Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Agent of Change

That's enough silverpoint for the moment. Here's one of the Entropy Drawings that I did a while ago (a month or so) that I at first rejected, then I looked at it again the other day & decided it might work:

Agent of Change, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 23.5" x 18". It relates thematically to the figure drawing "Future Human", also in the series.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Head of a Young Man

Again, in silverpoint:

Head of a Young Man, 2009, silverpoint on prepared card (enhanced in Photoshop), 11" x 8.5".

The main problem with tonal drawing (for me) is to keep it loose & free-flowing whilst darkening the image with successive layers of shading. A lot of the subtlety has been lost, of course, between the scanning & the Photoshopping, but I guess it's the elusive lightness of touch that is hard to maintain...

Profile of a Man

New silverpoint:

Profile of a Man, 2009, silverpoint on prepared card (enhanced in Photoshop), 11" x 8.5".

Loosening up again...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Large Head with Closed Eyes

Another reworked silverpoint I started a few days ago:

Large Head with Closed Eyes, 2009, silverpoint enhanced in Photoshop, 11" x 8.5".

It's interesting to a) dredge up these images from my subconscious or visual memory or whatever, & b) to return to them & rework them when the original image was not quite up to the mark. Silverpoint allows me to do this, as the initial image can be quite faint, & the layering of strokes creates the lines & forms.

This & the preceding image seem to me to be at once naive, medieval & modern (whatever those terms mean) all at once, which can't be all bad.

The Horns of the Minotaur

An old friend in silverpoint (#29):

The Horns of the Minotaur, 2009, silverpoint on prepared card, 11" x 8.5".

Almost let this one go as a very loose sketch, but I came back to it & rendered it more fully.


A new head done in silverpoint:

Song, 2009, silverpoint on prepared card (enhanced in Photoshop), 11" x 8.5".

It's a strangely compelling image that almost calls to you from across the room.

I did consider calling the piece "Scream", or "Pain" or something, but the positive side won out, I think. It's interesting how a title can change perception of a work. If the title were lost, what would it be called?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Emerging Into Light

Silverpoint with contrast increased in Photoshop:

Emerging Into Light, 2009, silverpoint on prepared card, 11" x 8.5".

Although it has a few flaws, I'm happy with the way light cascades in this one.

Head of Achilles

Here is silverpoint drawing #19:

Head of Achilles, 2009, silverpoint on prepared card (contrast enhanced in Photoshop), 11" x 8.5".

I'm restricting myself to only posting the better silverpoint drawings here. All of them (probably) will eventually find themselves on the Silverpoint a Day blog. I must say that I'm learning a lot from this exercise, about drawing, structure & so on. I'm also finding ways of integrating my regular themes (mythology & so forth) into this series.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Profile of an Old Man

Silverpoint drawing #14:

Profile of an Old Man, 2009, silverpoint on prepared card (enhanced in Photoshop for contrast), 11" x 8.5". Riffing on Leonardo.

I think I'm starting to get the hang of this silverpoint stuff. This will be posted in due course on the silverpoint blog. It may have darkened sufficiently by then.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Narcissus Approaches the Pool

This is another enhanced silverpoint:

Narcissus Approaches the Pool, 2009, silverpoint on prepared paper (contrast boosted in Photoshop), 11" x 8.5".

I'm partly using the silverpoint series to run through old themes. I've done a number of Narcissus images over the years, usually in a fetal kind of position. This is a bit different. Maybe I'll make it into a painting...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

With Eyes Downcast

This is a silverpoint that I did this morning, then scanned it in & cranked up the contrast in Photoshop:

With Eyes Downcast, 2009, silverpoint on prepared paper, 11" x 8.5". Click the image for a better view.

Of course, silverpoints by their nature are quite faint & subtle, so by increasing the contrast in Photoshop I've turned it into something else. However, I kind of liked the way it looked altered like that.

Update July 2, 2009: This drawing has been reworked tonally. Here it is, with the contrast also boosted in Photoshop, as above:

The Lair of Cyclops

Cyclops says hello:

The Lair of Cyclops, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 23.5" x 18".

For more images of Cyclops, please see my other blog.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Medusa's Gaze

Another new large drawing:

Medusa's Gaze, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 23.5" x 18".

