Monday, December 29, 2008

Portrait #20 Alex R.

Sorry for the delays. I've been keeping up with the sketchies but not posting.

I made this drawing of Alex over winter break in Jersey, after we did Jersey things like go to the diner and drive around. This portrait marks the first in my new sketch pad, which Alex helped me buy discount with his mom's account (she's a painter?). It was nice to visit my favorite art supply store... I always dreamt of working there in high school but they only hired full time staff and college kids.

I had to draw Alex twice to get it right, which may or may not be symbolic of the fact that we rarely see each other, being that he goes to Ithaca. I still don't feel like this version really captures his essence (neither does this picture really).

I feel a distantly close kinship with Alex since we are Jews from the same area of Jersey and both turned out having radical politics and an artistic/hipster sensibility (important to admit). We met through my friend Joanna in high school, but didn't become good friends until the weeks leading up to the National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR) in Washington DC where we bro-ed down and smelled the stink of anarchists. The peak of the weekend was when we attended a workshop on polyamory in which the facilitators disclosed their sexual relationship, and prompted us to break up into partners and practice having open dialogues about our HIV status, sexual history, goals for the relationship, etc. It was both very educational for us to have this conversation and also obviously very strange. Most people were paired up with complete strangers, if not political acquaintances. After this weekend our gmail chat relationship declined and now we mostly play phone tag over breaks where we're both in NJ.

Anyway, it was really nice driving around in Alex's rickety 1988 car (topped with a bike rack), and observing the development of his eyewear into the hipper. Too bad we don't do that more often because maybe then I would feel more of a comfort that would lend itself to a better portrait.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Portrait #19: Neil M.

Neil came up to me in the library when I was drawing Antonia and asked me "Beeeeth.... when are you gonna draw meeee?" since I had already asked him. I told him in five minutes. I was proud that my new approach at getting sitters was working. People are so busy at the end of the semester that I decided I should just go to the library with my drawing supplies and draw them when they are doing their work. They were all holding still anyway so why not kill two mosquitoes with one slap. I was glad I knew people in a central place (Hannah and Antonia) so that securing the next sitter would take care of itself, by way of drawing performatively.

The first time I drew Neil in that sitting it was a total disaster. We were sitting in this weird quiet area which was also very dark (maybe the lighter areas are more enabling in terms of noise level?) so I decided to switch positions to get a better look into his eyes. By accident I made his torso too small, so you might notice that I wrote "+3 inches down" underneath the picture. Actually Neil's mini-size makes me feel more comfortable around him than I would if he were real big. I also enjoy it when Neil pretends to nudge and box with me, it is like a little boy thing, or like I am part of this dude-but-gentle-dude club with him because we are in the same height range.

The fact that Neil is on his i-phone in the picture is important. He is kind of known as one of the Big Dems On Campus in that really employable way. I'm pretty sure he started a nonprofit called Vote from Home and took a lot of trips to Ohio before the election. He also has a twitter and is probably subscribed to Barack Obama's twitter. Apple products are a really big part of his life.

Portrait #18: Antonia

Antonia is Hannah S.'s roommate, so I know her in a very indirect way. Most of what I know about her I have learned in their room when they are winding down from the day. For instance, she really loves the sitcom Friends and has cute pajamas.

She and Hannah recorded some music videos of them singing hits like "Stacy's Mom (has got it goin on)" in which Antonia played the guy singing and Hannah played Stacy's mom. In another video, they sang a Backstreet Boys song where they were both in drag. I totally wanted to throw my panties at Hannah, because she was such a convincing Backstreet Boy. Antonia secretly showed me the videos when Hannah was out of the room, which embarassed Hannah more than I've ever seen. Little did she know how much Antonia's help gave me a deep respect for her ability to portray Nick Carter (and stacy's mom). Antonia was really adorable trying to imitate masculine singing movements, and her giggliness prevented her from staying in character as commitedly as Hannah.

The night I drew Antonia was the first snow of this winter. She was wearing a white scarf so I wanted to use that to create the effect of snowyness. She looked really calm and warm inside her layers while she did her homework in the library. I am proud of my attention to detail in this drawing, especially in the scarf and folds of the sweater. I think I had access to that attention to detail for this drawing because it was the essence of the way she was attentive to her homework. (It is interesting how my approach is different depending on the sitter's personality.) Maybe you can tell it is snowing by the way I drew her.

By the way, Antonia and I have the same camera case. It is pink, so that's awesome, but I told her some friendly advice that my screen still broke inside that case so she should be careful.

