbook has become a comfortable part of that favorite routine.

Waiting to Board

Waiting to Board, BTV     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

That said, this past week in Seattle there were eleven of us, so my best chance to draw was in the morning while everyone was relaxing over coffee as we pulled together our itinerary for the day ahead. Therefore, my drawings are mostly rooms around the house we rented and various breakfast-related still-life set ups. Even so, there is enjoyment in going through each drawing after getting home because, even if the subject itself isn’t that exciting, I am brought back to that moment so precisely: the conversation, the surrounding atmosphere, the overarching feeling of that point in time. It’s a wonderfully direct way to re-experience the moment; there is much to be said for the power of drawings in recording an event.

Cafe Flora

Cafe Flora     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

On the flight home I read this article by Lauren Tamaki who had been tasked by the NYTimes to sketch the Bill Cosby trial since photographs weren’t permitted. Her drawings and accompanying text bring a level of humanness to the proceedings, a quality that could potentially become lost in photographs. My point is not to discount the poignancy and recording power to be found in excellent photography, but rather to draw attention to the benefits contained in a drawing made with time and consideration and which, via the individuality of the artist’s marks and gestures, expresses an immediacy and presence in that particular moment. Details Tamaki captured by hand, such as the ornately carved courtroom door, the assistant district attorney’s hand gestures, or the body language of others in the courtroom, convey an emotional connection with the circumstances that might otherwise be overlooked.

Counter Shapes

Counter Shapes, Breakfast     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Since becoming acquainted with Urban Sketchers, I am much more aware of reportage artists and the importance of their work. Using their skills to tell some of the harder stories that surround us, via means that are arguably more intimate than those of a movie camera or still photography, they have an opportunity to fully immerse us in that particular time and place.

Iris Chair

Iris Chair     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I encourage you to explore a few such artist’s work:

Veronica Lawlor drew on the streets of Manhattan as 9/11 unfolded and in the weeks following. She compiled her sketches in the book September 11, 2001, Words and Pictures. This blog post from The Global Art Junkie drills home the power and authenticity of Lawlor’s drawings in marking that day.

I first learned of Richard Johnson’s work on Instagram. Citizen Sketcher Marc Taro Holmes interviewed Johnson about sketching the homeless in Washington, D.C., resulting in a very interesting discussion about the ethical responsibilities of such work.

Molly Crabapple is an award-winning artist who reports on injustice and rebellion around the world. Her work is spellbinding.

And let’s not forget Winslow Homer who was a reportage artist during the Civil War.

In circling back to the more mundane matter of keeping an account of traveling for pleasure, I know that bringing home spectacular images of newly discovered territory is commonplace when everyone has a smart phone capable of taking wonderful pictures. My husband’s photos are terrific and and I am so grateful for the fleeting moments he is able to catch in a heartbeat.

Knife & Spoon

Knife & Spoon     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Yet there is also a lot to be said for the depth of memories that are rooted in the slower process of drawing. For me, they have unmatchable value as souvenirs.

 

Puppy Love

How great it is

Quinn 1

Quinn 1     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

to have a model

Quinn 2

Quinn 2     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

who is available 24/7.

Quinn 3

Quinn 3     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

One who only asks for walks,

Quinn 4

Quinn 4     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

and dinner,

Quinn 5

Quinn 5      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

and love.

Quinn 6

Quinn 6     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

 How great it is.

 

Quinn 7

Quinn 7     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Words to Draw By

One can travel this world and see nothing. To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see.     ~ Georgio Morandi

In the Sink

In the Sink      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Drawing is rather like playing chess: your mind races ahead of the moves that you eventually make.     ~ David Hockney

Tools

Kitchen Tools     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Drawing is not what one sees, but what one can make others see.     ~Edgar Degas

Wine Sugar Cookie Jar

Wine, Sugar Bowl, Cookie Jar      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen.     ~ Frederick Franck

An Unexpected Cold Remedy

But first — happy news this past week! I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and chat with painter Tessa Greene O’Brien, who generously took an afternoon off from her residency at the Vermont Studio Center for a studio visit here with me. Tessa is organizing an exhibition at Able Baker Contemporary in Portland, ME this June/July, which will be based on the work of a number of artists who take a formal and painterly approach to their work while incorporating textiles in some form. I am very honored and excited to have been invited to participate! Stay tuned for further details as they unfold.

