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SketchbookScribble.09.Buziak.2

I’ve had three Canson A3 (appx. 16 x 12 inches in size) 100-page sketchbooks “on the go” since early 2013, two of them more or less filled now with what I think of as “expressive abstractions” using acrylic paint, watercolour, Conté crayon, soft pastel and oil-crayon… sometimes combining more than one as in mixed-media.

Around a dozen have been for sale on my ETSY shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/SketchBuzz? for the past year amongst other works (around 40 pieces to date) with compositions and colour combinations more easy on the eye, as well as larger pieces of more recognisable subjects… and four, maybe five, have sold… although not anything resembling the above scribble.

I use the word “scribble” because that is what this is… daubs of different acrylic colours with wax crayon overlaid afterward, all in random strokes which, now I can recall more clearly, was one of more than a dozen similar works made shortly before my wife died last November after a very lengthy illness. Was I influenced, or frustrated, by what was happening in my personal life? Probably!

When I try to do similar work now – by allowing my mind and hand to wander in sympathy, although not necessarily synchronicity – I’m hesitant and feel I cannot achieve the same freedom. At the moment the only conclusion I can come to is that artistic scribbling is not very easy to do… despite what casual viewers will imply when mentioning their children’s primary school efforts during art lessons.

But I know there is more to it than that, and a number of artists have achieved world-wide fame, or notoriety, with artwork which has evolved in styles which baffle many people… there being nothing new with that when one considers how Impressionism, or many of the other -isms, created shock and horror at the time because they changed and challenged the accepted safe concepts of art. However, two artists I admire greatly are Joan Mitchell and Cy Twombly…

Notes from TheArtStory.org… “Joan Mitchell is known for the compositional rhythms, bold coloration, and sweeping gestural brushstrokes of her large and often multi-paneled paintings. Inspired by landscape, nature, and poetry, her intent was not to create a recognizable image, but to convey emotions. Mitchell’s early success in the 1950s was striking at a time when few women artists were recognized. She referred to herself as the “last Abstract Expressionist,” and she continued to create abstract paintings until her death in 1992.

Inspired by the gestural painting of Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell’s mature work comprised a highly abstract, richly colored, calligraphic manner, which balanced elements of structured composition with a mood of wild improvisation.

Mitchell rejected the emphasis on flatness and the “all-over” approach to composition that were prevalent among many of the leading Abstract Expressionists. Instead, she preferred to retain a more traditional sense of figure and ground in her pictures, and she often composed them in ways that evoked impressions of landscape.

Mitchell’s abrasive personality has been a key factor in interpretations of her painting, which critics often read as expressions of rage and violence. Yet, almost as often, they have seen lyricism in her work.”

And from CyTwombly.info… “Some writers have concentrated on the materiality of the artist’s mark as aggressive, often illegible graffiti; others have followed the classical allusions to ferret out the references. Two elements might serve as metaphors for the predominant interpretations… However, Twombly’s painterly palimpsests trace the progressions through which form and content, text and image are inextricably linked.

Cy Twombly arrived in Manhattan in 1950 while the New York School painting of Pollock and de Kooning was in full swing. Upon Robert Rauschenberg’s encouragement, Twombly joined him for the 1951–1952 sessions at Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina – a liberal refuge, a site of free experimentation and exchange in a nation growing increasingly conservative during the Cold War. Among the influential teachers present at this time were Charles Olson, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell and John Cage. Building on the freedom afforded by the previous generation, the younger artists emphasised libidinal energy integrated through experience.

They focused attention on calligraphic gesture and word/image relationships resulting in work that was more syncretic, less spontaneously automatist.In the statement, Twombly describes his process: “Each line is now the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not illustrate – it is the sensation of its own realisation.”

With their works achieving millions at auction, can I put mine on ETSY or Saatchi Art, my two sales sites, for a hundred or so dollars? Or, as Malcolm Gladwell in “Outliers” wrote, “…researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” do I need to do those 10,000 hours of pure, creative and expressive work before I can get away with my scribbles? There are many creative types who think you do, and the Ten Thousand Hours website at http://www.10khrs.co show this with a recorded interview series about craft, creativity and putting in our time.

Image © 2014 Ed Buziak

Honesty.Sketch1.Buziak

Today’s artwork offering is again from the distant past – an 18 x 14 inch drawing dated 1965 from my Manchester art college days. This is an abstract interpretation of a few dried seed pods of the Honesty flower “Lunaria annua”. The seed heads when seen on the plant after flowering in the garden resemble translucent ovals and are often called “Moon Flower”. I arranged this simple still-life in a jar… but instead of looking at and drawing it from a more traditional side-on angle, I chose a viewpoint directly above, thus looking down vertically onto the subject.

Note from Wikipedia… “The Latin name lunaria means “moon-shaped” and refers to the shape and appearance of the seedpods. The common name “honesty” arose in the 16th century, and may also relate to the translucence of the seedpods. In South East Asia, it is called the “money plant” and in the United States it is commonly known as “silver dollars”, “Chinese money”, or “Chinese coins” because its seedpods have the appearance of silvery coins. For the same reason, in French it is known as monnaie du pape (“the Pope’s money”). In Denmark it is known as judaspenge and in Dutch-speaking countries as judaspenning (coins of Judas), an allusion to the story of Judas Iscariot and the thirty pieces of silver he was paid for betraying Christ.”

I also chose to interpret the still-life as a ‘negative’ image (perhaps my latent interest in black-and-white photography was making itself known) and after drawing the outlines of the overlapping seed heads in green, I filled-in – with much rubbing and blending of the colours with my finger-tips – the spaces surrounding the outlines of the seeds with a mélange of medium and dark brown soft pastel crayons from the Dutch Talens “Rembrandt” range which I bought from an art shop opposite the college, and many of which I still have and use today… and, although initially expensive, what a good investment they proved to be!

Image © 2014 Ed Buziak

PiccadillySta.Drawing.1.Buziak

I found another drawing dated 1963, from the same period at art college, and where I can still remember sitting… but this time at the end of a cold draughty platform of Piccadilly Station in Manchester. Our pre-diploma group must have been sat there at various spots for a couple of hours… but as the station was a terminus, the end carriage of the train next to this platform thankfully wasn’t going anywhere.

My technique for this drawing was the same as yesterday’s “Art college studio” subject… pen and black ink but on 15 x 22 inch paper (the photo is cropped from the original) which must have been quite unwieldy in the wind, unless I had it well-clipped to a small drawing board at the time. Again there is no trace of pencil sketching-in to establish the basic shapes, perspective and proportions – which do feel right – so I mush have been developing a good eye at the time.

I still have several original drawings and paintings from my art college years half a century ago, and whilst a few are being placed on Saatchi for sale, I will always keep some which, apart from being probably unsalable, have more personal memories… this being one of them.

CollegeStudio.1.Buziak

Even though this drawing is dated 1963 I can still remember sitting in a corner of the art college studio under the eagle eye of Miss Hopwell… she was the hard working and enthusiastic tutor during my pre-diploma year at the Openshaw annex of the Regional College of Art and Design, as it was known then, later becoming the Manchester College of Art and Design, and I think now probably a part of the sprawling university campus known as the Manchester Polytechnic.

Miss Hopwell gave interesting exercises, all meant to try and test our techniques and skills. Here – judging by the feint traces of inked lines – she would have told the group to draw directly with pen and ink with no initial sketching-in of shapes and proportions with pencil, which could easily be erased later if mistakes were made. This is a good test of co-ordination of mind, eye and hand.

From memory I think the initial sketching was made with a fine mapping-pen, with a much thicker nib used for the stronger outlines and shapes; and the ink colour looks as if I used Raw Umber, Sepia or Vandyke Brown… all favourites then as today with soft pastels, although I haven’t adopted that grouping from the colour palette for my acrylic works. Maybe those “browns” are more traditional, and my current abstract subject matter doesn’t suit such earthy tones.

I wonder if artists at college today still use pen and ink to the same extent as we did as students 50 or more years ago – and of course as most artists would have used for hundreds of years before that. Nowadays artists have an incredible range of materials at their disposal from Sharpie markers in several colours to Faber-Castell PITT artist’s pens and Pigma Micron pens… the list is almost endless! However, our bottles of pure inks in the 1960s were probably a lot safer than the Sharpies of the early 1990s which used toluene and xylene, two substances both harmful and characterized by a very strong smell. Today, the ink is usually made on the basis of alcohols, e.g. 1-propanol, 1-butanol, diacetone alcohol and cresols… Hmmm, think I’ll stick to water-based liquids!

“Sea Shell” ~ Ed Buziak (1962)

This is a typical example of an exercise given to my group of fresher students – at the Regional College of Art and Design, Manchester – by a wonderfully odd, but patient, spinster tutor known only as Miss Hopwell.

I was one of the 1962 intake at that Northern UK art college and felt a frisson of excitement every day at the shackles of strictly uniformed grammar school years were cast off for a dress code of anything-goes so long as it included blue jeans (and for me, collarless blue or white ex-army officer’s cotton shirts worn outside with an ethnic sash tied at the waist). We were given freedom for the first time in our lives (although I was one of the few who still lived at home) and we all took the bait and included “free love” in the equation!

However, and back to the artwork, I clearly remember this exercise even though it was done all of fifty years ago. The group had a choice of several objects, large and small, with the medium of expression being left to our own imagination and skills. I cannot remember the time we were given – it was meant to be basically a quick exercise – and although I now like to think it was a 10-minute bash, in reality it was probably a 30-minute period more in line with the limits given to contestants on the “Top Chef” programmes so popular on French TV.

I chose a small sea shell as my subject with a bottle of black ink, a pen-nib, stick from a shrub in the garden, a wax candle and a small/medium watercolor paint brush, on dampened cartridge paper. Dampening our drawing-paper sheets was a normal procedure – using brown gummed tape all around the edges so it stayed “stretched” and flat on drying – but on this occasion I drew rapidly with a pen-nib and included a few sweeps of a wax-candle to act as a “resist” to the later ink-wash… then filed-in the solid areas whilst the paper was still quite damp, allowing the ink to merge and spread within the paper’s surface. My intention (now forgotten) at the time was probably to re-create a “wet-look” for the watery subject… and the dribbly blurs do seem to represent delicate fronds of sea-weed or other organic  frond-life growing from the shell’s surface.

Image © 1962 Ed Buziak

Red Chairs ~ Ed Buziak (1977)

I have been drawing seats, sofas and chairs since studying at art college in the early ’60s. I have also been reworking some old ideas including this drawing dating from 1977. I can’t remember who the furniture designer was (Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni perhaps?) but I liked the curves very much and the sometimes smooth, sometimes confusing mélange of overlapping shapes.

In this working study the shapes on the paper background were drawn with a soft 4B lead pencil whilst the overlapping shapes on semi-opaque tracing paper were drawn in red and yellow crayon. Using a semi-opaque overlay I was able to make drastic changes in the overall design by rotating the support through one or more 90 degree steps – or even reversing the tracing paper – and also make slight changes with millimeter by millimeter shifts in vertical, horizontal and/or diagonal alignment.

Image © 1977 Ed Buziak

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