Poets at Poetry Readings Series: A Poet



...another of my Poets at Poetry Readings Series. Successful "as portrait," no. I don't take reference photos, I didn't have my proper glasses and she was blurry, and there's not very much time to make a 'likeness.' But in other ways, perhaps. I'm ok with what's emerged here.

'A Poet,' 2013, 9" x 12", 22.9cm x 30.5cm, charcoal, conte, pastel on Strathmore archival drawing paper.

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Art Bar last night



Photo taken at the Art Bar last night by Norman.

...I like to give credit for photos if I can... barely know Norman - he's a fellow poet and artist, and a naturopath. Seems a very nice man, a good friend of a friend. We exchanged phone numbers and he apparently always takes an identifying photo. We both did open mic - his was a sound poem; I like his work very much. I've been trying to go to the Art Bar - weekly poetry readings with an open mic - for 6 months, and made it in -20C weather last night. I love poetry! I love Q Space! :))

Below two quick charcoal sketches I did, absolutely untouched, and of course thinking prolly both women would hate them, so no names for the Internet browsers to catch. :)


Poets reading at the Art Bar at Q Space, 2013, Brenda Clews, 9" 12", 22.9cm x 30.5cm, charcoal sketches, finished drawing is mixed media, on 80lb archival Strathmore drawing paper.

And below is a little pic from the Portobello poetry reading on January 5th, the day I started coming down with the nasty influenza bug I am still recovering from. My young poet and artist friend, Jacques, was there. Bänoo Zan was one of the features, an Iranian poet, and she's terrific. And Robert Priest sang, and read one poem. It was a lovely afternoon of poetry and music.

I'm going to be a feature there in July, which will be lovely - such a nice crowd, and the host, Linda Stitt, is a really special woman.



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#4 drawing from the final Keyhole Life-Drawing Session finished






This is the drawing I did last night, and that I'm not too happy with. I used conte crayons and some pastel pencils on what is really a watercolour paper, so the texture of the paper peeps through. I finished a sketch (which I included here) from the very last Keyhole Life-Drawing session whose theme was 'Fight Club.'

4-final, Keyhole Sessions, 12013, Brenda Clews, 15" x 11", charcoal, conte crayon, pastel pencils, 130lb archival paper.

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A Woman in a Sketchbook


I guess it was 3am when I finished this little 'test sketch.' I mostly used conte crayon, which is awkward to make fine lines with, and am now wondering if conte comes in pencil form. Anyone know?

A Woman in a Sketchbook, 2013, 6" x 6.5", charcoal, conte crayon in Moleskine A3 sketchbook.

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An untitled woman



So I tested the Clear Gesso, and it's not bad as far as clarity goes, though Acrylic Matte Medium seemed a bit better even with its slight gloss. The Clear Gesso has a slightly gritty surface when dry, though, making it easy to continue to work with charcoal, pencil, conte crayon. This test image is 4.5"x6", drawn inside the back cover of my Moleskine sketchbook.

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'Fight Club' at the Keyhole Sessions

Because I like to keep a record, and also to show you, I've uploaded my untouched drawings from The Keyhole Session last night, the last life-drawing session of its kind ever.

They're all charcoal drawings, some with watercolour crayons, some with Cretacolor Aquarelle oil pastels. The first eight are approximately 15" x 11" and on 130lb archival art paper; the last is 16" x 12" and on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.

The theme was The Fight Club and there were about 20 models arrayed around the room. The Madame's sense of performance, dramatic poses and grand spectacle shone spectacularly in the spacious Mod Club in Toronto.

Below, there was still time after drawing the first image, so I began on the 2nd, for which I had only a minute or two left - it's much more gestural. Except for that one, they are 15 minute sketches, with the final group one being 45 minutes.

All in all, I'm fairly happy with my work last night. My artist friends, Jen Hosein and Jacques Albert, also came and the camaraderie was nice.












Sonia Barnett, the mastermind and Madame behind these sessions, took the photo below and posted it on Facebook while the session was in-progress. You can see me bottom centre, and the model directly in front of me is who the first drawing posted above is of. It was quite an event, as you can see from this terrific photograph.



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Paper Lanterns and the Women Who Are One Woman

Last Keyhole life-drawing session tonight - though I do hope she continues the Nuit Blanche extravaganzas. This charcoal and coloured conte crayon sketch from the last session, Nov 13th, three 1 minute poses on the same page. 17" x 14", archival paper. I do have to run over to the art store to get a pad of primed cotton canvas sheets. Twenty models tonight, it's going to be a blow-out.