Here's a really fuzzy and not helpful closeup. You're probably better off with the above one considering how fucking adorable she looks in the first one.

Portrait #17: John ("Jawn Wahkuh")

After I drew Gil on Thursday John and I went to the music building to do his drawing while I chatted with Ellary about Jews and racism and jazz music for a project she is doing. John is also a total pretty boy and so I tried to emphasize all his cute madonna-esque moles and his metro style. I made his face too stretched out because I'm so short, so we took a picture of him looking at it from an angle. I think it is the most accurate angle at which to take a photo since it is how I saw it at the time. The below, conversely, is how John saw the it while I was drawing him.

This all took place in Ellary's teacher Glenn's office while he was in the studio on the other side of the door, grooving away on his guitar. I could tell from the sound of it and from his concentration despite guests that he was very intentionally in a zone that we, nor anyone else, could snap him out of.

But, I was pleasantly delighted when Glenn came out and said a lot of things like "Man oh man! Hey dude, that drawing is groovin!" (long hair swayin and his carelss gait). Meanwhile, John was eating clam chowder from the pub and trying to keep his energy low so that he'd stop fidgeting. John was pretty fidgety and freakin out, if you ask me... there was a lot of "ehh! Sorry I keep movin but I'm so suh suhhhhh nervouS!" John is adorable and has studder spasms which have been recorded in France by many facebook videos. He has been pretty comforting to be around in our time of grief. We got through a lot of really sad times this semester by being silly and cuddling and queering out and making up campy jokes. Our favorite is, "You think you know but you have no idea." since that used to be the title of an MTV show. On the same note, we also like "True Life: Don't Make Me Look Fat" in reference to his request for the drawing.

Portrait #16: Gil

I first heard about Gil when I got accepted to Sarah Lawrence. My down the street neighbors, the Brancaccios, had moved from LA when I was 14 and knew someone from LA who was going to be my year. They were like oh, this guy Gil is awesome, and its so funny because he's a Jew named Gentile! Ha Ha You Should Say Hi To Him When You Get to School. I had pretty high expectations because this family was my favorite out of my parents friends because they were the most intellectual (and famous... David used to host Marketplace on NPR before they moved. and Mary was an awesome English teacher at my high school and really knew how to talk to teenagesrs, I noticed at my mom's 50th birthday party.)

But then I got to school and found this weird looking guy who seemed like a cave person. I didn't say Hi to him until I was at a party during orientation this year (or was it last year?) and as soon as he spoke I realized he was totally NOT a cave person. We totally bonded over knowing Nick Brancaccio since this kid had been in all my art classes and I wanted to be his friend and he and Gil were both into stuff like architecture and drawing. I was so down.

Then Gil and I took the same sculpture class and he totally sculpted a poop for his mold-making project. I thought it was the most brilliant and strategic use of a mold I had ever seen. I hope he makes a million of them and sticks it in someone's room or office who he does not like.

Anyway, Gil was hard to draw because while he has very distinctive features, it didn't look like him until I got millions of marks down to make his hair big enough. John, who is the sitter in the next post, sat behind me and watched and was very encouraging, shouting things like "WOAH that was a good move" when I scratched in some dark eyebrows above Gil's glasses. Gil was very pleased because not only did I get his masking tape on his glasses (SO important) but I made his nose bigger and longer. When his special someone, Zara, came in and saw the drawing, she said the same thing and was like "wow I bet he's so happy you made his nose bigger" and he smiled because it as true. Mostly I really liked making the patterns on his sweater because I think they capture his personality. Also I think his expression ended up really funny.

Here is another picture I drew of Gil once during class:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Portrait #15: My Dad

After I drew my mom, I drew my dad while we watched Spiderman with Kirsten Dunst and that nice boy Toby McGuire, made possible by our new digital cable's hundreds of channels. I kept getting really distracted by the TV because I forgot how good and slightly campy Spiderman was. (For example, the green goblin kept saying things like "The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout. Down came the Goblin and took the spider out" and "Can Spiderman come out to play?".)

We laughed a lot at the description under the "GUIDE" button: "Nebischy student finds his new powers..." etc. NEBISCHY? When I think of a "nebisch" I think of the people from synagogue when I was a kid who always smelled like cat pee and were all 4 feet tall, who my mom and I call the Silkopaths. I'm sure Toby McGuire (?) does NOT smell like cat pee. But it is interesting to think about whether or not the person writing blurbs for the network is Jewish (or nebischy).

