Monday, December 26, 2016

Ben, There; Done That

The past week or so, I have been messing around with drawings of Ben Franklin.

Originally, I was going to use him in a cartoon; have him walk up to me at the Lilly Pad and tip me ("I heard ye from the corner and enjoyed thine melodies.") advising me, as he did, to: "Save a couple of them, because a penny saved is a penny earned!"

The setup for the joke, of course, being the reader thinking: "Yeah, a few pennies would have been a decent tip in Ben's mind...ha ha ha"

Then, of course, the last frame would show me with a coin price magazine saying something like, "A 1796 half penny in fine condition; $2,500! yahoo!!"

5 Dollar Christmas Night

When it (Christmas Day) was all said and done, I had pedaled into the Quarter, and set up and played for a while.

There was light to medium traffic, which was still skulking by at about 12:30 AM, when I decided to pack up and go to the Quartermaster for coffee and a piece of chocolate and a can of food for Harold the cat.

Getting home, I discovered that I had made just enough to cover the 3 dollar energy drink plus the items above, with the 5 dollars that I had made.

I was just about out of cigarettes, out of weed, and had no food waiting for me at the apartment.
I probably should have played for another hour. Some of my best nights saw me making only 5 bucks the first couple hours and then having a 70 dollar hour after begrudgingly deciding to play longer...

But, I had put the entire 60 dollars that my mom had sent in a Christmas card, on my prepaid American Express Serve® card, where neither rust nor moth nor weed dealer could destroy it. And had put the 20 dollar bill that I had left over from the 39 dollar Christmas Eve in a jar in the kitchen before I had left, keeping just 7 single dollar bills on me; trying to maintain my more customary frame of mind: "I've only got 7 bucks, I need to be frugal," rather than "I can splurge a bit because I came into a hundred bucks over the holiday."

I got home and worked on the latest Ben Franklin drawing. Until about 9 AM this (Monday) morning.

This has been an experiment in drawing techniques.
The Has Bens
OK, This one, I did just by sitting with the pad and pencil in my hand and gazing at one of the fake 100 dollar bills that Alex In California had sent me as part of an art supply laden package.
I didn't move the bill; I drew it the way I might sketch someone at the airport or some other place where people are held captive; waiting.
I suppose this is an indication of whatever "raw ability" I have, and probably the reason that I have always felt that I could draw "pretty well" if I took my time; but not well enough to consider a career as an artist..
Then Again; Ben, Again

For this one, I used the simple tool of a ruler to measure things as much as possible -the distance between the eyes, the distance from bottom lip to chin, etc. Being able to walk up to someone who is waiting for a flight at the airport and make measurements on their face with a small plastic ruler "Excuse, me a second, ma'am.." would help me in this regard...
And, then on the 3rd attempt (Is this your final Franklin?) I used a "graph" technique, after seeing an example of such among the "pencil drawing technique" videos on Youtube.
My squares were 3 times the size of the ones that I had drawn onto one of the fake bills as a reference. I could experiment with different ratios. Of course, the smaller the squares on the original, the more they would have to be blown up and accuracy could be lost that way. I found that using the corners and midpoints of the boxes as references, was the most helpful. And it's important to at least be conscious of the neighboring squares, as confirmation that you are still on track.
I made the mistake of drawing one box in the wrong place, but luckily noticed, before I went too far, that I was putting an eyeball near the bottom of the nose.
The only way I could get more accuracy, I guess, would be to use the technique that I have already developed on my own, which would entail making a copy of a fake bill, then blowing it up times 3. Then I would have a 1:1 aspect.
But then to use the graph technique in combination with that, might produce some of my most lifelike drawings ever.
It's almost 10 PM, on the Monday after Christmas.
I'm going out, and will strap my guitar and gear on, just to have them handy.
Gosh, I wish I drank. Tonight would be a great night to walk up to David the Water Jug player with a fifth of Absolut Vodka, and say: "Happy holidays, buddy" while passing it to him.
I'll do the next best thing; buy the weed if any is around. I'll bring just 12 bucks with me...


alex carter said...

A hobby - in the purest sense of the word - I have is saving my copper pennies. I'll get a 1-3 of them out of 10 or 12 pennies total, and it's fun. Someday I'll use them for ... something.

While I'm thinking about it, I should mention that that computer mouse I sent you isn't broken or about to be, it's supposed to be some kind of a "silent" mouse that doesn't make that annoying clicking sound. Its cable started to annoy me so that's why I went back to the ol' $5 "travel" mouse that has a less annoying cable, a more annoying click, and a lifetime of a year or so then it's get a new one ... and sent the "silent" one to you. It should last a long time, silently, as I'd bought it new and only used it a little.

I need to talk straight about your art. You have every bit as much "talent" as I do, or even the writer of some very noted art books, the great "Loomis", famous for his "Figure Drawing For All It's Worth", had. It's just a matter of interest and exposure. I, myself, was considered destined to become an artist. Why? Because my mom was always sticking art materials in front of my snoot, that's why! I could not see worth a damn so of course I'd do geometric stuff, when the norm for little kids is the typical mommy, daddy, myself, doggy, kitty etc stuff. My geometrical nonsense was considered "advanced" and a sign of talent. It was not. It was just that I could not see at any distance. I later loved cartoons like Snoopy etc because being clearly drawn, they're easier to see than the natural world. Simple as that. I was not a very good artist when I was growing up, or as a teen, it's just that that was "my thing" that I was expected to do. I could probably draw a bit better pictures of Franklin than those you've done here, but not all that much better. And if you keep with it, you'll be able to do the better ones. What "talent" you have is the fine hand control you'd have from playing guitar for so many years. Interest and dedication are the other points of the triangle, and there you have it.

alex carter said...

You should consider taking your drawings and when you're done with them, like take those Franklin ones, color them or turn them into something humorous or put some philosophical quote on them, and see if people will buy them, set them out when you play.

You could also, as you get better, Xerox them onto card stock, then hand-color them and sign them, this allows you to sell original art while not having to work so hard on them - when you're getting $5 or $10 each.

I have a theory that about half of the population is "visual" and half are "aural" and as for tourists, they all like something that's easy to get as a souvenir they can take home and drawings are flat and easy to transport home.

alex carter said...

Durr I just realized you did THREE drawings of Ben, one after the other.

I've never had the patience to do that. And it's amazing to see how they get better, one after the other.

You are doing exactly what a real art student does or at least did when realistic drawing got the respect it deserves. You've grabbed onto a problem and worked on it and stayed on it until you saw some real improvement.

Daniel McKenna said...

Yes, the very next Franklin I do, if I do another, will be the one that I try to make "count," by using all the techniques together...

By the way, I just read, last night, about artists like Van Gogh, whom they now think had some kind of vision problem that made him see the coronas around lamplights and the stars as, well, whatever they are in "Starry Night,"
And they also say Cezanne was very nearsighted and other famous artists might have just been seeing the world in unique ways through "bad" vision.
Plus, they got a lot of heavy metals like mercury and cadmium and lead; -one french artist smoked his cigarettes after getting paint on them, so, hey...maybe your vision being as bad as you say it is isn't necessarily a bad thing...
just don't cut your ear off....

alex carter said...

Having bad eyesight might not be a detriment at all in doing caricatures. I've long wondered if the great Hirshfeld was actually, like James Thurber, blind as a bat.