mercredi 13 avril 2011

Closerie des Lilas, pt. 1

Click on the pic to see its BIGNESS
On my last night in Paris I took a small sketchbook and pencil to the Closerie des Lilas. The Closerie is a romantic/slightly sleazy old bar/restaurant made famous by Hemingway and his ilk during the '20's. He wrote most of the Sun Also Rises on the Closerie's terrace...the Closerie's closerie, (originally an enclosed garden that bordered a house).

The restaurant's closerie roots live on in the large dining room, (not pictured here), which is situated beneath a slanting greenhouse glass. This drawing is of the bar area, where a vibrant crush takes place on a busy Saturday night. This captures a moment at about 1/3 crush capacity, when hopeful diners are just beginning to congregate, waiting for their tables. Back in the Lost Generation's day it was a not very fancy place, but now it's fancier--tho' not really fancy by fancy restaurant standards. And it's raucous. I took a little table in the dim and with my purple pencil tried to capture as much as quickly as I could.

Now I've gone back and knitted together a bunch of these likeness into a large composition. I tried to get a much more finished drawing than my typical, from-the-hip, captured-from-life brushpen sketches--but without losing the brushpen spontaneity. I learned it's not an easy mix! As you can see, my method is still under development.

Here's a sample of a sketch made from life...

And those same faces in the finished composition (just a small section of a larger piece). I'm esp'ly bummed that the Donald Sutherland-ish man on the left, and the almost Velasquez-esque girl on the right fail in the finished drawing to capture their sketch-essence, (the poor girl went from Velasquez-esque to Reubenesque).

Reproduce: that's the tricky part.

I find it much easier to look at a stranger and make a very quick sketch than to redraw that same likeness a second time without the stranger.

Tho' I'm disappointed with these particular faces, my goal with this piece wasn't individual likenesses, it was linking a bunch of separate sketches into one big cohesive scene.

Oh well, it's a process!

8 commentaires:

  1. This is wonderful. I've spent the last hour, the first hour of my day, looking these over. The final is vibrant and rich, my eyes dance around and sink in to the different characters. It's almost as if I'm sitting in a cafe (as I sip my coffee in real life here in my apartment now), watching people. I can smell the food, perfumes of cologne and coffee and hear the raucous bustle of the scene. I can feel the human electricity; and then your comparisons from antecedents to the final; the fleeting wisps of characters in the sketches and your translations into the final mix ~ love it! Love it. Love it. Love it.

  2. Bri, I am so happy you dig it! That's EXACTLY the feeling I'm hoping to instill. You've made my day, brother!

    I am suddenly gripped by the desire to co-found a coffee bar/bistro with you--we'll call it the Closerie de Chino!

  3. Incredible piece. Are you cutting, pasting the sketches into a composition, printing that and then light tabling for the inks? Whatever you are doing, it's killer. This is textbook "follow your bliss" stuff. You do enough of these and you'll never be expected to do anything else as a living.

  4. Merci monsieur Ellis!!

    (I went over this at the TAG blog, but for those who might enjoy further explanation:) I'm not cutting and pasting these sketches together, but I think maybe I should!

    What I did was collect my sketches from that night at the restaurant, grab a blank piece of bristol and begin penciling in a composition that I thought would work with the figures I had. All I knew was I wanted something panoramic.

    I tried to leave the faces pretty loose so that once I pulled out the brush pen, I wouldn't feel that all the work had been done and I would just be inking a pencil (a la comic book style)--I wanted to get as much spontaneity into the finish as I could.

    But this was a hair-raising way to do the thing!

    (And this is not to denigrate comic book inkers, a group of artist I hold in genuinely high esteem--I think it's extraordinarily hard to do great inking over tight pencils! But it's a skill I don't have.)

    I made lots of mistakes my way--and still not so very spontaneous! If I'd been more concerned with exact likeness as opposed to capturing a "feel", I'd have done tighter pencils and inked them more meticulously. Next time....

    One thing about the composition: I hadn't consciously intended this, but the viewpoint is exactly from where I sat while sketching. I was sitting at a table between the foreground woman sitting down (with the purse problem), and the "artiste" in the lower rt hand corner (dude in the vest).

