Quick digital sketches on the tram in Budapest

Digital sketching keeps captivating my attention.
Recently I have discovered this wonderful easy to use application for iPhone called Procreate which so far is the best app that allows for very quick doodling in a very simple and easy way.
The public transportation in Budapest is very efficient and convenient and even on occasions when its very crowded it is still comfortable enough to steal few glances without drawing any attention. This is actually a very important key element in doing these sketches. I found that people usually do not like to be observed and if they catch you looking at them, they usually change their position or can move away, annoyed.
There are about five station from my home in Buda to the centre of the city which I visit quite frequently and it is a great opportunity for some quick sketches on my smart phone.
Here are some recent quick sketches of people between the stations.
These are gesture drawings that leave no room for details so it’s an excellent way to practice capturing the essence of the movement.

I have started the practice of quick digital sketches almost from the very beginning of the appearance of the smart phones and with time I feel more and more comfortable with the medium. Here are some ideas on the use of digital media as opposed to “real” painting.

Inspiration, role it plays in re-enchantment of the Arts

Inspiration plays an important role in re- enchatment of the Arts.

 

In writing this post, I am using few presupposed and self evident truths about the current state of the Arts.

One, is the need for re-enchantment of the Art.

I have taken this term from Suzi Gablik’s book by the same name where she criticises some of the basic tenets of the Modernist movement that led directly to much of the confusion left by the Postmodernism. Part of this confusion left the artist without a philosophical background needed to establish a basis for relevant correspondences between the personal and the universal principles of creation. At the same time this lack of philosophical support opened a gap in communication between the artist and his audience.

Second, is the need for Inspiration as vital source of revitalization of the current confused condition of the Art. The extreme relativism of the late Post-modernism has left a scorched field where the traditional values of excellence have been replaced by purely personal, anecdotal and many times accidental views that left the Art without it’s Muse .

Inspiration according to full definition of Merriam- Webster dictionary is: “a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation “In other words, an inspired person is one who is touched by his Spirit. That sacred part of his being that communicated the feeling of the Devine.This kind of definition tends toward somewhat religious interpretation which I believe tend to distort the real meaning of Inspiration as a direct heart felt feeling that is totally natural to all of humankind and not only to artists.

I have many sources of Inspiration. 

Some come from my daily observations of life around me. Be it an interesting form of simple objects that can turn into a still-life drawing,like this Moroccan tea pot done with silverpoint technique.

Moroccan tea pot
silverpoint drawing of Moroccan tea pot

 

Someone’s face that draws me to paint a portrait,

 

Daniel the gardener
Daniel the devoted gardener

 

a corner of a street that becomes a cityscape,

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Cityscape, Work in progress

 

landscapes

 

landscape of rhythm
rhythmic landscape

 

 

Then of course there are the great masters of Art from all periods in Art history.
When I was still a student in the Avni Institute of Art in Tel Aviv, I did a small scale study of The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus by Peter Paul Rubens.

after rubens
after Rubens

 

In the beginning of my artistic development I was enchanted by the magic of Jan Vermeer’s intimate interiors with their delicate balance of composition and the luminosity of his colors.
Here is a composition that was influenced by the Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher

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Vermeer in Middle East

 

Another great influence on my development as an artist is a more contemporary American Andrew Wyeth who’s hunting and mystical connection with landscapes of rural Maine and Pennsylvania resonates strongly with my own view of Nature. Wyeth’s choice of the tempera medium which requires contemplation and slow visual meditation on the subject matter, invites from the viewer equally slow contemplative viewing. In today’s hasty world it is in itself a huge accomplishment.

church in ruins
Church in ruins

 

With time, my themes have varied and mutated according to context, time and places I have found myself.

At certain point I have found that many of my themes tend to converge into one recurring theme that has accompanied my creative work and that is the theme of the cafe.

 

I have found that besides a great opportunity to exercise my powers of observation, this theme of the cafe, allows me to combine all other themes in a very simple, elegant way where the spontaneous interaction of all the forms untie to create a unified and sometimes totally unexpected message.

The theme of the cafe is enough in itself and need no other justifications for painting it but as it happens, it has the power to combine a wide variety of objects and themes that seamlessly fuse into each other allowing the mundane everyday objects to interact and create a whole new possibilities for flowing in different artistic directions.

