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.

Adrian Blake painting

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.

Introspection Art Exhibition.

Yet another exhibition is under my belt for 2017, and this one was particularly full of fresh experiences. The Introspection Art Exhibition held in wonderful Cleveland Ohio at The Shinn House Gallery featured works from three artists, myself, Robert Peppers and Kevin Daniel. Each artist had a very strong body of work, and each of us brought unique experiences to the exhibition as artists with varied styles and mediums of expression.

Introspection

My medium of expression, as you know, is painting. The display consisted of most of my newest works from earlier this year, and works from 2016. Kevin Daniel had a very interesting body of work with his photography, through his experimentation with compositional elements, particularly atmospheric lighting. Robert Peppers, who curated the exhibit and being the most experienced of all in the exhibit, displayed a number of sculptures, which boasted intricacies in design and mastery in technique. The gallery space accommodated us well, with three rooms dedicated to each artist.

Adrian Blake and Robert Peppers

Being in Cleveland for the first time was a wonderful experience (considering that no one at the exhibition knew I wanted the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA championship). A tour of the city was on my agenda, and of course a visit the Cleveland Museum of Art. That was a must. The opportunity to showcase my work to a different audience, along with collaborating with one of the most well known Black artists in Peppers, and talented young artist in Daniel, is something of tremendous value. The turnout and feedback at the opening of the exhibition was pleasing, and the conversations about each work- not only about my own, but also of my fellow exhibitors awarded me broader artistic knowledge as I navigate my way to my successes as an artist.

Introspection Art Exhibitors

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.