So the story I was going to tell in my last post about how we can joke about our differences goes like this. My dad told his coworkers the story about how I told him he jokingly should feel like an asshole since I got straight A's my senior year after we'd argued a lot about my grades when I was a sophomore. He thought it was really funny and a symbol of our newly stable relationship, but I think his World Financial Center office of Merrill Lynch thought it was strange we talked to each other so candidly. What can I say, we are Jews.

My dad is also the only man at Merrill Lynch with a beard... their token gay financial advisors look a lot more square than he does.

Drawing my dad was adorable because he looked really happy watching tv, kind of smiling in his eyes. I've learned a lot about my genetics from recording my parents' features, since I have studied my own in drawings for many years. I think I get my nose from my dad but I have bigger lips that him (his lips aren't just buried under his beard, they really just are paper thin.) Also I have learned a lot about facial hair from drawing boys. (More hairy boys later.)

Portrait #14: My Mom

I drew both my parents over Thanksgiving break at their newly remodeled home in Maplewood, New Jersey. For over a year, they had been doing construction on the house I grew up in, moving the bathroom to the foyer of the house and knocking down some walls to make the breakfast room and the little kitchen one big space for food preparation and consumption. It was kind of amazing to have home-cooked meals finally, after a year of coming back to a very dorm-like eating arrangement in the basement. It was also totally weird because I feel that it is a direct result of our class position changing. (For more photos of our kitchen, click here.)

My parents keep making comments to me about how they don't want me to think they are "bougey" as a result of this, because they know that after I left the nest I became more radical. What is special about my family is our ability to joke about our differences and make it a joke in common instead of a division. (More about that in the Dad post.) I don't think they're too bougey, beause they are my adorably happy parents, and at least they are not the Power-Elite. Also it would be SO MUCH WORSE if we celebrated Christmas. I am so against Jews celebrating Christmas. Chinese-food-and-a-movie forever.

Anyway, I drew my mom while she fell asleep reading the New York Times book review, one of her favorite sections. I hope I properly portrayed her relaxation-- she gets very sleepy at night. Over Thanksgiving break my fam stayed up late a few nights watching old family movies. My dad would be like, Oh no, I have work tomorrow! It was adorbs that we love Slutzky family time so much.

I also hope that you can tell she is scratching her dog, George, on her right side. He is so dark that he really had no forms for me to define so I just made him really curly. You can't really tell from my mom's straight hair but George def looks like a Slutzky with that curly hair. Here are his legs! -->

Portrait #13: Cooper

If I remember correctly, I drew Cooper the same day I drew Hannah D. I had very similar feelings about hair texture, as I was getting into the physical motion of drawing the wavy hair texture. I'm still wondering about the degree to which drawing hair texture in public is performative.

Cooper was super poised while I was drawing her, and the texture of her book's pages was interesting. I've drawn some boring looking books in my day, and this one was a different scene. Thanks for holding your book in a more interesting way, Coop.

I've been really impressed with Cooper's work in our class. There was this one project where we had to use performance to change a space, so Cooper decided she would literally "climb the stairs" of her building like a monkey. It was crazy because she was so fast that the class had to run up the stairs to keep up with her. I felt like I was on a safari chasing a wild monkey, as Jeanine clicked shots of Cooper in her natural habitat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Portrait #12: Hannah D.

Drawing Hannah D. was pretty enjoyable because I really like the planes on her face, and her intense look of concentration. She said afterward that she didn't really like being drawn. I think it may or may not have made her uncomfortable. It was different drawing someone in the studio during hours when people were around, because I got a lot more feedback in progress. I think people were into it, which was encouraging. It's interesting when drawing intense textures and shading becomes a performance of sorts, while also being for my own personal fun. I mean, check out her sweet glasses. I was into drawing her hair because wavy hair is kind of amazing to me, as a curly haired person. Also I am a really big fan of Jewish noses, as previously mentioned.

Hannah was weaving or crafting with her hands while I drew her, which is why they are so scribbled in. Hannah's conference project for our sculpture class is based in creating a little greenhouse environment for plants which represent her connection with a friend who is on the other side of the world. She is always making little fun objects which add personality and warmth to the space.

Portrait# 11: Hannah S.

This portrait was done after one or two dates that I had with Hannah. Since then we have started dating-dating. This portrait was hard to get through because there was a lot of tension, and she was obviously nervous and distracted from her homework. I was pretty distracted too, which accounts for a decline in my "learning curve" in portrait drawing. (I.e. I could have done a much more accurate drawing had we just been platonic friends.)