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Poetry Reading and Music at The Record Vault

Went to Poetry Reading and Open Mic this afternoon at The Record Vault, featuring Gadist poets, Nik Beat, Brandon Pitts and Stedmond Pardy, Vanessa McGowan and Laura DeLeon... with Laura L'Rock and Crushed Ice… great readings, music, and it was crowded. I did my recent 'Palmistry, a Psalm' on Open Mic, and will be a featured poet next month. So that'll be nice. Looks like I might be on Nik's radio show 'Howl' on CIUT in December too. A great group of poets and musicians who I really enjoy hanging out with.

My little 10 min sketch of Stedmond Pardy performing poetry at The Record Vault last Sunday. (I misspelled his name! O, sorry! Will have to correct that.) Along with a Record Vault photo of the three featured poets that afternoon.

9" x 7", charcoal on archival paper (drawn there), then set with GAK100 (at home).



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The Emotions Running Through It (Surreal Sketch)

One of my composite drawings from Nuit Blanche at 'LES CHEVAUX, a late night drawing extravaganza,' hosted by Keyhole Sessions. There were 5 or 6 concurrent poses, which changed perhaps every 15 minutes. In this drawing I did quick sketches of 3, and almost 4, of the models, and kept turning the paper.

I enjoy working in Photoshop occasionally and have finished this drawing digitally. I include the original sketch as well.



The Emotions Running Through It (Surreal Sketch), digitally finished, 2012, 20" x 13.5", charcoal, coloured pencil, water-soluble oil pastels on 90lb archival paper.



Original sketch.
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The Charcoal Paintings, in-process



When you don't know where to begin, begin where you are.

The Charcoal Paintings, in-process, 5' x 5', willow charcoal on double primed canvas. (Photo taken at night with two daylight bulbs in clamp lamps.)


Some lines from Paul Celan's, 'In Prague':

The half death,
suckled plump on our life,
lay ash-image-true all around us -

we too
went on drinking, soul-crossed, two daggers,
sewn onto heavenstones, wornblood-born


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The Women Who are Looking Off Frame (again)

No idea where this is going, or if it's already there. (A little iPhone4 photo not even in natural light - will post something better later when I've set that figure on the upper right.)

Thinking the light in Close Encounters. Off frame. We imagine it. Something visionary lights the women.

But also Penelope waiting for Odysseus. Though women never do that anymore. A movie by Antonioni, L'avventura (1960), the woman who disappears on the island of rock and who is never found again and whose wealthy family & friends don't seem to really care ...that woman, in all her guises, is still there, watching.

And nipples, yes. The milk of .....

...women in caves; women on black blankets, small white women with skinny arms if not waiting, then looking...

But what are they looking at? And why does one of them shy away?

18" x 24" charcoal on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.

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Women Looking Off Frame

In process, not sure where it's going. A dervish in me wants to fill the space between them with pink flower wallpaper. Oh, dear. I quite like them inverted. The figure on the left is a life drawing from the T(oronto) S(chool) of A(rt) drop-in painting sessions; the figure on the right from that on-line life drawing site. Don't ask why when I have a 23" iMac, but I draw from my iPhone screen in Chrome where not only the browser bar is visible, but the drawing site doesn't allow a fullscreen photo either (so the figure is really tiny).


Women Looking Off Frame, 2012, Brenda Clews, 18" x 24", 56cm x 40.5cm, charcoal on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.


Women Looking Off Frame (inverted), 2012, Brenda Clews, 18" x 24", 56cm x 40.5cm, charcoal on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet.


And you may recall that I used the figure on the left, inverted, in a new rendition of this poem painting a few months ago.




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Harmonies that Resist Anxiety

Cherry Blossoms in Storms, 2012, Brenda Clews, 22" x 16", 56cm x 40.5cm, charcoal on triple-primed cotton canvas sheet. Figures from a lifedrawing site, 10 min poses on my iPhone 4, didn't have my proper glasses, but it's ok.

Where I'm at today. Fighting off, well stuff of all sorts - the kind that tries to silence you - doing yoga and meditating.

Originally I called it Harmony in Chaos, but... gladiolus in travail.

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Those Strange Anatomical Terrains: The Underlayers of Our Bodies


Lateral Head 2012, Brenda Clews, each page: 27.9cm x 21.6cm, 11" x 8.5"; graphite, charcoal, Waterman sepia ink on Fierro paper.


I did a Fine Arts degree at York University in the 1970s, during the height of Conceptual Art. My painting teacher for 3 years, who I liked very much but who had a very different aesthetic to my 'natural' one, painted very large shit brown canvases and made rooms out of white sheets.  He was very 'in.' I was encouraged to make 'ugly' paintings that had no colour and no recognizable form. This era was a celebration of highly controlled abstract art (think of the critic Clement Greenberg and his group of artists, of Newman, Still, Frankenthaler, Bush [Pollock was passé already], of Colour Field (memory of how we were force fed this still makes me shudder) and of art in general in disintegration (a Modernism on the crux of Post-Modernism).

