Sunday, January 29, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 22

Jean Dujardin as OSS 117, drawn while watching OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies. I'm a little disappointed with this one. [Image: black & white charcoal drawing of man showing his thighs upward, wearing a 1960's suit and tie and smoking. He has one hand in his pocket and turns to look back over his shoulder with one eyebrow raised. It is as cheesy as it sounds.]
It's a pretty fun movie. I remarked that the actor moves like a silent film comedian; turns out he just starred in a different film, The Artist, as a silent film actor. I wanted to see it in theaters but... this is Charleston. I'll just have to wait and Netflix it. Here's a clip from OSS 117.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 21 Fran Lebowitz

Fran Lebowitz, by Ciana Pullen. Charcoal, 2012. You may reproduce this but only for noncommercial purposes and you must include easily visible accreditation (i.e. "Ciana Pullen") and a link to this blog. [Image: black & white charcoal drawing of middle aged white woman with short brown hair in a shoulder length bob wearing a winter scarf. She's viewed from the side and turns her head to look sidelong at the viewer. She looks inquisitive yet unimpressed.]
Look at these awesome photos of writer Fran Lebowitz:
Photo of Fran Lebowitz. I couldn't find the photographer or publisher, so let me know if you know who took this.
Fran Lebowitz for BBC2 "Building Sights." Couldn't find the photographer for this either, though it might be a film still.
Fran Lebowitz, photographed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, 1996.

Fran Lebowitz, by Jonathan Twingley. [Image: caricature of Lebowitz in black & white pen with a blue jacket. The proportions of her mouth are really exaggerated.]
The last is an illustration by Jonathan Twingley. I'll be checking his site daily now, as he as lots of awesome stuff up.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Holy crap.

This might be the dumbest link I have EVER posted. It also might be my favorite.

Just one example of what awaits you at the link. [Image: Claude Monet's "Haystack," a painting of a haystack in an empty field. Underneath the painting is shown again but a Photoshop artist has replaced the haystack with an orange cat licking its own butt in precisely the same shape as a haystack.]

Portrait, Jan. 20

Husband Watching Walking Dead. [Image: black & white charcoal drawing of head & shoulders of white man nearly in profile. He's lit from the front and slightly below, looking tense.]

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Month Without Mirrors

I absolutely loved this essay on The Beheld by beauty blogger who recently went a month without looking at her own reflection.

Not only is she starkly honest about the experience of the mirror and about what femininity feels like, Whitefield-Madrano is also incredibly perceptive to how socialization, psychology and abstract philosophy play out in everyday life. Even if you don't give a crap about makeup or the beauty industry, read the essay if you're interested in human consciousness, "The Gaze" in psychology and feminist theory, or portraiture.

[Image: a screenshot from Disney's Snow White showing the evil Queen's reflection in her magic mirror].

Portrait, Jan. 19

Portrait of my cat sitting under an arrangement of white Asian chrysanthemums and baby's breath in a spaghetti sauce jar. She hears my husband in the kitchen and suspects he might be doling out soft food but is not so sure that she's willing to give up her warm spot. She also cannot quite see over her own fat belly into the kitchen. She eventually got up and investigated, making this an extremely quick sketch. [Image: black & white pen sketch of a cat curled up under a flower arrangement, looking at something to the right out of frame. She sits partially behind a glass jar  full of flowers that are very quickly sketched.]

A photo of Kitty after she returned, disappointed, to her warm spot, sitting next to the drawing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 18

Tuppence, from Agatha Christie's Tommy & Tuppence. I'm actually pretty proud of this one. Caricatures are way harder than realistic portraits, IMO. I pressed "play" preparing to draw twenty or so cartoons till one looked passable, but shockingly I was happy with the first try. Of course, as soon as I realized I liked the face I overworked it. The other thing that made me happy is that her entire head and upper body fit comfortably on the page. I have a major problem with fitting everything I want onto the page, even if the page is five feet tall. I have to constantly remind myself, "keep it small." I have a drawer full of figure drawings where the head is cut off by the top of the page because I didn't leave room. Lessons learned: 1. When you've got a good cartoon line, leave it alone! Opposite of painting, where if you fall in love with something you've made, you must destroy it and re-work it. 2. Booze is an excellent preparation for loose drawing. [Image: black & white pen drawing of a white woman in a flowery dress, net lace gloves and a Sunday hat looking demure with her hands clasped and neck craned. The lines are quickly drawn and simple. Not very realistic.]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 17

Portrait of my husband while he tells a story. [image: ink drawing of a white man's head with is forehead resting on his fist looking downward, viewed from slightly above. The lines are somewhat cartoony, made with a brush pen, but still somewhat realistic.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Welcome to the "Dark Side."

