No More Sunday Self-Portraits! Yay!

Ha ha! Searching for a face.... I am awfully glad that I no longer have to do Sunday Self-Portraits because I am finding that elusive commitment to life-drawing venues at long last. I was awfully bored with myself, truth is. As I am sure you also were.


Sunday Life-Drawing at Bampot Bohemian Tea House in Toronto

Yesterday's life-drawing at Bampot Bohemian Tea House in Toronto. Only one of these was worked on in my studio, the first one; all the others are as is, straight from the session - pencil lines not even erased. The model, Addi, liked the 3rd one and took a photo of it at the end of the session. The poses are 10, 20 and two 30 min. I'm still using a 2B pencil and Art Graf (water soluble graphite) with a water brush pen, and in the one I worked on this morning I added Derwent Inktense colours. These life-drawing sessions like using muscles not often used - after one of these afternoons of intense drawing, I am wiped, go to bed early. Lol!

Actually, I could define his hands better - it might work quite well as a painting then. Not sure if I ever will. These sketches just go into a portfolio and never come back out.

Maybe one day I will have an Open Studio and sell them off for between $10.-$25. Unlikely that I'd go to that effort, and maybe no-one would come, and if they did, they wouldn't buy because, like me, they're poor poets and artists, but, maybe an open studio sometime, who knows... 


'Split Mask' sound rehearsal with Christian Christian

Christian Christian (who is not particularly religious, Christian or otherwise) is a Toronto poet and musician. He keeps a fairly detailed blog at Facebook and I recently connected him to KJ Mullins of to re-post his poetry and music event reviews, which are detailed, clear and honest. Do take a look - no-one else is writing about poetry and music this way in Toronto. The Arts section of newz4u is developing, under KJ's care, into one of the best sites to discover what's happening and has been happening in this city. KJ lucked out with a writer who is doing exactly what she had wished for but didn't have time herself to do - detailed critical reviews of the vibrant poetry scene in Toronto.

Christian visited earlier this week and included the afternoon in one of his posts. A collaboration and a behind-the-scenes peek.

     I recently, in answering a general online call from Brenda Clews for critical suggestions on how to improve her performance piece, “Split Mask”, offered her the idea that certain types of non-musical background sounds might enhance the spoken piece. She responded that I was on to do it if I was into it, so we made several arrangements to get together to experiment in front of the video camera, all of which fell through because of cloudy weather. Finally we had a solid date on Monday at noon, so at 11:30 I packed up two guitars, a rain stick and a bag full of small noisy things and carried them on my bike to Brenda’s place.
     It’s always interesting for me to visit other people’s homes, because I so rarely get invited to do so. It also seemed very appropriate in this case, considering the theme of the project, that I step behind the mask of Brenda’s public life and visit the side that touches her face. She shares her home with an old, friendly dog, and a curious but cautious, playful cat. I think though that the three of them sub-let the place from Brenda’s artwork, which occupies over half of what I could see of the apartment. Her paintings and other creations are everywhere, so even when she’s not in the room, the space is bursting with Brenda.
     Brenda suggested that we have lunch first, so she sent me out to a local Lebanese place called Ghazi, near the Bloor Docs Cinema. At first I didn’t think it was open. The glass door was shut and I didn’t see a handle. Finally I realized that I had to push a button to open it. There were three women in headscarves cooking and serving behind the counter in the tiny take out place with no tables. One had her plain scarf loosely draped over her head, another held hers on with a baseball cap and the third had her colourful striped scarf tied in a stylish knot at the side.
     Back at Brenda’s, she made us coffee to go with lunch. Finally I meet someone else who can make a good strong cup of coffee at home.
     We decided not to shoot a video, but Brenda recorded my efforts to put sounds behind her creation. On the first run through I tried my rain stick, my Baoding balls, maracas, various sounds made by scraping the wound strings of my Epi guitar, and the crumbling and ripping of aluminum foil. All of the sounds showed promise as we listened to the playback, and the hearing gave me a better idea as to where and when to use each sound. The second try was much better and we both particularly liked the effect of ripping the foil. We only did one more run through to which we added Brenda’s small, out of tune harp. I would say that our second try worked best but the sound of the harp is definitely a keeper, I think particularly because of the out of tuneness of it. Its dissonance added a mournful yet etheric quality to the opening of the performance piece.
    When I say we did three rehearsals I should add that there was a lot of talking in between. The fact is that we probably only spent half an hour all together on the piece and about five hours chatting. This too was probably necessary in order to help us feel comfortable with working together for the first time.