Plant

©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Meanwhile, it’s that time of the year again. The seasons are changing and my “number came up”, meaning it was my turn to contend with a head cold. Enough time has passed since my last one that I have no right to complain, but it’s hard to be stoic when it feels like your head is filled with socks and that you’re dragging the equivalent of Jacob Marley’s chains from room to room. I know you know the feeling.

I’m fortunate it didn’t last long, and I am grateful that the combo of a sketchbook and a pen make for a great diversion. You can’t spend too much time concentrating on how miserable you feel when your brain is busy comparing the space between shapes and getting a curve “just so”.

Quinn 1

Quinn #1     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I continue to be challenged by the relatively wide line of my Lamy Safari fountain pen. Crosshatching and creating a sense of form with a much finer .01 Micron nib is comparatively effortless, producing lines that seem to be naturally more energetic. The thicker stroke of the Safari feels decidedly more awkward and necessitates thinking more in terms of variety of mark and pattern in order to achieve values and textural interest.

Drawing with this pen is a whole different ball game and one that doesn’t come particularly easily to me. But I’m determined to stick with it for two reasons: 1) it’s the only pen I have that glides smoothly (without wearing down), over the relatively rough paper of my Classic Cachet sketchbook… & I still have 1-1/2 sketchbooks of this paper yet to fill! And 2) I’m committed to making it work and hope that by putting in the hours I’ll achieve some level of proficiency. After three months of pretty much daily practice, I’m beginning to see some faint glimmers of progress, but I still have a long way to go.

Quinn 2

Quinn #2     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I am reminded of my past post The Reward of Getting it Wrong, in which I wrote about Kathleen Speranza acknowledging that you have to make many, many pieces in order to glean a handful of successes. She estimates she achieves about a 50% success rate; I am way behind that.

But being cozied up on the sofa with the dog, a cup of tea, and a box of kleenex nearby is not only as good a time as any to log in some practice, but also my best suggestion for getting ahead of a pesky cold.

Again and Again…and Again

For the past two weeks I have been so busy posting images of the latest stitched piece that I completely forgot to show you the original sketch.  It would have made much more sense to insert it last week rather than the quick waterbrush drawing of Quinn, but the happy result of my absent minded oversight is it made figuring out what to write this week much easier!

Coffee 1

© 2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                                          Original sketch from which the fiber piece grew.

I feel like there is still plenty to learn by drawing this white cup and saucer, so I’m planning to keep at it. And while you may feel like you’re experiencing déjà vu, these three sketches really are different from any that I’ve posted before. I would like to read about Georgio Morandi as I’m sure I could learn a lot from his work and ideas. Looking for suggestions, I found an extensive monograph on Amazon with the subtitle Nothing is More Abstract than Reality. The title in itself is enough to pull me in, but the library will be a more viable option. However, if you’ve read a worthwhile biography on Morandi, I would greatly appreciate your recommendation.  You can either leave a comment or email me privately.

©2016 Elizabeth Fram

Meanwhile, I found two quotes from Edgar Degas that ring especially true with what these sketches are helping me to discover:

One must do the same subject over again ten times, a hundred times. In art nothing must resemble an accident, not even movement.

The fascinating thing is not to show the source of light, but the effect of light.

                                                                                                        -Edgar Degas

©2016 Elizabeth Fram

I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Wishing you and yours the best of holidays…

Finished!

Well, almost. I still have to stretch and frame this piece, but for all intents and purposes it is complete.

It Isn’t That Simple     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

With the holidays fast approaching, there hasn’t been much time for writing and I’m scrambling to fit in everything that needs to be done. A quick drawing session at the end of the day is the best remedy I know for slowing down and relaxing into the moment.

Napping     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                Soluble ink and waterbrush

I’m sure your schedule runneth over as well. However, in an effort to bring some cheer, I’d like to share Alexander Unger’s claymation short  that I found on Colossal. (Turn your volume up so you get the full effect). I hope that it will give you an enjoyable mini-break in the midst of all your festive preparations. If it makes you smile and forget your to-do list even briefly, I will have been successful.

It Isn’t That Simple     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

Enjoy the special moments of the days ahead.

Grieving

As I reel over the election results, I am seeking solace, stability and calm in simple shapes and shadows.

whitecup

© 2016 Elizabeth Fram

At times, the less said, the better…in art and in politics.

whitecup3

© 2016 Elizabeth Fram

Head of ‘Plate’

Without a doubt, the most cherished crop in my relatively small vegetable garden is the garlic. It helps to keep the critters away and shades my salad greens so that they last through the hot days of July. I believe it’s the one ingredient in my kitchen that I would be very hard-pressed to do without, as my family would readily attest.