Scheming evil genius Brain (of Pinky & The Brain) spoofs Orson Welles' charismatic but deadly dishonest villain in The Third Man.*

 I asked for researchers to take a frank look at creativity and art a few months ago and it seems some "creativity researchers" have granted my wish. Please go read "The Dark Side of Creativity" by Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD over at Huffington Post.

These researchers found a correlation between creativity and dishonesty, so they designed a few more types of studies that would test the two in different ways and they continued to find the same correlation. I can point out what I think are some flaws in each of their studies but I thought they did a decent job of approaching the problem from a few different angles. Kaufman, reporting on the studies, names Bernie Madoff as an example of a creative and dishonest person. Commenter 'Bibulus' writes, "Newt Gingrich must be some sort of da Vinci," while commenter 'Pogo Bock' quips, "Well, that explains advertisin­g."

Jafar and Iago from Disney's Aladdin. Nearly everyone in the movie was wildly creative-- and dishonest. Except the sultan, a remarkably uncreative thinker who was actively trying to force his daughter into marriage and ignoring the seething masses of his starving subjects while living in a palace, who was portrayed by Disney as an honest man.

It was a relief to read something that doesn't glorify creativity. Usually it's portrayed as magical and fairy-like, an "inner child" of a liberated few, illustrated with multicolored hand-prints and "joyous" abstracted dancing figures. My guess is this happens because the Arts are always pandering for money. This imagery and narrative apparently appeals to the wealthy, so there you have it. Some people really don't get that the arts are worthwhile until you inundate them those sorts of commercials shown on National Public Television with the leaping multiracial children and bounding classical music. Apparently this is what we look like to those outside of the Art World.

But the commenters on HuffPo were not so pleased. Besides the two I quoted above (and with the exception of one or two high-strung religious wackos), most everyone was a writer, graphic designer, or some other creative type who was outraged that this sort of attack on creativity would be funded, studied and reported upon.

Heath Ledger as The Joker. I never really understood the character until Heath Ledger played him. In the cartoon and Jack Nicholson iterations he never did seem very funny, he just did humor-themed things, and he usually just tried to poison people over and over. His special villain-trait seemed to be creativity plus a clown fetish, basically. Heath Ledger's Joker's evocation of the chaotic nihilist nature of the Joke was ingenious.
Creativity, as I see it, is a neutral human trait, not an inherently positive one. You can apply creativity toward dishonesty or toward perfectly honest endeavors. You can also be a very inside-the-box thinker when it comes to both honesty and dishonesty.

This brings me to the definition of "dishonesty." Honesty, in terms of being a moral person, is mostly defined as acting in accordance with the common morals that one's society deems acceptable. But much of the dishonesty practiced by inside-the-box lock-step thinkers (or creative thinkers during uncreative moments) actually passes as "common sense," though not all common sense is dishonest. I believe credit card companies and collections agencies are dishonest, at least the more egregious ways they behave in recent years. Yet U.S. society more or less accepts that they are an ok part of an ok economic system. So one could put in an "honest" day's work as CEO of a credit card company that basically steals people's money.

This would be an example of uncreative dishonesty that would not stand out as dishonesty to many observers because it's not outside-the-box behavior. I think this lock-step uncreative mentality allows this society to get away with collectively telling some whoppers like, "racism and sexism were terrible, but they no longer exist today!" or "poor people just don't understand hard work or they'd be richer," or "abstinence education works" or "we're fighting for freedom-- money has nothing to do with it," or "it's ok to kill people in these circumstances," or everyone's adamant belief that their parents have never had sex, ever. A solid majority of people engage in at least some of these dishonest ideas and practices and do not stand out as particularly dishonest people because they're not creatively dishonest.

*You may have noticed I've illustrated this post using only fictional characters who are creative and dishonest. That's because they were all invented by artists. Even though creative types turned out in droves to whine in the comments about the study casting creativity in a bad light, clearly the "creative evildoer" is beloved by artists.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 16

Melissa Harris-Perry on the Colbert Report. Drawn from the video clip below. I watched the clip over and over because it took me a while to get the pose, especially her hand. I'd never noticed how much Stephen Colbert talks with his hands. And as they sit with each other longer and longer, their hand gestures and posture mimic each other more and more. I also got to see Colbert do his "strong black woman" thing about 25 times. Win. [Image: youngish black woman drawn in black & white charcoal, realistic and detailed. She sits at a table and is shown from the front, her head and upper torso showing. She's got medium-long braids and a black cowl-neck shirt. She looks slightly up and to the side, mid-speech with some tension in the barrel of her mouth, smiling slightly. One hand is sitting just out-of-frame on the table; the other is up making a hand-cone-type gesture with her fingertips pointing downward.]