    The waiter all the way to the left is doing that thing they do in these tight brasseries: he is pulling out madame's table so she can slide into the booth (as depicted). I was seated in a chair almost opposite her at my own little micro-table. Seriously, she was no more than two feet away from me. I had food from my fellow diner's plates land in my sketchbook that night!

    To be totally honest (and again, this stems from stitching together a bunch of disparate sketches), it was a different party on my right--the artiste sat on the opposite side of the banquette, like the lovers--but I wanted him more showcased in the big ink, so I moved him next to me and did a more frontal angle (with mixed results).

    The problem always is that while at a restaurant, I lack the nerve to draw the people closest to me--people who can see what I'm doing. The people who actually sat on my right--a party of four, an adult couple out with the husband's parents--they kept checking in on my work--they were nice about it, but I felt they were monitoring me to make sure I didn't try to steal their likeness as much as anything.

    And on top of that, I felt very self-conscious sitting in this fancy restaurant drawing. As more and more of the Saturday night crowd came in, and the wait became longer and longer, I felt less and less comfortable holding a table. Eyebrows were being raised....

    And I definitely couldn't draw the woman with the purse--she really didn't like me. So I just drew her in my head!

    Thanks again for the kind words--so glad you like it! Follow my bliss indeed--sitting in a Parisian bar with a purple pencil!

  5. Much more impressive to completely transfer via observation of the old sketch. You might play with light tabling some day and see if that strikes you as a way to keep it fresh. You could have the whole big, casual mess composed in a print out. Have your originals still around for ref, but be inking and inventing straight to the board.

  6. Ellis, you're cracking me up. Yes, I've done the light-boxing. I am going to experiment with this stuff...maybe do a pencil from my source sketches, scan it, fine-tune it in PhoSho, then print a ghost blue on some bristol adn ink it.

    "Casual mess" captures my process!

  7. Fuck, yeah man, Le Closerie de Chino, en Chino. I have a hard time seeing it. Paris sounds much sexier. Fuck all that tracing photoshop bullshit, imho. This here is more like jazz, I really dig the freedom in it. Gather forms, beautiful, cool sources, and orchestrate them into some great flowing composition. Any step you take away from the source, it's gonna change, governed by whatever you imagine and your limitations and whatever you can put into it; and it's you, you know? You got the gestalt o'god flowin' through it and it's fucking great. I don't mind the transformations; yeah, ok, she had to go reubenesque, I don't think woulda worked well any skinnier or lithe; she's still sorta sultry and powerful, and, yeah, balances the composition, which was your goal, eh? She's holdin' it down on the right side.
    It wouldn't look or feel so nice if it were a photograph. Although the ellen degeneres-looking person at the bar wouldn't seem as if they had six fingers on their gloved hand. Unless, of course, the individual HAD SIX FINGERS, which happens, in Paris, which could come in handy in a pinch, I imagine.
    I say go with the freer things. Keep it free. Gather the forms and work 'em, because you do it so well. Also, keep the comparative blogs going because I really enjoy seeing the process, you know, hearing about and seeing the source and the transmogrificationums (so sic) to final object.
    Reading your well-written thoughts on it brings your heartfelt shortcomings into the final work for me, it makes me think, for one, about your process; you know, I ask myself, "why did he make her rubenesque?" I look at her, dig her beauty (in both examples), and guess (satisfactorily to myself) that in the final, she worked better larger; she just fits there like she is, as you presented her. It's almost like a wide angle lens in a photograph, she would have been stretched out anyway (which I know from previous experience with you in auto-photos in the LA Mountains y'ain't so fond of such simple distortions, and I can picture a wince).
    Man, I could go on and on about the Final. 22 faces; all of the different expressions, different impressions of real individuals filtered through you and organized into this creation which has so much motion and character.
    Geeze, man, please keep doin' it. I like it. I like it a lot. I walked by this place a few times the only time I was in Paris and could feel the draw of it; but I didn't live there. I think I was drawn towards the older places in my short time there, big stones, old art; and the trains. I love the trains in Paris.

  8. I wondered if anybody'd notice the six fingers!

    That's my nod to the Futurists--y'know, movement and persistence of vision and all that...(you're crackin' me up!).

    Love yr thoughts here, Bri. I will definitely keep going on this. Oh, I have lots to share... and it's so true, I really need to do something with the trains!