Sunday, April 28, 2019

Energizing. Frustrating. Life-Changing.

O, M, double G—the exquisite sketchbooks of M Louise Stanley, a few of which I saw on exhibit last Friday at the Richmond Art Center in Richmond, CA. Her exhibit, “Faces Without Noses,” only runs through this May 17, 2019, but some of her sketchbook spreads can be found here

Viewing the exhibit filled me with such energy that I rushed home and created the image above, based on one of her drawings. What she wrote below on her web site gave me full permission to imitate her work:  

In 1983, I received my first National Endowment for the Arts Grant and spent nine weeks in Europe beginning in London moving on to France, Spain, Italy and Greece. With very little research under my belt and no language skills, I followed the grand tour blindly trying to make sense of it all. One day while standing in front of Giotto's 'Death of Saint Francis' it hit me that as long as I was looking at a painting, drawing from a painting, or just plain painting, I was home and in the best company. It was on that first trip that I began an ongoing dialog with my favorite dead artists through sketchbooks and studies of their work. I wanted to 'own' the experience of having made the painting by tracing the artist's steps in my sketchbook. Turning these pages I can hear the ambient bird-songs, traffic, and conversations that accompanied me as I worked. On the road I draw in museums, paint on location over lunch and copy the post cards in my hotel room at night adding gouache and gold leaf. I collect ugly babies, bloody feet, architectural embellishments and document the antics of my fellow travelers. At home these books are my 'visual laboratory', the research for my paintings. “

I’ve had these rushes of energy before when visiting art exhibits, followed by that feeling of wanting to rush home to paint or draw, followed by feelings of frustration when what I produce falls so short of the mark I carried home in my mind. Still, this exhibit challenges me to get serious, finally, about a daily sketchbooking habit. Having a sometimes demanding day job is not an excuse. Same with having just moved half a country away from the state I lived in for sixty-plus years. No excuses, Suzanne!

This exhibit feels life-changing. As Michelangelo is said to have said to a student, “Draw Antonio, draw Antonio, draw and do not waste time.” I’ve gotta step up my game. Regular sketchbooking--and yes, imitating other artists sometimes--points the way.  

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