Transcript, copied from Shakesville, after the jump.

Portrait, Jan. 15

Lily Tomlin as Violet in 9 to 5. This was drawn from a movie still (I edited out Dolly and Jane, unfortunately. Too much for this drawing). [Image: black & white charcoal sketch, somewhat realistic, of a white woman's head and torso. She sits at a bar with a margarita, slumped over with her elbows on the bar and her head in her hands looking non-plussed. She wears a dark suit and has kind of a mullet. Lit from the side, sort of noir feeling.]

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 14

Carmen Tisch. Drawn from a photo in a press release, either a mugshot or similar. [Image: black & white realistic charcoal drawing of the head and shoulders of a white woman with long messy dark brown hair pulled to one side. She wears a sheepish grimace and looks slightly defiant. She's got a dark hoodie on and has mystical or geometric tattoos on her neck and chest.]
Oh man. From the files of ArtFagCity: Woman Pees On, About, or Around Clyfford Still Painting. Whitney Kimball reports that while the woman apparently succeeded only in peeing her pants, she punched and scratched the abstract expressionist work then gave the painting a good rub-down with her butt, such that it will need a $10,000 repair. The incident elicited this from gallery owner Ivar Zeile, who is apparently a living incarnation of Niles from Frasier:
Something as ridiculous as a woman coming in, who’s probably unknown to anybody, being able to touch the piece is kind of a slap in the face to the authority of the museum.
 The original reporting from NBC stated that the woman was drunk, "the only explanation offered for such behavior." But judging from Tisch's expression I think she certainly has her reasons.

Portrait, Jan. 13

Gina from the Agatha Christie/ Miss Marple movie, They Do It With Mirrors. Again, I drew her while the movie was playing, so it's a composite from moving images. SPOILER: I totally thought Gina was going to be the murderer, so that's why she has that classic "apprehended by Miss Marple" expression. [Image: black & white charcoal sketch, somewhat realistic and detailed, of a white woman's head and shoulders. Her shoulders face forward and her face is looking up and to the side, in profile. She looks desperate and pleading. Dressed in a collared shirt, wearing her brown hair in a bun.]

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 12

Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. Drawn over the course of a film as the action unfolded, so it's really more of a Marple composite. [Image: black & white charcoal sketch of elderly white woman with a straw hat, showing head and shoulders. She leans rightward into the image area while peering slightly up and to the left out of frame, looking alert.]

Portrait, Jan. 11

Portrait of My Husband While He Falls Asleep Watching Cartoons In Bed. [Image: a collage made of magazine pages in a square format. Horizontally across the bottom third is a man lying in bed with his back to the viewer and the covers pulled up to his armpits, made of solid teal blue for the bed, a white crossword puzzle cut out in the shape of the blanket, and his body cut from a blackish image. In the right half above him a blue skeleton or X-ray image of a man with his joints lit up in red runs away and to the right out of the composition, on a black background. On the left is a reddish-orange swirly abstract area, an ecru blocky image of some interior architicture and a black and grey slice of grainy photograph with red vertical words. Between the two halves is the profile of a head and shirt collar facing left and looking slightly downward. The head is made of diagonal blueish black skyscrapers at dusk with yellow lights on inside, while the collar is made of small text on a white background that is turned at the same angle as the buildings.]

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 10

Detail of a portrait for a client. [Image: close-up crop of a white man's face smiling and wearing classes, looking up and to the right, shown from slightly below. Drawn realistically, somewhat detailed, in black & white charcoal.]

Portrait, Jan. 9

Portrait of a Woman Inhaling. Drawn from a photo, an extra reference pic that my client sent me. [Image: Black & white charcoal drawing, very sketchy, almost like a comic book sketch. Woman standing with her hands at her sides, shown from hips up.]

