Friday, March 24, 2017

Visitors and a Violin

A pocket sketchbook can provide all sorts of opportunities for drawing or painting, provide material for larger studio works, and at minimum gives the artist something to do when not otherwise occupied. In effect the sketchbook is a portable studio, memory device and practice environment.

Here are a couple of quick watercolor and ink sketches from the last month or so.

A pair of deer--one a full-grown doe, the other a yearling--bedded down across my creek a few days back, sunning themselves and taking turns sleeping. I live only a few minutes from the center of our downtown, but my creek and woods make it seem more like wilderness. These deer range through here and in an arboretum/flood plain less than a mile away. They travel along a number of small watercourses like ours that feed into a small lake next to the Racoon River, so we see them quite often. They pause in their constant migration along the trees and water to bed down for a quick rest or nap. Sometimes one will tuck her head down onto a shoulder while the others remain vigilant. The majority of our deer are does, only rarely does a buck come along. I don't know if these two have been here before, but they certainly seemed at home as they rested and napped next to a couple of spruces across the creek from the studio.

What produces the ineffable sound of a fine stringed instrument? Why does a Stradivarius sound so outstanding when a similar violin of a similar age might only be adequate? Many have tried to distill the essence of a Strad, but none have duplicated it. Some say that Guarneri and Amati produced comparable or superior instruments--Paganini supposedly played a Guarneri--but none have exceeded the sound quality.

Pondering the differences among instruments built by those famous luthiers sent me searching for photos of outstanding examples, and from there came the drawing (left) "Not a Strad," which is the literal truth. The instrument in my photo reference was a Guarneri. I doubt that most of us could tell the difference between this violin or a more common one simply by looking, or probably even by holding it. Stringed instruments, large or small, have such graceful curves and scrollwork that they always draw me in. Never having drawn or painted a violin, I concentrated hard on angles, relationships, and big shapes to make a fairly detailed drawing across two pages. Next I painted the big shapes in full color, then smaller and smaller patches as well as markings, and finally a few lines here and there with a technical pen.

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