Let’s say, a couple sitting around a table, with a dog playing at their feet, with some messy still-life on the table, with cups of coffee and perhaps some food, in the background. I can paste any landscape or cityscape that doesn’t even have to be in the original composition. This way I can eliminate accidental architecture or replace any other object that feels more meaningful and more appropriate for the final purpose .

In this age of photoshop aid with the cut and paste ability, I can substitute any and all of the components to create a more meaningful and more interesting composition then the original conception.

All these themes and objects, appearing in the context of a cycle of creativity that is inspired by a wheel of The Five Elements taken from the Chinese Wu Xing theory.
On this wheel of creativity taken from the Chinese philosophy of Dao i will write later in a different post

 

Sketching in cafes after the Paris terror attack

 

About a year ago I have escaped or so I thought,the war zone of Middle East only to find that terrorism doesn’t confine itself to one region anymore.
As I was sketching this French couple in the cozy atmosphere of my regular place, I had some thoughts on how creativity and art are influenced by hard times and wars.

the French couple
the French couple

 

Maybe they came for the weekend to escape the aftershock of the Paris terror attack two weeks ago.

The fact that cafes have become a target for terrorists attacks, gives my sketching in the cafes a sort of additional dimension of danger almost as being in a front line. I am joking of course but still, the fact that popular and crowded places have turned into a possible target all over the world, creates a heightened sense of tension adding a feel of urgency and danger to otherwise a very benign activity.

My approach to working in cafes as a meeting ground for a diverse and sometimes absurd happening representing the fragmented World in which content got badly skewed out of it’s context got an additional boost from the fact that terrorists find the cafe a legitimate target for their violence.

I find solace in the fact that many artist in the past have created their best work during times of extreme tension and war. One of such artists is Jan Vermeer of Delft who created his masterful works during one of the worst periods in Dutch history, following the Franco-Dutch war.

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The Geographer

 

It is true that Vermeer was not oblivious to the suffering and destruction around him caused by extreme economic hardships and has died quite suddenly after a short illness but the fact remains that some of the greatest art was produced during such an extreme circumstances, gives some strength and hope that it is possible to create beauty even in the middle of chaos and hardship.

The Sound of Form

 



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full swing energy


Sketching with live music has become a practice I enjoy tremendously.

My recent exhibit at If Cafe in Budapest included many works that were done during live jazz sessions . Sketching with the music allowing the eye and the hand to flow with rhythm ha s evolved from simple attempt to compensate for the fact that in many occasions it is not really possible to dance and move the body in a concert situations.

This is really a pity, especially when it comes to energetic music that makes it unbearable to sit motionlessly and just watch. Tapping along with the rhythm is just not enough.

The practice of sketching with live music requires letting go of making nice art and concentrating on the flow and taping into the general energy created by the music itself, expressions of the musicians, the general feel of the place and subtle suggestions generated by the interactions between the formal values of the music itself and what I came to call the sound of form. The sound of form is the sound you hear with your eyes, I know it may sound absurd as we usually associate hearing with ears but what I am referring to is closely associated with chromesthesia which is a specific form synesthesia.

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the drummer

It takes some practise to listen to objects with your eyes and of course I could simply use the term observation or even contemplation but it is all of that and a little more.

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piano magic

Maybe, active contemplation is the appropriate concept here that has a meditative quality about it. The act of drawing, painting from observation is the sure way to develop the sense of hearing with our eyes. There are basically two ways to practice active contemplation trough the art of painting. One is the traditional way associated with the classical approach to drawing using the familiar ways of measuring proportions angles evolving the use of linear perspective. The other is the more intuitive, direct approach advocated by the great art teacher Kimon Nicolaides in his famous book laid out in “ The Natural Way To Draw.”

By mastering the art of gesture drawing one can quickly understand what I mean by the Sound of Form.

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quartet

The end of summer

 

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Laci baci admirer
 
August is ending and I am back at my favorite cafe. It is bloody hot in Budapest makes me wish I would be somewhere in Alaska.It was a very busy summer with continuation of renovations of our apartment, visiting Viena , making arrangements for the arrival of my son , vacationing with family in Montenegro 

   

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vacationing in montenegro
 and preparing for the end of my two months exhibit in If Jazz Cafe. For one reason or another, August tends to be a very busy month in my life. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was born in this month.
Looking forward for the arrival of Autumn.

What can be learned from sketching in cafe.

 

sketching in cafe
sketching in cafe

Apart from the sheer pleasure of doing it, here are some of my observations after doing it for quite few years.

