Jasmin with friends

Jasmin
Jasmin with friends

 

Part of my daily sketching practice involves interaction with people around me.
Sometimes the people involved notice they are being drawn , curious about the outcome they come up timidly asking permission to have a peek.

Other times people just curious about the creative process as it happens live and ask permission to watch over the shoulder.
As a n art teacher for many years, it is usually not a problem for me and in fact, I am actually enjoying the showmanship and the performance.

This is something that every cityscaping, street or pleinair artist is well familiar with and in fact, the ability to tolerate and even like the interaction with audience is part of being a successful outdoor artist.
I have some colleagues, friends who would never be caught dead doing something so intencely exposure intensive as painting outdoors or having to interact with live audience. For them the creative process is a deeply internal and personal work and being alone in the privacy of the studio is a must. I guess it is a question of where on the scale of the extrovert-introvert continuum you find yourself.
Personally I find myself leaning towards the extrovert,a bit exhibitionistic side.

This specific digital drawing I was drawing yesterday, attracted a very nice tourist couple from the beautiful medieval city of Bruges.

Bruges
Bruges

 

We had a lovely conversation during which the table which I was drawing has left, so another inevitable consequence of communicating with people while you creating outdoors is allwing yourself to be interrupted once in while. Since it doesn’t happen very useful often I am quite open for this kind of interruption where I believe that having great conversations with complete strangers and perhaps making some new friends is as much important as the creative process.

An upcoming exhibit of cafe sketches in MaiMano cafe in heart of Budapest

 

Hanging
Hanging on

I was offered an exhibit in my favorite cafe MaiMano at the heart of Budapest.
The date is not set yet but I am thinking about the beginning of June as a good time when the temperatures are very pleasant and there is a constant flow of people including many tourists.
The exhibit will include mainly my watercolor sketches done in this lovely cafe, which is in my opinion a very appropriate setting for them.
I am still didn’t give up on the hope to find a decent gallery somewhere in Europe but meanwhile with every passing day I can feel how my desire to deal with the hustle of working trough intermediary is diminishing quit e significantly.
Ever since the Internet , the idea of having a gallery which in best case has about two weeks in two years to show your work is totally out of sync with the current reality in which you can showcase your work on a daily basis which I actually doing. For me doing art is before anything else is a process in which the creative flow is not limited to studio work but has a much wider significance in quick response to many life situations.
On my daily rout one for example, going into the city by tram, I meet people in this limbo situation between station between stations, most staring vacantly into the space absorbed with their inner thoughts, in different body positions. Being able to make quick sketches with an iPhone app is a great advantage that besides sharpening my observation of the essentials of the body movements and perfecting my ability to register in a glance the essence of a gesture is also at the same time gives me some insights into inner state of people observed.
People in a state of suspension, will be probably the topic of my next exhibition.
Yesterday, I have come back to my usual watercolor sketching in the cafe after some time spending with digital experimentation with a new iPad Pro. Together with the apple pen, they give a very nice feeling of a decent approximation of a real sketching.
As I have written before

, digital art is not a replacement of the real thing but it has some advantages to ordinary painting and sketching by adding some dimensions which real life painting still cannot do. Working with separated layers, allowing mixing different feels like water color effects together with oil like smears. Working with light instead of the additive process of mixing pigments on a canvass adds a deeper understanding of luminosity and chroma.
Changing backgrounds is a breeze with digital medium which is another great advantage in creating scenes that are not limited to what is given in front of the eyes.
Another and perhaps the biggest advantage of digital creations is the deepening of the understanding of the power of the image. Because of the ephemeral nature of the medium it has no real substance out side of the computer screen and that makes the reality of the image much more pronounced.
This issue of reality of the digital image deserves a whole post to itself so I will not go deeper into right now.
For now all wanted really is to announce the news about the upcoming exhibit of my cafe sketches to be held at MaiMano cafe in the heart of Budapest.

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.

Marshall McLuhan and the paradigm shift in Art

ladder
the ladder

Once in a while I tend to experiment with digital medium.

I find it especially useful on the go for some quick visual notations that keep me alert for the beauty of the ordinary forms that surround us.

I mean, it is not always very practical to pull out your watercolor gear when waiting for a bus or in line in post office. True, I could pull out my sketchbook which is always ready in my bag pack and do some quick pencil sketches but I find that the wide range of options allowed by the digital applications that can be used with any smartphone today is truly exiting and besides, is a great fun.

Interestingly enough, the advent of the touch screens and the use of the fingers to smear directly on the painting surface has brought back that wonderful feeling from childhood when we were allowed to smear our paint with abandon without worrying about results. At least for those of us who were lucky enough to be allowed or even encouraged by the adults in charge which many times was exactly the opposite.

Of course, there is a big difference in the tactile feel when smearing real paint onto a paper or a canvass but there are definite advantages in messing around with digital paint and still keeping our hands and clothes clean.
As far as I am aware, the artificial controversy around the digital versus real painting is almost over but frankly I do not follow it very closely. I believe this debate is somewhat misplaced in that it is a superficial dichotomy between the “real” and the virtual.