Friday, January 13, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 8

My God, what an awful portrait. The friend, in real life, looks much less like a pirate, nothing like a cone-headed Burt Reynolds, nor does his appearance scream, "porn star!" (to me, anyway). He actually reminds me a lot of the young "Woody" from "Cheers." And yet this portrait occurred. To be fair, though, I didn't ask if I could draw him, and he was trying to eat Thai food rather than hold still. And pen doesn't erase. [Image: small black & white pen sketch of a man's head and shoulders, looking down.]

Portrait, Jan. 7

Detail of a portrait for a client. [Image: close-up crop of a woman's smiling face in black & white charcoal, realistic and somewhat detailed.]

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Moving Toward the Ugly

I loved this post up at Leaving Evidence. The author asks, what happens if we stop chasing beauty and start embracing our own ugliness as "magnificent?"

Commenter "naa" writes:

I was surrounded by a community of femmes of color, reclaiming and celebrating beauty as a thing of liberation, and yet there wasn’t space to ask what happens when we can’t live up to our own ideals? Or who we’re leaving out?
Moving towards the ugly feels like a real risk: a risk to be real, a risk to lose the privilege/power of beauty, and a risk to be valued for ONLY what we are- glorious and many-layered freaks.

Go check it out!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 6

Another portrait for a client, so I'm just posting a detail. Chalk pastel, 14 x 17." [Image: a very young baby with closed eyes rests its face in its hands. It wears a striped knit cap in red, orange, yellow, sky-blue, and white that has a knit tentacle coming from the top of the cap with a giant pom-pom at the end. Drawing is realistic, softly colored and not very loose.]

Portrait, Jan. 5

I fucked up! I didn't draw today. But I spent considerable time photographing work I did in December, and especially on this one, editing it in GIMP. The original looks a bit different. Soooo, this is my portrait for the day. Still though, I'm going to keep on with A Portrait A Day through the rest of the year. [Image: dark turquoise ink sketch on white background of a nude woman from the knees up with her arms crossed looking very in charge].

Friday, January 6, 2012

Dragon Tattoo violence: is it worth it?

There's a post up at What Tami Said about Straw Dogs and the violence therein. She read some reviews that ascribed "challenge" and "lessons learned" to what she saw as basically pointless violence (man I've thought the same so often when reading reviews). She asks, "What criteria are there that confirm whether a piece of art celebrates a negative bit of culture (violence, sexism or regional bias) or instead challenges or analyzes it?"

I haven't seen Straw Dogs but I did just see the American version of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (I saw the first Swedish film in the series a year or so ago). To answer Tami's question, I think a large grey area exists where the interpretation depends more upon the individual viewer than the intentions or skills of the filmmakers. What does the viewer bring to the table? What if the movie makes a real difference to some but most people just have their prejudices confirmed? I'm thinking of films like 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days; maybe possibly The Help; Juno. Is it worth it?

But sometimes it's obvious, at least to me. If the action were happening to a white able-bodied cis etc man would the plot be the same? The camera angles? The music? When something terrible happens to a woman and it's filmed from an imaginary man's point of view-- shot from slightly above, including parts of her body that are unnecessary to the shot, objectifying, etc, that's a tip-off for me. Such a point of view can make even distress that is in no way scintillating, at least tongue-cluckingly condescending rather than empathetic.

Or if a character's experiences are portrayed as part of a "both sides" debate where in real life the person doesn't think of themselves as up for debate, such as Muslim characters in Law & Order who immediately explain their way of life in the context of Western Christian morality to the presumed white Christian viewer for no apparent reason. That just seems too easy to really be "challenging."

Sadly the most challenging thing I can think of films doing in regards to women and minorities is depicting people as fully-formed characters who exist on their own, and to put the audience in their shoes. And it's so rarely done! A catcall filmed with real actual empathy for the victim (and not what the scene means to a presumed white male viewer) would have much more of an impact on me in this sense than a rape scene that objectifies the victim. Because of this I'm wary of films that use big theatrical incidents of -isms rather than banal realities.  I agree with What Tami Said commenter Sparky that such films allow people to say, "well I'm not as bad as that! I'm a good one!"

I thought the Swedish Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a gray area for me. The rape scene could have gone either way but the lingering scene afterward, when she's shaking and smoking alone, clothed, in her apartment was so devastating and and revealing of her experience that I felt a case could be made that the violence served a purpose. The happy sex between Lisbeth and Michael afterward was such a stark contrast I got the message that, "see, this is what sex is supposed to be. Isn't this what we all want for ourselves?" It's a message that needs to be said since rape is equated with sex so freaking often.

A scene from the American GWTDT-- not sure if this is the rape scene or not. But similar camera angle is used.

