June 28, 2011
1972 Sketch Book, spiral bound, soft cover, faded red to light pink with art nouveau tree design - originally, upon purchase, a sketch of a tree but enchanted by me by further organic forms that properly introduce the content of the book, itself.
In 1972 I was finishing up my last year as an art major at UNC-Asheville. During the summer of 1972, my husband, Phil and I, got jobs as art instructors at Blue Star Camp in Hendersonville, NC. Phil taught pottery; I taught drawing and painting.
The volume could be called experimentation with a variation of forms; anything that would come from my head or happen to flow from my pen. As I review them, I can see quite clearly the strong influence of Tucker Cooke - the heavy "ovular" shapes, organic; the vertical shading. These were typical of his forms and techniques at the time these dramatically changed his later work.
Pages to consider:
Page 2: This rolling organic linear form was an invention of my own. Tucker licked it; was impressed by it. But it came to me while drawing in this sketchbook. I've used it numerous times for linear practice and upon which to impose other forms, such as on page 2 and 27. I've also demonstrated how to do it and given it as practice studies for my own drawing students.
Page 9: "The Sexual Landscape;" organic forms, especially those of breasts became something of a motif in these early sketchbooks. Note, too, the vertical shading. This was such a strong technique taught by Tucker ; it took a determined effort to vary from it.
Page 12: These organic forms are pulled from a portrait I was doing of a friend while we were at Camp. Her name was Ilsa, later to be married to Fred. After doing a sketch of herm I began turning her form into a landscape of boulders and rocks. When Tucker saw this sometime later, he developed a drawing project for beginning students called "Sculpted Doodles." He told me he too them directly from this drawing.
Page 16: Portrait of a Man; this was one of the first surrealistic forms found in the books. Again, I cannot stress enough how much freedom the sketchbooks gave me. Any idea that came to me, I did not hesitate to try to bring it into visual language. Not having a studio nor any situation wherein I could do formal painting, I found the sketchbooks to be spontaneous. Moreover, I allowed myself the freedom to draw anything that came to me, without hesitation or censorship. This has proved important overall. I did openly share my sketchbooks then; they were a reflection of my thinking and no one else was invited "in." The sketchbooks, too, were my studio for a long while. Indeed, later, I found that when I could afford to rent a studio or have a studio of my own, the sketchbooks "slowed up" somewhat. I found my efforts directed at "solving" a painting which took much more time and was not near as prolific as the simple freedom of turning of a page in a sketchbook.
Page 18: I pressed myself to attempt more quick portraiture - to attempt to capture a likeness quickly. I did not have a camera so I had to rely on the sketchbook to record images I wanted to remember like this one of Michael; he was the tennis teacher that summer from England. He was a good friend.
Page 20: My marriage was not doing well, or, that is to say, I was somewhat puzzled by the lack of happiness and fulfillment in my marriage. Phil, my husband, was not a very sensitive man except in his own art work which was ceramics. I, of coarse, like many women of the time, thought that something was wrong with me. Here a young woman stares at her marriage bed questioningly as she, herself is "founded" by the weight of a phallic shape. Around her head is a form suggesting the depth of the vagina. Perhaps she is looking at it all: the vagina, the bed, the penis, and wondering about the lack of pleasure and fulfillment. I have to confess to the ignorance of the potential of human sexual pleasure at that time; and, had I been suddenly fully informed, I would have no way of discussing it with my husband. He was not quiet so open minded at that time. To have suggested inadequacy of a sexual nature to any man, perhaps at any time; well, the door to the discussion tends to be quickly closed according to my experience.
Page 30: Rene Magritte became a favorite artist of mine at the time. To be able to show huge mass floating, effortlessly, above water or ground, complemented my adoration of the moon. Whether in one of the partial phases or in its fullness, the moon arrested all my attention to its beauty and mystery.
Page 36, 40: These are a couple of my earliest "official" portraits; that is to say, I asked one of the student/campers to pose for me while I did a sketch of her. She gladly obliged; I remember her as a friend; Marrie. In both drawings, one sees the obvious reliance on tonal shading via the vertical movement, for the most part. It would be later that I would learn the suggestion of sculptural strength via crosshatching. In this portrait on page 40, I find the contrast, too, of the face to the background, a beginning of the awareness of chiaroscuro and what it can do for form.
Page 47: In the summer Olympics of 1972 the first terrorist act of my awareness took place in Munich. The Israeli athletes were taken hostage by Islamic extremists; the young athletes were later executed. The horror of it shook the world. Via my sketchbook, I could only imagine the scene of hopelessness within the confines of the room where the young people were bound and held at gunpoint, wondering what their fate would be.
The remainder of the book: For the most part, the remaining drawings represent a formalization of ideas that would, hopefully, turn into paintings. The juxtaposition of odd elements suggested a Magritte type of surrealism. Added to this were my own personal "symbols" of sexual confusion: phallic shapes, undulating, rolling organic forms, gigantic floating forms suggesting great distance. Dramatic images of Greta Garbo found in a book represented the unquestionably beautiful formalized female situated in the midst of large forms, floating forward and back, into the distance. I could see all of these images. Painting was another beast altogether.
Tucker, himself, was one of the best draughtsman I had seen. He had taught me quite a bit. But, he, himself, did not teach painting very well at that time. Tucker was then only five or six years into his university level teaching; the types of paintings that he did at that time were "dry brush oil on canvas" and much more akin to drawing that to actually painting. Thus it was that I had to, in the long run, teach myself how to paint - a lifetime's undertaking. At the time of this writing, I am 62 years of age; I feel that I still have much to learn about painting; I am not yet, "fulfilled" by work in paint - trying not to make reference here to the earlier part of this particular sketchbook.