Meet Eddie Sr.!
Eddie Sr. works in a garage under our building. We have a team of hikers who park and bring up cars in the garage because the space is too small and tight to let amateur drivers, like yours truly, do that. We need professionals. Eddie Sr. parks and delivers my car for me for more than 10 years. It is amazing to see tiny spaces and angles he can fit through. In reverse! I have always liked Eddie. I think he has a wonderful face. Which brings me to an interesting thought.
A few days back a fellow artist Nicola of PointyPix left a comment on this blog. She wrote that I must be living in a very interesting place where I get to meet all these great characters.
I don’t think I live in a very interesting place – it is your regular boring place. Or at least it was until I started this project and began looking for faces to draw. The more I looked – the more interesting people became. I found that if you really look, then you find them – amazingly in the same place where they have been all along.
On the other hand I have to confess to applying a selection to my models. Yes, they are regular people from my regular life, but I realized that I am selecting my subject based on an emotional connection I may feel to him or her, even if they are a stranger. If I don’t have that connection, I am too bored to do a portrait. So it isn’t just anyone.
How do you find and choose your subject? This question is not portrait specific – any subject…
#28 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Stacy is my neighbor from 15B. Stacy is a happy person, cheerful, earnest and expressive. She was very pleased to model for me, and we spend some time visiting, chatting and snapping pictures. She is an experienced model. We have another artist in our building, Michael, an art photographer – Stacy sat for him in the past, and so knew what to expect and what to do.
As a result I had a great selection of references: happy Stacy, posing Stacy, glamorous Stacy, Stacy being clever or amused or coy, she is such an actress – so many expressions. But this Stacy the Drama Queen is my favorite. Here Stacy is distressed over the state of Illinois politics. How do you choose between a thief, a liar and a clinically insane? – she asked me rhetorically. Tough choice indeed. When I brought this question to my husband, he chose a thief. Personally I prefer clinically insane, they all are just that to be in politics. But I am getting to be way too cynical here, and we have voted already anyway.
Stacy’s shirt deserves a word. Usually I am quite loose about drawing clothes in my portraits. I change colors and designs, inverse lights and darks, and use clothes to support what is going in the face without a second thought. Last week however we had a little discussion on WetCanvas about taking artistic license to sitter’s clothes. A little factoid came out: one of the very few commissioned portraits by Modigliani – the Amazon – was refused by the sitter, baroness Marguerite de Hasse de Villiers, not because of the “distorted” likeness, but because Modigliani painted her jacket yellow instead of red. I was so bewildered by this that I took pains to draw Stacy’s blouse exactly. The psychedelic pattern quickly cured me of my temporary insanity.
#27 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Seferino Solis is a part of a construction crew that is working on replacing heat risers in our building. A few weeks ago I brought home some groceries, and as I dragged them to the elevator the elevator’s door started to close. Figures! But for a few moments I still could see the construction team and their equipment, and there in the far corner of the elevator – an aged Zorro. Of course, I had to have his face for the series. I set out on a quest to find him, but it was useless, it is a big building. I was riding elevators and climbing stairs, looking everywhere and listening for power tools – nothing.
So I found Tello. Always get Tello when you have a problem! Tello knew where they were, he took me into the basement and translated for me – Seferino and I have no language in common. Seferino was even more beautiful close than I briefly saw in the elevator. He was also very shy, not used to being treated as a model for art. He kept gesturing that I should take photos of the other young men of the team, and I did – be polite. But their young unlined and shiny faces stood no comparison to his – old and wise and lived in, probably having had a hard life. I can only imagine.
#26 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Natalina is pastry chef and owner of Pasticceria Natalina, an Italian pastry shop in my neighborhood. It is said on the website that they make the best Italian pastries on this side of the Atlantic. But I have to tell you that I have been to Italy and I have not tried anything better there! Natalina’s pastry is the best I ever had anywhere. Made on site in front of you (the kitchen, the shop and cafe are an open space, you can see Natalina and her husband working) the confections are fluffy, light and flaky and are created to delight your senses. And let’s not forget her gelato and cookies! That’s not your usual Chips Ahoy, they are not made to withstand a delivery truck, but to crumble and melt in your mouth and create a taste sensation akin to poetry. And this is from a person that doesn’t like sweets.