Eye -hand coordination

First and foremost, I would say that sketching generally and not only in cafe has a very beneficial influence on gathering confidence trough proficiency with a gradual enhancement of eye-hand  coordination .This coordination is the very heart of being able to concentrate on the Whole Form before going into the specific details.

The Whole is larger then the sum of it’s parts and preceding them in appearance.

This basic gestalt principle is where many of the art teaching of the past with the emphasis on the realistic-academic drawing went wrong for very long time and it is still used unfortunately to this day by many followers of the academic training.

There is nothing wrong of course in mastering the tools of a good craftsmanship but the usual approach of the academic teaching emphasising , right proportions and “correct” angles by following the obsolete system of linear perspective is everything but the reality of how human eye looks at the world.  The great revolution of the 20th century in Art, with the advent of Cubistic perception of the World has finally released us from the confines of the Brunelleschi’s perspective and I believe the illuminating concepts of the great British painter David Hockney hold a great significance in the way he interprets the Cubist approach to looking at the world.
In his memorable photo collages he shows how we actually look at the world from different points of view, scanning our visual field utilising much more then just one, two or three vanishing points.
In this short video Hockney shows why the old traditional view of the Brunelleschi’s era is not only wrong but actually makes no sense in theological sense as well.
So another great benefit of sketching the ever changing moods and subtle movements of people in cafe is allowing to focus on the whole rather then the details.
Many of the beginning students in my cafe sketching classes have great difficulties in giving up trying to construct the figures from the usual linear approach but once they are able to let go  and the gesture is grasped, the Whole emerges with details fall in they right place.

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student sketching in cafe
student sketching in cafe

 

It doesn’t matter what is the choice of the medium. Be it watercolour, pencil, charcoal, crayons or any combination of all of the above. With any medium, the main thing is being able to concentrate on the theme, which can be anything from a way someone holds a cup of coffee in their hand, a face that has something telling about it,  a general gesture or something more abstract like an animated conversation between two or more people.

Many times there is a group of people interacting with each other and it can be a real challenge to find the central focal point that captures the individual movements and at the same time gives a sense of a whole.

people in cafe
people in cafe

 

One of the well known paintings on this theme is the masterpiece Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-August Renoir.

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I am using this great work of art as an example in spite of the fact that I personally do not like Renoir’s style of painting .This is perhaps the only painting by Renoir that is not totally boring in his usually excessive sweetness of colours.
There are many articles and books written about this specific painting so I will not go into interpretation of the meaning  but here we have a nice illustration of the theme of group of people in a casual interaction with each other in the context of a cafe held together by brilliant composition in which the table with it’s magnificent still life is the common ground from which the individual figures emerge and unified.
Renoir apparently didn’t use any sketches for this composition, so in my opinion it was done either from one or several photographs
There is usually not much talk about this issue of the Impressionists use of photographic images in their work but there is much evidence for it in much research on the subject.
I haven’t found any evidence for my speculation about Renoir using photograph for this particular painting but I think it is not too much to assume that if most of the artists did use it then why would be Renoir the only exception.
I personally do to think it matters much for the fact that it is a great painting  and obviously neither Renoir’s not any other famous painters greatness is diminished by the fact of their use of then available photographic equipment. All I try to establish here is the fact that by using sketches and gestures we can get away from the limited one point perspective and thus get closer to breaking the barrier between the felt and the purely optical.

 

What’s the point ?

Asking this question in the context of doing art has  two meanings.

Ok, maybe it has more but right now I would like to concentrate on the two that are coming up readily to my mind,

One, is the simple visible point of focus around which the composition is built. In the art of painting, it can be a simple object that has an intrinsic balance that gives us a sense of beauty that pleases the eye.
A  rose, beautiful landscape, an interesting face, a general feeling of a place that can lead to some abstract forms or even a pattern that gives a sense of a meaning like the musical rhythm patterns of Kandinsky or the intricate abstract patterns of an Arabesque.
They all have a sense of a built-in reason for their own existence and require no further explanation.
In Chan Buddhism it is referred to as Tathatā. The inherent suchness of things.It is the seemingly mundane appearances of simple forms that given the right point of focus and right perspective, allow us a glimpse into the more elevated and perhaps a spiritual reality of everyday objects that surround us.
Some of the greatest Art is Tathata.Think of the eloquent line in the Turkish Bath by Ingres

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Turkish Bath

Or Bouquet Of Peonies by Eduard Manet

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Eduard Manet Bouquet Of Peonies

The exquisite rhythm of lines in a still life by Giorgio Morandi

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Still life by Giorgio Morandi

There are of course countless examples of great works of Art and  great artists troughout the history if Art  who knew intuitively what is Tathata and in many ways the art of painting could be viewed entirely from this focal point.
Many of the contemporary philosophies of Art that try to explain what art is get into superfluous explanations that miss the whole point of visual expression and the main reason why the human eye is craving to look at beauty.
Much can be said about muchness , Tathata and the God of the simple things revealed to anyone who can listen with their eyes but I will touch on this in another post related to the concept of the Pardes taken from Kabbala mystical way of life.

The second focal point , which i would like to touch and  in my opinion is the more important question in the realm of Art making, it is the why of the work of art. The raison d’être.
This can be of course a very tricky question in the sense that much of a good work of art is not done on a conscious level. It would be a very awkward process if an artist or for that reason any creative practitioner had to think about the deep hidden reasons of why they are drawn to express themselves in the that particular way and it would undoubtedly hinder the whole process of creativity.
There is of course countless attempts to explain what constitutes a work of art and why a certain work is a masterpiece while others are mediocre repetition of something trite. The verbiage of artsy talk has been a subject of many of the anecdotical  talks in post gallery visits in Woody Allen’s films that intuitively draws laughter from the audience. It makes us laugh, precisely because of the ridiculous pomposity of the words used only by the few initiates of the inner conclave of the world of Art.
What I would like to discuss here is something that is rarely thought in art schools in spite of much talking done in the famous crits of the more prestigious schools of art.
This point is the individual perspective that combines the particular with the universal. It is where according to Carl Gustav Jung , the archetypal world of our dreams converge with the specifics of our individuality, creating a unique patterns that constitute the creative dance of our life.
Putting it all back into an  individual perspective,in my own personal art, in the theme of the cafe I am trying to combine the specifics of observations of a given scene with some kind of unexpected element that has a deeper quality.
I is a specific state of mind that allows the subconscious, dreamy quality, to interlace with a more mysterious aspect of reality, usually hidden from a casual glance and requires a deeper, more dynamic and more contemplative looking.

attentive
attentive listening

Cityscaping in Budapest

Citiscaping at Mechvart liget
Citiscaping at Mechvart liget

Summer is here and with it the opportunity to do some cityscaping.
One of the privileges of living in a beautiful city, I guess is the fact that the eye can feast in almost any direction it looks.
In the photo above, I have started a new composition yesterday in my neighbourhood of Rose Hill in Buda.
I must admit that I love the challenges of the cityscaping.
One is finding the right spot.
In my opinion, finding the right spot is more then just finding what pleases the eye. There is of course the obvious sight that draws attention of the eye. Then, there is the special angle that is not too conspicuous and is a little of the main flow of the pedestrian flow. Yesterday, I was lucky to find a balcony of a restaurant that is in renovation so I had plenty of shade and even got a chair from the renovation workers.I guess luck is also a very important element in life and it is truly so in finding the right spot for the right composition.
Roaming the streets, exploring the place one lives in, looking for points of interest that go beyond what meets the eye is a very enjoyable preliminary action that creates a nice workflow with initial sketches and first impressions.
In my case, since I am new to my neigbothood, this kind of search for the right spot has an additional value of getting to know the place where I live.
Second, is having the right gear.
Well, there is the obvious stuff like the portable easel, the paints and the materials but there are the less obvious stuff that many times can make a significant difference between a pleasant work session and a disturbed one in which you look for a paper towel to clean either your hand or a paint that was dropped and cannot be left on the pavement.
I mean, there is an absolute need to leave your place without a trace of your activity .
It is more then being considerate. In case of oil painting with all the hazardous materials of turpentine and paint thinning mediums, it is important to have a disposable trash plastic bag that will keep your used paper towels from being scattered all over by the wind. I was lucky yesterday cause I didn’t have a trash bag but there was no wind so my  used paper towels didn’t fly all over the place.
Since I am planning to make a video tutorial about the whole subject of landscape and cityscape painting, i will not go into details about it right now but just wanted to mention these obvious prerequisites .
The third challenge, in my opinion is the most important and it is a need for a  fair amount of tolerance for being distracted by the audience.
No matter how secluded is your spot, there will always be an audience. I mean,if your spot is not in the flow of the daily routine pedestrian traffic  most people will not notice you and go about their usual business.
Some people, take a peek and sometimes smile since a street painter is not a very common everyday sight.
Some people will stop by and will ask your permission to watch .I personally do not mind and usually agree. I know some artists become too self conscious and cannot work with an audience watching over their shoulder.
I guess , years of teaching have thought me to be able to concentrate on my work without feeling too self conscious.
Sometimes if you are open for it, there is a conversation that develops and sometimes it flows into a real interest either to see more of your work or even buy. In this case ,painting outdoors is a kind of promotion of your work. Once in while, though there is the one or two exceptional people who will start tell you their life stories or about their uncles, grandma, children, spouses paintings, seasoned with anecdotes of personal details. Personally, I have found that the best way to send them away is by simply ignoring them.
All in all, there is a need to develop a bit of exhibitionism in order to enjoy the outdoor painting. Without it, the whole experience can be an unpleasant encounter with a crowd that disturbs your creative flow.
Here is a video of the famous Spanish artist Antonio Lopez Garcia trying  desperately to disperse a crowd blocking his view on the Puerto Del Sol Square.
Of course one can always ask what is the motivation of an artist to paint outdoors in one of the busiest and most visited by tourists square in the world with full knowledge of the conditions.In  early spring, I had an opportunity to do some plain air watercolour sketching in the north of Hungary at the Balaton , Kaptalanfured area.