A scene from Swedish GWTDT. The office sexual assault scene. The camera angle creates empathy with her and objectifies the man for the viewer.

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth. I thought she did a great job. But I wasn't thrilled with the director's decision to emphasize her delicateness with her constantly open lips, bleached eyebrows that make her eyes look more childish, and weight loss for the actress. I'm pretty sure a female audience doesn't need to be constantly reminded that women are still, even with weapons, skillz, genius and a motorcycle, so freaking vulnerable.

But in the American version I was unconvinced that the rape wasn't being glamorized as horror film/thriller smut. Still though, it was somewhat well-done. And then they breezed right though the scene of her alone afterward. Like they were saying the horror of the rape was ONLY the pain and humiliation experienced in the moment... and then it ended when the rape did. Then the happy sex later in the film was objectifying to her only! Besides being a waste of Daniel Craig's naked torso it was like they're talking to a male audience saying, "see, consensual sex can be sexy too." VERY different message. (I know lots of people have completely legitimate disagreements with this interpretation but that's how I see it.)

Some other things irritate me that should be minor but aren't. American Lisbeth has an elaborate new hairstyle for every scene but is never shown fooling with her hair. It's out of character; Swedish Lisbeth has a roll-out-of-bed-and-go cut. American Lisbeth's is slightly freakish; she's a freak on the outside, vulnerable on the inside. Swedish Lisbeth's isn't really that weird; she's passable on the outside, twisted and interesting on the inside. And at the end of the film Swedish Lisbeth lights the villain's car on fire with him inside. American Lisbeth intends to shoot him but-- whoopsie-- the car just bursts into flame on its own accord so... I guess US audiences don't have to grapple with their vulnerable pretty little freak committing baldfaced murder.

Swedish Michael and Lisbeth. Depicts driver and passenger.

American Michael and Lisbeth. Depicts owner and pet.

ETA: Oh and another thing. I HATE when Hollywood hires an actress who looks like a model and then "uglifies" her. What, they're unwilling even to give parts that specifically call for un-model-y women to un-model-y looking actresses? I guess it would be a bad investment; after all, Swedish Lisbeth, who is still quite pretty but not Hollywood-pretty, would never have made the cover of Vogue, and wouldn't be a good investment as far as star power, cause then she can't just dye her eyebrows brown again and go on to star in every other movie that calls for a model-y actress. American GWTDT just had to point out how Lisbeth is really totally pretty by showing her go, step-by-step, through a makeover to become a sexy blonde spy character. Like the audience has taken in a little street urchin into their hearts, and polished her up into a Patriarchy-approved little jewel. "I knew she could do it," we're supposed to think. Vomit.

Oh and another thing. What's this I hear about the costume designer for GWTDT launching a Lisbeth fashion line for H&M?! What's next, rape survivor Happy Meal toys? We'll be sucking down burgers till we collect them all: Gina Davis from Thelma & Louise, Lisbeth from GWTDT, Uma Thurman from Kill Bill, and a teensy little Dakota Fanning from Hounddog! Yeesh, America.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 4

Self-portrait while dying my hair. Marker and chalk pastel, 11 x 14." [Image: head and shoulders of a youngish white woman (me) in loose pastel scribbles. The colors are fauvist but sorta realistic, leaning heavily toward turquoise, black and magenta. White background with a turquoise stripe].

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Portrait, Jan. 3

Another portrait for a client, so posting a detail. [Image: detail of black & white charcoal dog face. Realistic, detailed.]

Portrait, Jan. 2

Another portrait for a client, so just posting a detail of it. [Image: close-up of a wrinkly (bulldog?) puppy face. Realistic, black & white charcoal.]

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Portrait A Day: Jan. 1

This one is for a client and he hasn't seen it yet, so I'll just post a detail. It is my favorite part of the drawing though. It's a small pen sketch. [Image: eye, nose, and forehead of a white man done in thin sketchy black lines on white paper. Drawing is fairly simple and loose.]

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolution: A Portrait A Day

Inspired by Jacob de Graaf's Daily Portrait Project I'm going to draw a portrait every day for a year and post the results on this blog with the label "A Portrait A Day." I may miss posting a few days as I seem to be a magnet for technical difficulties but I will draw everyday and will post make-up portraits. From life or from a photo or possibly from imagination are all ok.

I'm hoping to spend more time actually drawing instead of frittering away my time reading blogs, and to approach more people about drawing them.

So: let's see if I can get a portrait up before midnight.