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Character Study

JULY 24, 2013
They asked "How wide is the ocean?" He wondered: how deep is the ocean?
The little dragon wandered without much purpose. His pleasures were small in stature too: slugs, seeds, shadowy things and places.
As luck would have it, his mood improved and he tried out his wings.
He wondered how something so beautiful could not also bring happiness to others.
They appreciated the gesture at least.
Life made no sense… and the beautiful stars just said "Uh-huh."
Draw first, ask questions later. That's my operative principle these days. Or one of the major ones. I'm trying to use what I do best (in my opinion): sketching and painting personal work in sketchbooks as a pathway into writing children's stories.
This dragon character keeps popping up. When I paint, I do pretty abstract stuff first (scratches, rubbed textures, wax resist, different types of paint, collage, etc.). These usually (lamentably?) resolve into landscapes of some sort. The empty landscapes invite and goad me into adding some narrative element or figure. Composition happens and the picture is completed. The trick is sustaining enthusiasm and listening to the character and believing in the character as they tell me about their lives.
Along these lines, I just read Milton Glaser's "Drawing is Thinking" (2008, Overlook). The essay and interview printed in the book attempt to describe the selection and sequencing of images in the book but if you just look through it, the organization is pretty obvious. I love Glaser's work and continue to be inspired since the when his first book came out in the early 1980's. —But somehow, as an aside I just wonder… is he altogether a minor artist? It feels like heresy to say this. Maybe it's just his prodigiously vital intellect and eloquence and his omnivorous and loving and consistent quoting of classical Art. Maybe it's just because it's so darn beautiful! I struggle with it.
Another book I am so happy to own is the endlessly inspiring reproductions of Domenico Tiepolo's "Punchinello Drawings" (used & rare at Amazon). Since the drawings were made in the late 1700's, scholars have tried to assemble them into a narrative of the infamous Commedia dell'arte character. Tiepolo seemed happy enough presenting the work (executed late in his life) as a somewhat jumbled family album rather than a strict narrative.
This is definitely food for thought as I juggle just making pictures and story writing. Here are a few grabs off the web from Punchinello:
"The Burial of Punchinello", ca. 1800 Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (Italian, Venetian, 1727–1804) Pen and brown ink, brown and yellow wash, over black chalk
Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, c. 1797 "Punchinello Carried off by a Centaur"