For more images of Medusa, please see my other blog.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Head for (and of) Eternity

New drawing of a head:

Head for (and of) Eternity, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 23.5" x 18".

I guess I was aiming for some kind of combination of youth and experience...the photo of the drawing is not very good, as I had to shoot it inside under artificial light...it's raining heavily right now.

Third Silverpoint Drawing

A more sketchy one:

Man with Eyes Raised, Mouth Open, 2009, silverpoint on prepared card, 11" x 8.5". This is probably the last silverpoint I'll post here until they're ready for the new blog. Again, this has been enhanced in Photoshop so that you can actually see it relatively clearly. I'm hoping that the oxidized drawing will be darker than this -- I'm trying to be conservative in my estimation of the final result.

The prototype for this depiction of a head can be seen in my own work in my 2004 drawing, Blind Singer. The inspiration can also perhaps be found in other artists' work, from Leonardo's studies of grotesque heads to Jean Delville's drawing Parisfal.

Here is the drawing with the contrast mazimized:

The oxidized silverpoint drawing will probably never achieve this level of contrast, this is presented here to show the image more clearly.

Strange Formation

This is my second drawing in silverpoint:

Strange Formation, 2009, silverpoint on cardboard with prepared ground, 9" x 8.25" approx.

Of course, I've had to darken the image as the silverpoint has not oxidized yet (a process which can take weeks or months, apparently). I enhanced this in Photoshop using a photo adjustment layer & a bit of sepia tone to simulate the changes that occur in the silver traces that constitute the drawing. When the actual darkening process reaches maturity, I'll try to remember to scan in the piece at that stage.

The subject matter: I've always been fascinated by the strange rocky outcroppings seen especially in old Flemish/Netherlandish paintings. The Netherlands is, as any fule kno, a relatively flat country, so the grotesque & fantastic rock formations are a kind of wistful imagining of countries like Italy, where the painters had actual mountains to draw upon for inspiration. This kind of vaguely anthropomorphic formation also reminds me of the Isle of the Dead (again) and the Extersteine in Germany, a place I've never visited, but would like to, since I saw it on TV as a child & it immediately embedded itself in my visual memory.

BTW, the piece of cardboard that the above was drawn on, was taken from the back cover of an old, incomplete sketchbook. You can see my other blog, if you'd like a glimpse of what was in the sketchbook.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Conjurer, upgraded

I decided that yesterday's drawing needed just a little more work:

The Conjurer, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 23.5" x 18".

Some of the differences are quite subtle, but I think the upgrade was worth it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Conjurer

Here is the finished drawing from last night's sketch:

The Conjurer, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 23.5" x 18".

I tried to refrain from over-drawing this one, by which I mean I have a tendency to try & fill every square inch of the drawing with lines & hatching. I think it works pretty well, though I may revert to my usual style for other pieces.

My first silverpoint drawing

This is my first time using silverpoint:

Man's Head and Mountains, 2009, silverpoint on prepared card, 11" x 8.5". The image is quite faint, the silver traces do not pick up well unaided on the scanner. This image also makes it clear that I need to clean the glass on my scanner (there are 3 dark dots that are not on the original drawing)...

The piece has to be allowed to oxidize or "bloom" -- apparently putting it in the sun will accelerate the process. The drawing is made by scraping a thin piece of silver wire held in a stylus across paper prepared with a coat of gesso. When the silver oxidizes, it allegedly darkens & takes on a brownish hue -- I will allow this to happen & then post the results here. In the meantime, so you can actually see the piece, I've boosted the contrast digitally:

This drawing will shortly be added to the new "Silverpoint A Day" blog project I'm doing with James L. Stevenson. Probably when it oxidizes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sketch for The Conjurer

Coming soon:

It's late, I'm bleary eyed, I'm off to bed. See you in the morning.

All Souls

Not sure about this one:

All Souls, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 23.5" x 18". Click for larger.

I think I need to take a better photo. Will replace. [replaced]

The Ship of Fools (again)

I wasn't entirely happy with yesterday's version (see below), so I returned closer to the earlier pencil sketch version I liked:

The Ship of Fools, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 23.5" x 18".

The earlier sketch:

The Ship of Fools (sketch 2), 2009, pencil on paper, 11" x 8.5".