I've included that rehearsal here so you can hear it if you wish. Christian and I will be performing 'Split Mask' at The CATWEASAL Club Friday evening, Aug. 29th: Catweazle is a night of intimate performances, musical and otherwise. There is no microphone, no PA system. Everyone piles together at the front for an up-close, participatory experience of artistic sharing and community building.

The 2nd recording Christian and I did of 'Split Mask,' which is closest to what we will do during our collaborative performance (me in my mask; he with an array of instruments and sound-making paraphernalia).

Life Drawing at Bampot Bohemian Tea House last Sunday afternoon

It's been far too long since I went to a regular life drawing venue. Incredibly, one close to where I live has begun and will run twice or month or more often. I've worked on some of these a bit in my studio, though I left the last two alone.

#1 through #6 -17 AUG 2014 - life drawing at Bampot Bohemian Tea House. ©Brenda Clews, 2014, 18"x 24", water soluble graphite, Noodler's inks, InkTense pencils and blocks, Strathmore med drawing paper.



Self-Portrait (and it's not Sunday) in all its stages

Self-Portrait on Thursday evening, 14th August - photo taken in weak, pre-storm sunlight - ©Brenda Clews, 2014, 9" x 12". Permanent inks on Fabriano 100% cotton cold-pressed 140lb watercolour paper.

Below is a postage stamp strip of all the phases, including the close-ups.

Rather than attempting to sum up my posts and the comments they generated, if you are interested in discussions on the notion of self-portraits, 1) go here for the beginnings, 2) here for further along and 3) here for nearly finished (a photo taken at night before I re-added lines)

A moment of sun, and I dashed out to take a better pic for my blog... but a little friend took a liking to my painted nose. Self-Portrait with a Fly on the Nose. ::laughing:: Immortalized Fly


Digital Drawing at a poetry event

Art Bar last Tuesday night - I had my iPad Mini (which as soon as warranty ran out began to exhibit strange behaviours) and so sketched. Trying to learn how to use a rolls royce 'Wacom's Intuos Creative Stylus' and maybe it's the buttons on the side which your fingers keep hitting and which apparently do all sorts of 'undo' things, but I could hardly get it to do the lines I set it to do. I'd press and press and nothing and then suddenly a big huge line. What a frustrating experience. A pencil sketch would have been faster and easier. But I don't like to carry so many supplies. So I dug deep in my purse and found my Sensu Brush and Stylus and it worked perfectly and I sort of finished the sketch in the last few minutes of the reading. I'm not very happy with it -though there is a sort of cartoonish resemblance to Dagmar.

Photos from my Guest Poet spot at 'Saturdays at Portobello'

Donning the mask, performing, reading and, later, chatting. Saturdays at the Portobello on Aug 2nd hosted by the wonderful Linda Stitt: Go to the link to see many other fine Toronto poets reading or in the audience. It was a wonderful afternoon and many thanks to Linda and everyone who came out! And special thanks to Paula, who took the photos and videos of everyone.




Plein Air Drawing: Toronto Skyline from Leslie Spit

Plein Air at Leslie Spit in Tommy Thompson Park on Sun Aug 10, 2014. View of the Toronto skyline through some leafless trees covered in birds. ©Brenda Clews, 2014, 9" x 12". Permanent inks on Fabriano 100% cotton cold-pressed 140lb watercolour paper.

We were to meet at a subway station at noon but it was more like 12:45pm before we left in 3 vehicles. There was a street festival, which took some manoeuvring to get by, and then the base of Lesley St was under construction which meant another detour and different route in. By the time we met at the foot of the Lesley St Spit it was nearly 2pm. Then we walked for about an hour in to find a spot to draw from.