sketching at the lake
sketching at the lake

There is a nice complementary relationship that exists between the two modes of outdoor painting.
The plain air, landscape painting as an independent theme  exists from the early Romantics for whom Nature with all her glory was more then just an interesting subject matter. It was an anchor point to escape the stifling constrains of Neo Classicist era with the emphasis on moralistic , historical subject matter with greys and browns as the dominant colors.The beginning of the modern era had a need for a  fresh, new philosophy that today we would call ecologically conscious philosophy with the Noble Savage at it’s core.
Budapest is an amazing city for cityscaping and almost any location you choose, you can find many interesting angles from which to start a composition.
I am not referring of course to the obvious tourist postcard vistas like the Parliament house, the Chain Bridge or the Fishermen Bastion, even though, I am sure it is possible to escape the obvious postcard view with the right kind of orientation.
Here is an old painting where I have incorporated an element of the Chain Bridge and combined it with my ongoing theme of the cafe.

chain bridge cafe
chain bridge cafe

Precision 


yesterday after completing my first composition with the couple I moved on to the next table that came out to be much better with a more precise balance between the technique and the theme.
Actually, this is really what I am after when sketching outdoors. Especially with water colors. Since this medium requires a great deal of freedom in handling and a fairly high degree of profciency in balancing the different elements, it is therefore ideal for finding the right balancing point between the technique and the theme.
my first attempt today to find this balance was definetly not a good one so much that I do not feel like posting it here but the second one was so much better that I feel like can bragg a little.

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The opening of the exhibit in IF Cafe

 

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Last Saturday night was the opening of my show at the If cafe on Raday street in Budapest.
There was an impressive amount of people who came to share with me the event. Most of them are friends of Eva Kovacs , my life partner. I would like to use this opportunity to thank all of you dear friends for honouring me with your presence and contributing to the success of the evening.
This is also the place to thank Eva Kovacs for the hard work she has put into making this event possible. Without her dedication and hard work on all of the many aspects from framing the paintings ,tastefully curating the hanging of the art on the walls and paying carefully attention to all the minute details , the whole project would not be possible. Thank you my beloved.
The introduction by Jozsef Kereszturi was charming, spontaneous, tasteful and witty.
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The event included an attempt to broadcast live sketching of the amazing jazz trio band that included the fine musicians , Karoly Gaspar on piano, Barcsa Horvath Jozsef on contrabass, Laszlo Csizi on the drums and  Vinand Gabor vocals and sopran sax.
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Special thanks to each of you guys. Your music was not only full of charm but essential in giving the whole evening the special flavour and direction without which the whole evening would not have the magical presence. Thank you.And last but not the least, many thanks to Hofi ,his wife Juco
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and the great stuff of the If Cafe for opening their space for the opportunity to pull together all the different aspects, energies and dimensions allowing it all to happen.I must admit that in spite of the powerful presence provided by the Internet ,a real live opening in a gallery or in this case a cafe, is still a very potent happening that complements very nicely the every day presentation of the process of art making.here are some images from the opening night.

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