After finishing that degree, I did not paint for many years, only interrupting my hiatus when I was pregnant in 1987 (when I did the Birth Painting series knowing I was violating every single tenant taught by my teachers at York U in the 70s).

In 2004, I began to draw and paint again. It remains an uphill battle. Always looking over my shoulder are my old art teachers, who never taught us anything about the body itself. While we did have models to paint, we did not study anatomy, bone structure, muscles, anything of any use. It was about what you could say about your drawings or paintings that counted. The more indistinct and abstract your art, the better. So I learnt to be clever in the stories I wove about what I was doing. Dialoguing about my art was perhaps somewhat of a charade, though. I was never a Conceptual artist at heart.

Give me sensuality, rich colour, bodies that are embodied. When we painted with colour and with any sense of the body of the original model, be this a person or a landscape, we did it at home and never brought those paintings in to the university.

Of course, times have changed. It is not like this anymore.

Because of the era I studied in, though, there remain holes in my art education. Holes, like anatomy. But, hey, it's never too late, as they say. While I certainly know general anatomy, I was recently given some iPhone apps that are superlative guides to those strange anatomical terrains, the underlayers of our bodies.

Here are two of my 'muscle' drawings, which I am itching to paint. I deliberately did them in a throw-away sketch book so they would remain quick sketches - if they re-appear painted, ah well. The paper they are drawn on is good paper at least.


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Torn

Torn, Brenda Clews, 2012, 11" x 15", charcoal and watercolour on archival paper.

Everyday I am going to try to work on a drawing or painting (I've been working long hours on a painting video; other times, I'm reading, or writing).

Today I tested charcoal and then drew a skeleton from which emerged a woman. Since she has a basket of fruit, which are probably apples, she's come in from her tree, whose shadow I almost drew next to her too.

After I made the little drawing I understood that the woman was shredded in some way internally, where you can't see. The paper was torn deliberately along certain pathways to enhance the internal state in the way that you see here. I will glue it leaving those edges detached so that the shadows of the paper itself remain.



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Figurative Art: 'Every Angel is terror' (Rilke) and 'Braille'



"Every Angel is terror. And yet, ah, knowing you, I invoke you, almost deadly birds of the soul" from Rilke, 2nd Duino Elegy, 2012, 18" x 24", charcoal, acrylic, primed canvas sheet.

When I go to drop-in life painting sessions, which consist of 4 hour poses, difficult for the model for sure, but rather static to paint, I like to make the painting into something which can evoke a poetry in the viewer. In this painting, to which I gave a few lines from Rilke's 2nd Duino Elegy as a title, the woman has what I call Etherics beside her. In my imagination, they are preparing her for an inner visionary journey. They are tribal soul sisters caring for her. Whether this be dream, or waking imagination, or the mysterious process of art, I don't know. You will see them as you do and they will make sense in the context of your inner life.



Charcoal sketch of the same model as in the previous painting, done after the painting from a slightly different angle, on primed canvas.



Replacing an earlier version of this poem painting with the charcoal sketch inverted (see earlier version below.)


The poem, 'Braille,' was written in 2006, and the drawing was from a drop-in life drawing session that year at the Vita Brevis Studio.


The painting came first (and soon I'll add some writing from an older journal that seems to express the figures in the painting). Then, while the painting was drying, while I was still in the studio at TSA, I did a small charcoal sketch on a sheet of the canvas pad from a slightly different angle to that of the painting. Then I paired the charcoal sketch inverted so it's like a negative with a poem that is in my poetry mms to replace an older version with another model from a life drawing session, which I added to this post as well.


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The Artist and Her Muse


The Artist and Her Muse, 2012, 12" x 17", charcoal on primed canvas sheet.

This charcoal drawing has been re-named to what I really drew it for. The Medusa is the dreamy poet's muse. I wrote a poem about this half a dozen years ago. It is in my manuscript, which I'm currently shopping around.

At first, I thought the image was too sexual, but then I gave the artist breasts, in a manner of speaking, and so I allow the sexualization of these creative women. Write with your 'white ink,' says Cixous in The Laugh of the Medusa.

Do read this essay if you haven't already. Found on-line, just to give you a taste of her text:
In "The Laugh of the Medusa" [1975] Cixous discusses how women have been repressed through their bodies all through history. She suggests that if women are forced to remain in their bodies as a result of male repression than they can do one of two things. The first option is to remain trapped inside their body, thereby perpetuating the passivity women have been apart of throughout history. The second option is to use the female body as a medium of communication, a tool through which women can speak. This is ironic given the body, the very thing women have been defined by and trapped within, can now become a vehicle in transending the boundries once created by the body.
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with thanks to The Madame - this charcoal sketch was based on one of her photographs of the Gorgon session at The Keyhole.