This one, more than the others, taught me about the gaze (GAYS?) of the artist and how it changes the way people look when they are being observed, and how the gaze is not objective. I mean I guess that was obvious in the previous posts about sitters' requests based on their insecurities and my willingness to attend to their needs. For Hannah's portrait, the effect of my gaze was very unspoken, yet pronounced. (Apparently Hannah was looking up our horoscope compatibility instead of writing a paper.) It definitely remains one of those moments where a couple asks each other in retrospect "what were you thinking then?"

This whole "gaze" thing sort of captured a then-power dynamic based on me being older and her being new to Sarah Lawrence, and new to the clubs that I've been organizing. Since then, I think this power dynamic balanced out a lot, thank god. I was worried I'd end up like my ex-boyfriend, who made me feel like I had to read the complete works of Marx to be on his level. I really don't wanna be that guy!

Portrait #10: Alanna (and me)

Alanna's portrait was the first during which she also drew me. It was very intense (and postmodern!) because we were both listening to our own music and having our own experience fueling those emotions into codifying our visual perceptions of each other. We were using different media (I was using graphite and she was using a micron pen on a small sketch pad) so there are also inherent stylistic differences since she didn't have as many smudgy gradients and I didn't have as much of a contrast between lights and darks. Maybe that is what pushed me to really dig in with the graphite stick to up the contrast. I think people who walked by us in the library were kind of confused about what was going on. Because whatever it was, it was out of place and hella intense.

In each portrait there is a different emphasized area or technique, which isn't always conscious but always interesting to read into depending on the relationship. I realized recently that since most of my sitters are doing homework while I draw them, their gaze in the direction of their hands. While hands are usually the last thing I think to draw, the drawing looks incomplete without putting them in since that is, in some ways, the focal point. In Alanna's portrait I tried to resist this temptation to scratch in the hands at the end, but I think they are still not as worked out as the folds in her sweatshirt or her facial expression. I consider that a strength in the rendering of her computer since it makes apple's design look a little silly instead of severely geometric. (My first year I did a whole painting series on people and computers... more later on the Fe Fy Fo Femme blog.)

Anyway here is the drawing Alanna did of me:

I'm pretty pleased with it because she gave me very strong, Jewish features in this really stylized way. I wouldn't say that the visual image is how I see myself exactly but I'd say it's generally flattering. I also think it's kind of funny that she included my lower back sticking out from my clothes on the side. Alanna is apparently a very truthful draughtsperson-- something I wouldn't know from what I've seen of her conceptual sculpture and photography work. It'll be interesting to compare how I draw myself as a final portrait for this project to the portrait Alanna drew of me. (Foreshadowing????)

PS. I feel that she made me look Byzantine like these lambs.

Portrait #9: Lisa

I met Lisa last school year when I was assigned to live with her on campus in Slonim 8. We immediately became friends due to our common love in artist Cindy Sherman. Actually, before I got to Sarah Lawrence I saw a facebook group called "Cindy Sherman: Or, How I Became a Lesbian"... which I joined. I knew deep inside that I had found the right school for me. So it was saach a pleaszhuh to look back on that group two years later and realize that I had become friends with all 4 people in the group, Lisa being one of them.

Lisa and I had a nice time taking advantage of my homework assignment in order to catch up. I consider her a close friend of mine although we aren't that good at hanging out on a regular basis-- I'm too flaky and Lisa is too reclusive. She would make fun of me last year for not knocking on her door enough, to which I replied, "well, you're all the way downstairs!" Mostly we run into each other in the library and on the train from the city but it is always just like old times.

For the drawing, I took extra care on her fingers because I always thought the way she held things was really nice. Her fingers are kind of long and pretty, touching things delicately, and you can kind of imagine her kneading bread with them or doing something cozy. (Not to force her into a gender role.) I also took extra care with her glasses (because they are so angular and add an interesting dimension). I kind of wish I got to draw her teeth because they are also very nice as you can see from the photo.

It was also a relief to finally draw curly hair again. Being the curly headed gal that I yam (I YAM WHAT I YAM... LOL LISA!!!111) I have a special comfort in drawing the kind of shape I learned on. Speaking of which, Lisa's mom sent me a book last year called "Curly Gurl" after she visited from Houston. AWwwwwww. Like motha like dawtuh.