I had planned on doing a smaller sketch - the one above - and then a larger one. It was very hot under direct sun and windless where we were, so everyone was ready to leave after an hour or so. I couldn't stay since they were my ride back.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the jaunt in (my art supplies, camping chair and beach blanket were in a bag with wheels), the company of a great group of young artists, and am not unhappy with my drawing, there were a few problems. I had taken a ton of supplies - but forgot a tin of Inktense blocks and had no white, so used a bit of white conté crayon and added some white from the ink block at home. But there was a bigger issue for me too. Normally, we get 3 hours to draw at these sketching-around-the-city events. After set-up, chatting, and so on, I had maybe 40 minutes in total to draw. Not long enough. There were, for instance, long grasses in front of the rock I was sitting on and some golden ragweed flowers (I'm not allergic - and can therefore admire their beauty) which I was going to add last (and which would have been in the larger drawing I didn't do due to time constraints) but didn't have time.

Writing this post, I realize I must add my expectation to the group post - that I need to be assured we will have 3 hours to draw on one of these trips. Otherwise, I don't think it's worth going.

Valerie Animus Leo organizes a Sunday afternoon sketching-around-the-city MeetUp and Facebook Group. This trip was to the Leslie Spit at Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto. Photo credit: Valerie, except the one of her painting a beautiful scene with gouache in a black floppy hat on the bridge, which I took. Lovely group and stunning surroundings, as you can see! The rest of the photos are here:

As you can see in the 2nd and 3rd photos top row from the left, yeah, well. I took everything but a studio easel to the Plein Air trip to the Leslie Spit! Haha. That's a little camping chair I've had 20 years and swear by if you are going to be sitting for any length of time, a beach blanket, two plywood boards for water jars and supplies, two watercolour paper blocks, one smaller and the other I've had like 30 years and is larger, tins of pencils, pens, inks, sizing medium, paper towels, sun screen, and half a dozen yummy vegetable samosas which I shared.

After, we went to the Bampot Bohemian House, where we learned that they are starting a new life drawing series in the back every other Sunday from 2:30-5:30pm. I am rather ecstatic to have a life drawing venue close to where I live.


Drawing: 'When East Indian, Chinese and Roman art converged; when Hinduism and Buddhism were One'

When East Indian, Chinese and Roman art converged; when Hinduism and Buddhism were One, ©Brenda Clews, 2014, 9" x 12". Permanent inks on Fabriano 100% cotton cold-pressed 140lb watercolour paper.

Testing Derwent InkTense pencils and blocks. My block remains - this drawing represents hours of frustration. I am not happy with this piece and it is being trashed as soon as I finish this post. The detail above isn't too bad and I do have raw photograph files of this drawing.


Self-Portrait, a photo of the last four Self-Portraits, and the new grungy mirror with my cat

Little sketches from June and August - looks like I didn't do any in July. To draw a self-portrait: 1) I don't have to go anywhere; 2) I will sit still for myself; and, 3) I don't have to pay anything. Maybe half an hour or an hour of time and they are good little practice pieces (if boring and somewhat irritating since they are selfies).

Self-Portrait, 6 August 2014, ©Brenda Clews, 15" x 11", mixed media on Pentalic 130lb archival paper.

I have been quite blocked, I guess. Last Friday night I went to Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School Burlesque life-drawing and none of my sketches worked; in fact, I left early. One was almost ready to share but when I got home I continued working on it and quite ruined whatever was there originally. The self-portrait sketch above was done because there is no way around a block - you have to go through it.

Self-Portraits, June and August 2014, ©Brenda Clews, 15" x 11", or 8.5" x 11", mixed media on Pentalic 130lb archival paper.

Me and my cat, Aria, in a grungy mirror I bought at a local store for too much but that has a frame and a decent hook and the mirror itself is good quality. This photo taken before I cleaned it. It is for the self-portraits and did kick-start the drawing I did above.
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