Personally, I rely on the Buddhist world view that makes no distinction between the two and view all reality as a virtual construct flowing from the projections of Mind.

I know that some of my colleague artists, of my generation, still have a great disdain towards anything that is digital and virtual.

Anything that requires a different look at the very concept of what is art, how it is made and what is the role of art in the new digital age which is upon us, makes them feel uncomfortable and defensive about the traditional ways of making art.

There is nothing wrong of course in the traditional, classical mediums of expressions but it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the implications of the fact that our cultural context has moved into an era where the medium has become the message with all it’s implications.

The medium is the message.

It is not my intent here in this short post to go into lengthly explanations of this term coined by Marshall McLuhan but I do think that it is worth exploring his ideas about the role of the

artist in the new digital culture we all live in.

In Robert K. Logan’s book on Marshall McLuhan’s immense contribution to our understanding of our day digital culture, there is a chapter about the way McLuhan saw the role of the artist in our society.Here is a quote from that book:

Whereas the ordinary person seeks security by numbing his perceptions against the impact of new experience, the artist delights in this novelty and instinctively creates situations that both reveal it and compensate for it.

The artist studies the distortion of sensory life produced by the new environmental programming and tends to create artistic situations that correct the sensory bias and derangement brought about by the new form.

In social terms the artist can be regarded as a navigator who gives adequate compass bearings in spite of magnetic deflection of the needle by the changing play of forces.

So understood, the artist is not a peddler of ideas or lofty experiences. He is rather the indispensable aid to action and reflection alike.”

My interpretation of this statement is that most serious artists in all times have always took advantage of the changing environment with introduction of new technology.
I am sure there were many artists who didn’t embrace the new medium of oil painting at the time and in fact there was a transitional period between medieval tempera technique into the new medium of oil painting.

I can personally envision a time in not too distant future where artists will be using three dimensional screens like the ones in Steven Spielberg’s film, “ Minority Report “ where Tom Cruise is shifting trough vast amount of data moving three dimensional screens with hand gestures.

Tome Cruise in Minority Report
Tome Cruise in Minority Report

 

As much of the science fiction anticipates future scientific developments so is the technology that was used in this film is apparently is already available and in use in some specific industries.

Imagine an artist in his studio standing in front of these kind of virtual canvasses using unlimited virtual color pallets based on frequencies of light instead of muddy pigments with creating shimmering images of beauty that radiate light from inside adjusting themselves to the different light conditions, independent of outside light source.
I know that many artists will understandably argue here that nothing can replace the “real” feel of “ real” paint as it is mixed on the palette and applied with “ real” brushes.
I believe this argument is based on lack of information and imagination as to the ability of the technology to supplement the touch and feel of our tactile senses.
Again, this technology is already here in early development stages but as we already know, the pace of advancement of this kind of research is usually surpasses the ability of most people to comprehend the incredible speed with which the results of the research roll out of the lab into the everyday use. Remember the shock of unveiling of the iPhone touch screen by Steve Jobs?

To counter this shock and disorientation caused by the new technologies is precisely where the McLuhan’s teachings can be very helpful for the artists in transition to creating in the Global Village. Given the fact that most of McLuhan;s concepts are presented in a non linear jazz like fashion it is not an easy task to decipher the meaning from his revolutionary ideas some of which quite prophetic in anticipating the age where most people on Earth will be connected everywhere, all the time.

The many implications resulting from such a condition can be quite disturbing for many artists that are still cling to by now obsolete world view in which making art is still tied up with clear distinction between the figure and the ground.

Since we live now in the age of total connectivity and instant communication, this kind of separation and clear cut division is obviously not possible anymore and there is a great advantage for artists that can make this shift in consciousness to include both figure and ground in the context of making art that is more then just repetition of the past ideas and visions.

To quote McLuhan once more :

Art at it’s most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it. (McLuhan 1969)

The serious artist is the only person able to encounter technology with impunity, just because he is an expert aware of the changes in sense perception. (mcLuhan 1964,33)”

Looking from a bird’s eye view over the procession of many art forms of the past, it is obvious that Art is tied up with the culture and the norms of the time creating the different mannerisms which we later call the history of art. At the same time we can see just how non linear this progression is.

The cave art of Altamira is not that different in style and eloquence of expression from that of Matisse in spite of being separated in time by some eighteen thousand years .

This mean that our sense perceptions do not change so much in time in spite of a constant expansion of consciousness and this is what I believe that McLuhan has meant when describing the artist as an agent of and early warning system who’s understanding of the World is acquired trough sense perceptions that are at the same time are concepts no less reliable then that of a scientist or a philosopher.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I hope that traditional techniques of doing art will always persist along with the newer experimentations of digital and virtual art emphasizing the importance of inspiration and creativity over trite and banality.

In this age of great cynicism in the Arts with money replacing artistic value, it is important to articulate the new paradigms that would provide the basis for true appreciation of the Arts allowing artists to extract themselves from marginalization and exploitation by culture gone mad with greed.