I was feeling that the previous version was getting too cluttered...truth is, though, there are elements in both that I like. The new version is a better drawing, I think, with fewer obvious flaws (though the other one was more of a working sketch.) I will just have to paint it (monochrome, I think) on a large scale & work it out from there. I hope to start that process soon.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ship of Fools - large working drawing

After a brief interlude, we return to serious business:

Ship of Fools (working drawing), 2009, brush & ink on paper, 23.5" x 18".

I'm going to put this piece in the Entropy Drawings series for now, though it's not technically a finished piece, rather an extended sketch. Still, I think it might fit, thematically & stylistically. Time will tell, as usual.

Note: as you may be able to see, there is no water.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Alone on the Island of the Dead

The color version (see drawing in previous post):

Alone on the Island of the Dead, 2009, acrylic on cardboard, 7.5" x 10.5" approx.

That should be enough to get the image out of my system. The colors are actually richer & darker than above, I scanned this on my scanner -- it might have been better to take a photo. I'll try that later when I get a chance...

This version is a simplified version of Arnold Böcklin's original painting of the Isle of the Dead. The main change to the composition has been to move the white-shrouded figure from the boat (removed) onto the island itself. I tried to keep as much of the atmosphere of the original as I could, though this is a much smaller & looser painting than Böcklin's versions.

I remembered the other day that the small painting below also contains a tiny version of Böcklin's Isle of the Dead:

Looking Out to Sea, 2004, acrylic on plywood, 9" x 8" approx.

On the Island of the Dead

I blame Pascal Lecocq for this:

On the Island of the Dead, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 14" x 17". Click image for a better view.

I've spent the last several days looking over his web site dedicated to Arnold Böcklin's painting, the Isle of the Dead, inlcuding many other versions of the piece, by Pascal and other artists. Now I find the image is stuck in my head, so I thought the best way to get it out would be to make a version of the image (see below a couple of posts for the original painting), which explains the drawing above. I don't usually do exact or even close copies of other artists' work, but I've made an exception in this case (I have altered the composition a little bit.)

I may even do a small color painting...

The Origin of the Sphinx

Here's a little painting I did fairly recently that I hadn't posted here:

The Origin of the Sphinx, 2009, acrylic on board, 8" x 10".

I've always been intrigued by the Sphinx, though I've never been to Giza, or even Egypt (yet). I downloaded a screensaver from National Geographic a while ago, which cycles through various photos of archaeological sites, & the Sphinx & pyramids are one of the images, so I see the image very often. Also, I recently read about a new book that suggests the Sphinx wasn't always a pharaoh-headed lion creature, and also possibly explains the water erosion that have made some people think that it is much older than previously thought. However, aside from all of that, here is my interpretation.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wang Chung & Ship of Fools

This morning I was driving my daughter to school in the car because it was raining (as opposed to when I drive her to school because it isn't raining) & the Wang Chung song "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" came on the radio:

On the edge of oblivion
All the world is Babylon
And all the love and everyone
A ship of fools sailing on

Which reminded me that I'm supposed to be working on my Ship of Fools painting (see sketches somewhere below). I'm not a big Wang Chung fan, though I've heard that song a number of times & mostly noticed that they managed to get the name of the band into the chorus lyrics. This time, however, the Ship of Fools line stood out, reminding me what I'm supposed to be working on...

Böcklin's Isle of the Dead

While we're on the subject of Böcklin's Isle of the Dead (see previous post), I thought I should show the painting here, so that we know what we're talking about:

Isle of the Dead, 1880, by Arnold Böcklin.

The power of the painting somehow resides in the combination of mystery & majesty; gloomy yet glowing lighting, the dark sky & water, the cypress trees & the shrouded figure on the boat, & the sense of stillness & the inevitable calm of death. The center of the painting is a dark void formed by the murky cypress trees. The piece is dense with atmosphere, and the work has become an icon of sorts to many.