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Medusa (sketch 2)

I like Nietzsche's bifocal view of the Medusa (and Derrida's take on it, but that is another aspect perhaps to explore later), even if this quote does not fully express my interpretation of her. While I prefer not to quote a critic, I haven't been able to find my copy of The Birth of Tragedy on my shelves yet.
"...the stake of...[the] reading of Nietzsche is the relation between Apollo and Dionysus, understood as the hierarchical relation between appearance and essence, and between metaphor and meaning. "Nietzsche was certainly right," de Man writes, "when he referred to the nature of the Dionysus/Apollo relationship as 'the capital question [die Hauptfrage]'" (90). In the opening sections of The Birth of Tragedy, the present chapter proposes, Nietzsche's Hauptfrage takes the form of a Medusenhaupt, a Medusa's head. Medusa appears in these sections as one figure among others for what Nietzsche calls Dionysus, ostensibly serving to sustain the opposition between Apollo and Dionysus that would allow for their genetic and dialectical relations and for their ontological hierarchy to be established. But the Medusa myth is also a figure in Nietzsche's text for an inextricable, non-dialectical fusion of Apollo and Dionysus; in this latter capacity, it undermines the opposition that Medusa in her first capacity establishes and supports. The second figure puts into question not only the opposition between Apollo and Dionysus but also the structure that underlies that opposition: the logocentric model privileging meaning over metaphor, truth over appearance, Dionysian music over Apollonian words, and authentic presence over representation. So the Medusa motif winds up playing a double role in Nietzsche's text, not unlike Medusa's head in Freud's essay, and the Medusenhaupt emblematizes for Nietzsche a double aspect of Hauptfrage."

The Medusa Effect: Representation and Epistemology in Victorian Aesthetics by Thomas Albrech (quoted from Google Books).

I'm showing you the three stages in the second Medusa drawing. While the original sketch is quite powerful, it is still in process, and my intention is to add a small amount of colour with some paint. In the meantime, I have created two digital drawings out of my original sketch (yesterday's is here).


Medusa (sketch 2), digital final, 2012, 12" x 17", original is charcoal on primed canvas sheet.


Medusa (sketch 2), mask layer, 2012, 12" x 17", original is charcoal on primed canvas sheet.


Medusa (sketch 2), 2012, 12" x 17", charcoal on primed canvas sheet.


Because I didn't know about The Keyhole life drawing sessions when they did The Gorgon, 
I based  my drawing on one of the photographs by The Madame.

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The Medusa (sketch 1)

"Although Nietzsche had embarked upon the destruction of all idols, he too, in this way, recognized the desire for death inherent in the desire for truth at any cost. The philosopher who wants to examine all things 'in depth', discovers the petrifying abyss. The destiny of the man whom Nietzsche refers to as 'the Don Juan of knowledge' will be paralyzed as if by Medusa, and will himself be 'changed into a guest of stone' (Morgenröte i.e. the Dawn of Day, 327, 1881). This is also the destiny of the 'lover of truth' who, in the Dionysos Dithyramben (1888) appears to be 'changed into a statue/into a sacred column'. Nietzsche, who was aware of the necessity 'for the philosopher' to live within the 'closed circuit of representation' (Derrida), to seek the truth even if he no longer believes in it, without ever being able to attain it, devised his own version of the 'truth', his Medusa's head, the Eternal Return: 'Great thought is like Medusa's head: all the world's features harden, a deadly, ice-cold battle' (Posthumous Fragments, Winter 1884-5)."

Medusa (sketch 1), 2012, 12" x 17", charcoal on primed canvas sheet, digitally altered.

The pink lines I think could be whitened, but I haven't thus far been able to figure out how to do it in Photoshop since the pink is a strange combination of pink and white pixels with orange and sometimes also black single pixels embedded within them. Coating it all with a whiter shade of pink doesn't work since it loses its grainy, cave-like quality. I may have to leave it as it is.


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The Cafe Writer



Just a doodle. Began in charcoal and from there, watercolours, acyrlics, and finally an ordinary ballpoint pen. The Cafe Writer, 6" x 8", mixed media on archival paper.

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Charcoal Sketches

Right before going to bed last night I grabbed my charcoal pencil and began a few 'tests' - all tiny, like 6" x 8" - watercolour brushed in afterwards. The self-portrait done in a dark room is overdone but you can't undo charcoal; the woman in the middle, well, what can I say, the pencil is clumsy to use, it needs larger paper; and the final one is exactly what I wanted.

Though I drew her last night, I wrote a poem for her 6 years ago:

Gaze

Yesterday,
the bus stop,
all the people's heads
turned, watching.

Gaze of anxiety.

The blind woman tapping
her way forward.







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