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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Live broadcasting at the opening of my show

the poster for the exhibit in IF cafe
the poster for the exhibit in IF cafe

 

Finally, after six months in Budapest, I am opening a small but hopefully exiting show of my sketch works in one of the loveliest areas in Budapest. The place is called IF cafe and there is daily live Jazz music.Since I love accompany the music and the musicians gestures, most of the show is concentrated on those sketches done directly on the spot.
You are most welcome to join for the opening at 7:30 pm at IF cafe on Raday street 19, Budapest.

Digital sketching versus traditional classical tools

 

digitalsketch
digital sketch of man in a waiting room

 

Few years ago, the idea of digital sketching  would be preposterous for me .Trained as I was in the classical tradition, we were thought that there is nothing that can compare to the pure work of art based on the traditional tools.
In many respects it is still true. There is nothing like a good quality watercolours dissolving on a high grade water paper  applied with high quality watercolour brushes.
In fact it is one of the first lessons I teach in my classes. Use, high quality materials if you really want to feel the difference in the touch and feel when applying them in your work. There is a  healthy kind of fetishism in choosing the artists materials and it is no different when a musician prefers a Stradivarius  as opposed to a mediocre or low quality instrument.
And yet, as with many other ideas related to the use of the new paradigms of the new media and with a steady advancement of the technology allowing fuller and richer imitation of the real life sketching it has become increasingly  difficult to resist the many advantages.
First. There is the  ease of use.
Working with a digital pen with an iPad application such as ArtStudio or Brushes for example it is about all you need and if you feel like using your finger, you can skip the digital pen. iPad is about the size of an average sketchbook and with the new iPad Air it is about the same weight so carrying around is not more difficult then a regular sketchpad.

The Versatility.

artstudiodashaboard
artstudio dashboard

 

The painting and sketching digital apps, offering a great variety of built in digital tools. A huge variety of pens, pencils, brushes and even air brushes effects. All sorts of textures imitating hard the real life textures of the artists support materials.
When I carry around my real life sketching tools, I need a big bag to fit everything in.
Pencils, brushes, crayons, pastels, water colours, sketching pad , a small rag, a jar for water, a little bottle of water, etc. All this and more I need to fit into my bag as opposed to having just an iPad .
I am sorry if I am starting to sound like a salesperson of Apple but it is simply a matter of personal preference and of course any other digital tool that works for you is equally valid and good.
I am not suggesting of course in any way that all this endless assortment of digital art material is equal yet to the real life materials in touch and quality but I am sure it is just a question of time that the difference will not be noticeable at all and I am sure in the not too distant future there will be some added value to the digital feel of a material that will not be based on imitation the real life materials but rather add a unique feel of digital sense which is noticeable even today.
If you really want to loose  the sense of estrangement, and take advantage of the the many benefits of digital sketching, you must loose the habit of comparing it to the real life materials.

Colours

rgbcolorslider
RGB color slider

Another huge benefit of digital sketching is the different application of colours.

An endless range of colours that are based on the principles of real optics  mixing as opposed to additive mixing of the artists paint materials. This in itself can be a great value in learning the difference between the dimensions of Tonal Value, the Hue and the Saturation.
It means that with digital sketching there is an added benefit in that it can teach you much about the difference of colours deriving from breaking up of the pure white light and colours deriving from pigments.
Trying to teach these principles of the difference between colours as light and colours as pigments prior to the appearance of the new digital technologies, was a real challenge.

Layers.

Another big advantage in working digitally is the ability to construct an image in layers.
Working with semitransparent layers  we can create a very rich textures and blend colours in a unique way which is more appropriate to colours as light thinking. Of course, the more advanced the program we are working with, the richer and more complex art we can create. Programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel’s Painter using devices such as Wacom’s CintiQ can create an image that in many ways far surpassing the realism of the non digital painting.
Of course,  if we add to this the use of the photograph as resource that can be cut and pasted in layers we can get an image that is totally unique and cannot be replicated in a non digital way.
Realism is an elusive word. In the realm of Visual Arts it came to mean a photographic image, which has distorted completely the more subtle and more spiritual qualities of an image with the disastrous consequence of associating linear perspective as the only ” real” perspective.
At this point I would like to add that it is quite certain we are approaching a time when the difference between  the classical, supposedly real art and the virtual will disappear, opening much more options for creative work.

Here is a pen and ink sketch from today with people in a cafe working on their digital devices.

Checking the mail
Checking the mail

Alone but together, each with their choice of size of a screen, sending and receiving messages, working on their projects, sharing information across vast distances, creating together a web of interrelations with endless possibilities for creative thinking, problem solving and entertainment.
In my opinion it is easy to see that there is still quite a big difference between the classical tools and the digital and there are still quite a big gap between the two.

 

I could go on and talk endlessly about the many advantages of the digital media as a very useful addition to the artists arsenal of tools enhancing his ability to express his creativity but this is not the purpose of this post. At this time I am rather interested in enhancing the idea that there are many advantages for the classical artists to lose their inhibitions about the digital media and free their preconception about what is good art and what is the difference between virtual and non virtual reality.

 

 

 

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