As noted before, Pascal Lecocq's web site features the 4 still existing of the 5 versions that Böcklin painted, plus Pascal's own interpretations, and also those of many other artists, living & dead, ranging from almost straight pastiches to more imaginitive & obscure versions, homages & inspirations.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Homage to Böcklin

I just became Facebook friends with Pascal Lecocq today. Pascal is an artist ("the Painter of Blue") and runs a web site dedicated to the Isle of the Dead painting by the Swiss Symbolist painter Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901). The Isle of the Dead is a haunting, atmospheric picture depicting an island with rock-hewn tombs, cypress trees & an approaching boat with a shrouded figure, an oarsperson, and a casket, presumably bearing a body to be interred in a tomb on the island. It's always been a favorite painting of mine, despite Böcklin perhaps not being in the first rank, artistically speaking. He painted 5 versions of the image, of which 4 survive, and, perhaps more importantly, inspired many other artists (Dali, de Chirico, Max Ernst, to name a few) & composers (Rachmaninoff, Reger, Huber) to create works based on or inspired by the Isle of the Dead.

Homage to Böcklin, 2002, brush & ink on paper, 9" x 7".

A few years ago, I sent Pascal a drawing entitled "Homage to Böcklin", for possible inclusion on his web site. For some reason, the drawing languished in a pile of things to do. However, today, after we became Facebook buddies, I resent the image, & it is now on his web site here. So, please visit his site, & see the work of Böcklin, as well as many interpretations by Pascal himself, and many other artists. Thanks again to Pascal for putting my drawing on his site.


New drawing of a head (companion piece to "Pensive" in a previous post, about 4 posts back):

Anxiety, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 17" x 14".

The title suggested itself to me. The imaginary landscape suggested in the background makes me think I should do some more of those (without the head in there...)

Young Woman with Long Hair and Closed Eyes

Another new drawing from the series of heads:

Young Woman with Long Hair and Closed Eyes, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 17" x 14".

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Note: older works to be posted on my other blog/copyright issues

Posting older works & pieces from my archives:

This is just to mention that I'm going to keep this blog as exclusively as possible for new works, works-in-progress & news. Older works will be posted on my other blog to avoid confusion (or, possibly, create more). The decision to post older works was inspired by various factors, for example my access to & proficiency with technology has gradually gotten better over the years, so older pieces may not have been photographed or scanned at all, or have been done so using older, low-resolution devices. So, in many cases, I'm photographing or scanning works that were never cataloged and also taking better photos or scans where the existing versions were of suboptimal quality.

I was also inspired to dig out some older pieces, especially the mythological ones, after finding them reproduced on various web sites and blogs, for example here (Narcissus), here (Leda) and here (Oedipus). I have found many other such examples over the years. Many of my older pieces merit further exposure, it seems. (It's not just older pieces, works done in the last few years have also been "borrowed", but of course it takes a while for people to stumble upon things & use them, so the older ones tend to get more visibility.)

Here are the pieces mentioned above (I realize that I'm breaking my new rule about posting older works on my new blog, but there you are, it was bound to happen):

Narcissus, 1991.

Leda, 1992.

Oedipus, 1992.

Copyright issues:

I don't mind too much if people use my work on their blogs or web sites, as long as:

-- attribution (& a link, to www.ayton.net, preferably) is given to the artist ("William T. Ayton")
-- the work is not modified in any way (includes cropping, color correction, manipulation with filters in Photoshop, etc)
-- the work is not being offered for sale in some way (book cover, t-shirt, CD-Rom of images, etc)
-- the work is not displayed in a context that would be in any way detrimental -- for example (but not limited to) in a pornographic, graphically violent, or similarly inappropriate context
-- I would also appreciate knowing where & when someone has used my art, rather than finding out about it weeks, months or years later via a Google search
-- there are probably other ways & situations that I wouldn't want my work displayed not covered by the above, so if in doubt, please ask & I will advise

My artworks are all copyright to myself & definitely not in the public domain. However, I feel that using unaltered low-resolution images on the web for non-profit purposes constitues fair usage in many cases. It also helps my work reach a wider public, which I am in favor of.

Link: aytonart.wordpress.com

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Pale Eyes

Yet another new one...I'm gradually getting where I want to be with these:

Pale Eyes, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 17" x 14".


A new drawing that I kept looser:

Pensive, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 17" x 14".

Head of a Young Woman

Another new drawing of a woman's head:

Head of a Young Woman, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 17" x 14".