Crossed-Heads

Crossed Heads ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

Last week I harvested this year’s crop. The satisfying act of pulling out the bulbs, lining them up on the back porch and then hanging them in the attic of our garage to dry, instills me with the same sense of security as when the studded snow tires go on the car — I’m good-to-go for when winter decides to do her thing.

Garlic-Heads

Garlic Heads ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

I brought several heads into my studio for drawing, and the distinct aroma of the fresh bulbs is making me dream of what we call ‘Bitter Broccoli Spaghetti’…a recipe that has become the epitome of comfort food for our family. It’s quick, simple, and oh so delicious; a riff on Aglio e Olio with the addition of broccoli, anchovies & olives. And one of best parts of any pasta meal is there is time to sketch the ingredients while you wait for the water to come to a boil.

Bitter Broccoli Spaghetti*
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Crushed Red Pepper
Canned Flat Fillet Anchovies
Garlic, and plenty of it, minced
Broccoli, chopped
Black olives, chopped
Your choice of Pasta
Parmesan

Warm the olive oil with red pepper flakes and anchovies in a large pan until the anchovies dissolve. Add the chopped broccoli and garlic and sauté a few minutes so that the flavors combine but the garlic doesn’t burn or become bitter. Add a touch of pasta water, cover and let steam until the broccoli is tender crisp. Remove from heat; stir in the olives and cooked pasta. Add extra olive oil or reserved pasta water as necessary. Serve with plenty of parmesan.

* I learned to make this recipe in the microwave, which almost melts the broccoli into wonderful deliciousness, but the more traditional way to make this would be on the stove. I haven’t listed amounts because I don’t use them. This is one of those recipes where measurements expand and contract according to your personal taste and appetite.

Garlic-Line-up

And for textile news…now on view:

image

Undeniable: Practice = Progress

One of the many enjoyable aspects of traveling is that opportunities to pull out a sketchbook are plentiful, and doing so seems to be the best way to cement detailed memories.

DarkHorse

Dark Horse Espresso Bar ©2016 Elizabeth Fram                                                                         People working at their computers not only stay relatively still, but also assume some interesting, if subtle, postures.

I love that there are multiple chances each day to both make leisurely drawings, for example while lingering in a restaurant, or to squeeze in a quick sketch during a random 3-5 minute gap in whatever else we’re doing. I try to do likewise in my regular day-to-day, but it’s much easier on vacation when there seems to be more time and less to juggle.

WaitingByElevatorsWeb

Waiting by the Elevators ©2016 Elizabeth Fram         Filling a few moments while waiting for our car, I caught this young woman sitting with her pile of luggage by the hotel elevators.

It’s one thing to draw an inanimate place-setting or the surrounding scene of tables and chairs, but images of people make a drawing come alive. And the more I sketch in public, the more I am finding my challenged ability to capture people quickly and accurately really needs to be addressed. The best and possibly only solution is practice.

AllStarBandWeb

All Star Band © 2016 Elizabeth Fram   Musicians make for great models. Even though they aren’t static, their movements are repetitive allowing extra time to catch a shape or gesture. Drawing at this jazz club had a couple of advantages: we were close to the band and it was light enough that I didn’t have to strain to see the page, benefits one doesn’t usually have at a concert.

I rarely have time when I’m out and about during the middle of the day to just hang out and draw people. And since it would be ideal to have a steady stream of models whenever practicing, for now I’ve decided it’s okay to rely on my iPad and a timer in order to build up some practical capital in facility and speed. It works in a pinch, but I do keep in mind that there is no substitute for working “live”.

Figure1

Checking Phone © 2016 Elizabeth Fram

I bought a cheap 100-page sketchbook in Toronto for just this purpose, and I’ve set a goal of filling it up by making 8-10 quick drawings at a sitting, giving myself about 3 minutes for each. I have a long way to go, but practice definitely makes a difference. I am at least beginning to feel more comfortable placing features so that the figures aren’t just faceless beings.

Figure2Web

Practice © 2016 Elizabeth Fram

Also, I am using a mechanical pencil rather than a pen — not so that I can erase, but so that I can vary the line with pressure while keeping it, for the most part, in contact with the page in an effort to work on speed.

Several of my trusty books have been helpful resources:

Figure4Web

Head ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

My request to you: please share any bits of advice you may have picked up along the way on this subject. I know for a fact that several of you are accomplished at drawing the figure and I would love to hear any pearls of wisdom you may have beyond the gold standard of “practice, practice, practice”.