Shakhari Bazar

A narrow street in Old Dhaka, densely lined with decorated brick buildings and artisan shops specializing in the crafting of jewelry from conch shells. The following images show the evolution of the sketch, from a stream of consciousness approach to the overall composition, followed by the application of darker values that begin to define major shapes, and finishing with a few inked lines to suggest certain details. I definitely prefer laying ink lines over a watercolor rather than laying down watercolors over inked lines. The former technique fosters a freer approach to the laying down of color and value.

Casa Azul (Blue House)

A view of the central garden courtyard around which the Casa Azul (Blue House) was built in 1904. Located in Coyoacán, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Mexico City, this casa is where Frida Kahlo was born in 1907, grew up, and where she died in 1954. Four years later, Casa Azul was turned into a museum dedicated to the life and work of Frida Kahlo.

Projection: A Search for Meaning

The above image and following quote is from Drawing: A Creative Process.

“Merely looking at an apparently amorphous pattern can sometimes bring to a…searching mind a more specific image. In its search for meaning, the mind’s eye imagines and appears to project familiar images onto seemingly shapeless patterns until it finds a match that makes sense.” This recalls the familiar search for something recognizable when looking up at cloud formations.

The new year’s image I posted recently used as a backdrop this pattern that developed as I mixed and tested watercolors on a piece of paper. While squinting at that same colorful pattern, I can begin to “see” certain images. The following are two of several possibilities. What else can you see in these patterns?

The Pantheon

The combined effects of the ongoing pandemic and current cold, rainy weather have made it increasingly difficult to leave the home office to go out to draw. So it’s a good time to explore new ways of working. Just as with the portrait of Istanbul posted previously, this familiar view of the Pantheon in the historic center of Rome was created through a hybrid process involving a watercolor underpainting, scanned and imported onto my iPad, and using the Procreate app to draw over the watercolor image.

Keep in mind that using a photograph as a reference is very much different from drawing on location, from direct observation. A photograph captures a moment in time and reflects the processing that flattens out three-dimensional data onto a two-dimensional surface. A drawing done on location, such as the view above, takes longer to execute and involves our senses, especially that of active seeing.

But in both cases, like a conversation, we do not know precisely where the drawing or painting process will lead. Even though we may have an objective in mind when we begin to draw, the sketch itself takes on a life of its own as it evolves on paper and we have to be open to the possibilities the emerging image suggests.

Memories of Istanbul

A view of Istanbul inspired by Ara Güler’s photographs that document the multilayered life of Istanbul from the 1940s to the 1980s, as well as my own memories of visits to that historic city that bridges east and west.

A brief word on process: First, a watercolor splash of Istanbul’s memorable skyline punctuated by her mosques and minarets. Then, a scan imported into Procreate on the iPad. Next, several attempts at foregrounding a hint of the steamers and smaller fishing boars that ply the Bosphorus.

Plaza Bolivar

During a conference in Bogotá in 2012, we took a bus tour of the city, which made it difficult to stop for any length of time to draw. However, as we drove around the Plaza Bolívar, I managed to sketch this plan perspective of Plaza Bolívar urban space. If you look at a satellite photo of the plaza, you will see that I greatly exaggerated its length, which illustrates how one’s perception of horizontal dimensions are subject to severe distortion and are difficult to capture in a drawing.

While the bus dropped us off on one corner of the square and drove around to pick us up at the opposite corner, I managed to also sketch this view of the cathedral, noting the way the slope of the square was integrated by mounding the brick pavement around the palm trees.