Nothing much to say about this one.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Woman's Head and Mountains

A new ink drawing that came out quite well, I think:

Woman's Head and Mountains, 2009, brush & ink on paper, 17" x 14". Not drawn from life, of course. I don't usually do profile heads. Makes me realize I'm just scratching the surface, here, in some ways...

This is dedicated to the young lady from Estonia who wrote a short while ago, asking if I ever did "beautiful" work. This may be a little bit melancholy for her, but this is for you, Windmill.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Ship of Fools sketch 2

Here's a more developed sketch of the Ship of Fools idea a couple of posts below:

Ship of Fools sketch 2, 2009, pencil on paper (contrast adjusted in Photoshop using auto levels), 11" x 8.5".

Obviously, the figures are more human-like, & the rocks on the horizon have become buildings...

Another head

Another pencil sketch of a head, possibly for the Ship of Fools:

Head (for Ship of Fools), 2009, pencil on paper, 11" x 8.5".

I'm using Zebra #2 mechanical pencils, for anyone who's interested in that sort of thing.

Pencil sketch of a head

Here's another pencil sketch, possibly for the Ship of Fools image (below):

Pencil sketch of a head, 2009, pencil on paper, 11" x 8.5". I didn't adjust the contrast on this one (see Ship of Fools image below), this is the way the image came off of my scanner.

For a long time, I've mostly been avoiding using pencils in my work, as the contrast is not so crisp, & they get muddy easily. However, it strikes me that those are qualities (lack of contrast, muddiness) that can actually be useful sometimes. Pencil work is a lot more spontaneous than ink work, in most cases.

Sketch for The Ship of Fools

Since I haven't been able to get out to my studio & work much recently, due to family visits, sick kids, wallowing in nostalgia (see posts below) & so forth, I felt compelled to grab a piece of the nice "fine granite" printer paper & a pencil or two & sketch out an idea that's been gestating inside my head (as they tend to do) for a while now for a large (maybe epic) piece. The subject matter might have been a little more appropriate a few months ago (the ship of state sinking, lunatics at the helm) if you get my drift (sic, ha ha), but it's a universal motif & you can bet that somewhere right now there are a bunch of fools in a ship (as it were) heading for the brink of disaster...or something like that. Anyway, here you go:

Clicking the pic will give you a bigger view. You'll have to use the back arrow on your browser to get back here, however. But, you probably know that already. I'm just saying.

Sketch for The Ship of Fools, 2009, pencil on paper, 11" x 8.5". I did increase the contrast in Photoshop for visibility, btw. Done on the kitchen counter, like the real pros do (note the surprising lack of coffee stains). I may develop the figures into more "human" forms, also they are rather static. I've done this subject before, but in some ways, this version is more literal, tho still allegorical...

I should perhaps mention that Bosch did my favorite version of The Ship of Fools.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

More rarities & oddities from the archives...

I was looking through some folders & portfolios in my studio today & found a few interesting pieces from years gone by, so I've scanned them in:

The Minotaur, circa 2002 (maybe -- not signed or dated), pen & ink on paper, 6" x 5" approx.

Man With a Reassembled Face, 2002, ink on paper, 6" x 5" approx.

Rocky, Amorphous Landscape, 1992, brush & ink on paper, 11.5" x 8.25" approx.

Back of a Woman's Head, 1992, pencil on paper, 11.5" x 8.25" approx. Darkened in Photohsop to enhance contrast.

Crashed, 2002, brush & ink on paper, 11.5" x 8.25" approx.

Rejected wraparound magazine cover, 2003. 2 separate colored drawings, each is 11" x 8.5", permanent marker & acrylic on paper, scanned in & reunited in Photoshop. I always liked this one. It was rejected because it didn't look much like the Hudson Valley (which is fair enough -- it was for a Hudson Valley magazine, now defunct), so I did another one that they did use. The images don't line up perfectly -- that's mostly the fault of the quickie low-res scan job I just did [note: since writing this, I've updated the image with a better version]. Also, the seam would occur on the spine of the magazine, so that would lessen the effect.

I have quite a few more pieces that I could scan in & put up here. Some of them are slightly too big for my scanner, so those will have to wait. Also, I need to get back to creating some new pieces, so I'll put up more rarities at some point in the (near) future.