This portrait took me longer than usual because of hands. I felt Natalina’s hands were important in this portrait both because of what she does with them and for their expressiveness. When I showed the portrait to George, my drawing teacher, and complained about complexity he asked “Why are you doing this to yourself?!” meaning why add difficulty and time to my already tight schedule. The hands doubled the portrait time. It is a very good question. I guess I am doing this to myself in order to see if I can manage this.
#25 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Meet Mr. Walden!
Willie Walden from 4D is my neighbor. If there is one person in our building that makes you think “Sunshine!” every time you run into him in the elevator – it’s Mr. Walden! With his ever ready smile it seems like he is always happy to see you. Note the signature Fedora. I don’t believe I have ever seen Mr. Walden without one. I even asked once – how come the hat? That’s to greet ladies, he said. Indeed. Mr. Walden always tips his hat to ladies. With his old world charm and manners, opening doors for you, offering to help carry your bags to the elevator, always a gentleman style greeting, always a smile, – Mr. Walden makes my heart melt.
#24 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Tello is an original Mr. Fixit! There’s no better way to describe him. Tello is a building engineer for our 20 story high-rise building. He lives here and for the last 20 years he has been taking care of everything that makes a building: boilers the size of a large truck, miles of windows, acres of floors and walls, an endless maze of pipes, wiring and plumbing, industrial washers and dryers. And a myriad small things: you lost your key – Tello will cut you a new one, your faucet it dripping – Tello will tighten it. If we need something fixed, we go find Tello – it is as good as done. Like replacing a dishwasher that went senile (hear! hear! :D)
I live here since 1994. I watched Tello’s daughters grow up, move away, get married and have children of their own. I saw Tello’s beard turn white over the years. But his clever way of fixing anything and everything, making sure that this building is a home for 90 families has never changed.
When I took this shot Tello was fixing AC piping in our unit. Unknown to us our AC was leaking into the unit downstairs. Tello took care of that. I am sure he also repaired a ruined ceiling in the unit below. This building is our village. And Tello is our handyman. The best!
#23 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook
Theodore, or Ted, is a manager of my favorite Greek grocery store The MarketPlace. The story goes like this. I am worried that I will not be able to come up with 40 faces for my Sketchbook Project. My concern is that I may not know that many people. So I started stopping people in the streets and public places and asking them to pose for my portraits. Generally making a nuisance of myself in the name of Art. So far my rate was about 50%, about half of the people agree to pose for me, bless them. Theodore was the first stranger I approached.
I was standing in line for the register at the MarketPlace when Ted arrived to help bagging groceries. I saw him and had to have his face for my series. He seemed to think it was a strange request, but one has to keep customers happy, and so he obliged. After a couple of shots in the middle dairy aisle he was getting bored, but I didn’t have a shot I wanted yet. To keep him entertained I started telling him what fine man he was and how much he looked like Humphrey Bogart. It was then I got this “Come hither!” look :).
#22 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook.
Phyllis is an artist, a painter and a student in Kaye’s art studio. Phyllis works in abstract style and mixed media. I want to take a moment here and really appreciate Phyllis and her art. Let me explain.
Every 8 or 10 studio sessions we have a discussion / peer review / critique session where we all hang our recent productions on walls and discuss them as a group. For the longest time I had next to nothing to say about Phyllis’ work. As an artist I gravitate to hyper realism; abstract art the farthest on a spectrum for me. At these group discussions I realized that I don’t even have the language, the vocabulary, to talk about abstract art. I had nothing to contribute except an occasional “I like this” or being quiet when I didn’t because I didn’t know how to express what it was I didn’t like.
Thanks to Phyllis and her art this is changing. As I look at her work, hear her thoughts on developing it, listen to Kaye’s suggestions to her I started acquiring some initial understanding and language in the area of abstract imagery. When I like something now, I have some ideas as to why I like it. Last time I even ventured forth with a suggestion on color.
Thank you, Phyllis! Working next to you is a pleasure!
#21 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook.
Mary is a new student in Kaye’s art studio, but her exuberant and fun personality makes it feel like she has always been there. Mary has been an artist her whole life and has taught art in grammar school for many years. She loves working with graphite, charcoal and pastels and is self-admittedly addicted to drawing giant heads – full sheet size. They are spectacular, and for me, who can fit a fully modeled detailed portrait into 5 inch square, are mind-boggling and worth a great deal of respect.
This portrait is also significant because with it I’ve reached a so important milestone of 20 – I am half done. It is all downhill from here.
#20 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook.