Wanderings of an artist in the trenches.

Archive for September, 2014

Limiting the Lines


 
 
Readers of this blog will recall that I was invited to Germany to work on the Black.Light project with several international artists. You can read the account of that trip here:
 
 
While there I got to meet Danijel Zezelj whose work I have loved for quite awhile, and watch him at work with his rollers and acrylic paint. I was struggling with a way to approach the work I was to do for that project because I didn’t want to just do what I normally do.
 
Upon arriving there I immediately fell into just doing pen and ink drawings. And they were fine, but they weren’t killing me. They didn’t capture the raw and brutal nature of the genocide. I wanted something much more simple and blunt. I had been working with putty knives at home and asked if they would take me to get a set.
 
That was a transformative decision for me. Because I couldn’t noodle with a putty knife the work took on a more direct and edgy feel. They were so much more suggestive than the pen drawings I was doing. I felt very good at that point about where I was headed. I felt that I had found something that almost felt tribal, like cave paintings.

George Pratt – 15 black lines, 8 white

Watching Danijel work with the rollers was mesmerizing and took me back to printmaking days and my work with monotypes. Upon returning home I got my rollers from my print studio and began attacking the final Black.Light pieces with both rollers and putty knives. I was very happy with the results. Danijel is certainly the master of the rollers and I’m so appreciative that he turned me onto them again. They’re the perfect counterpoint to detail.

George Pratt – 15 black lines with roller

I teach an Advanced Representational Drawing class and got the students messing with the rollers and the putty knives. I was very apprehensive the first time out with them on those tools. I really thought it was going to turn into a cluster. But they clicked right into it and were quickly doing some of what I believe are their best drawings. It forces them to simplify.

The problem I ran into the other day was that the students all seemed to be falling into a mode where they were trying to do basically greyscale paintings. As a result the drawings suffered. They weren’t really “seeing” what was in front of them because they were too busy trying to blend everything and take it to some place more like painting. Lots of fixing going on rather than trusting in the marks the were making. Lots of blending and softening and what they would end up with was a tepid, sort of lackadaisical drawing that wasn’t really a drawing and wasn’t really a painting.

George Pratt – 15 black lines with roller

So I made them stop and squeeze out only black acrylic. I told them they could use fifteen lines with only a roller and black. Each mark could be something like five to eight inches long, depending on how long the paint would hold out, which wasn’t long. Lots of groans. Haha! But they dug in.

George Pratt – 15 black lines with roller


George Pratt – 15 black lines and 5 white lines with roller

The pose ended up being something like eight- to ten minutes. One student, as you’ll see, kept count of the strokes on the side of his drawings.

Student Mark O. working in class


George Pratt

 

Student Sam W. working in class.


Student Brooke S. working in class.

 

George Pratt – 15 black lines and 5 white lines with roller

This was a wakeup call for the students. Suddenly each mark had to mean something. They had to be frugal and zero in on the best use of each mark. What they couldn’t do was to cover up their mistakes or, to quote Scott Hampton, polish turds.

George Pratt – 15 black lines and 5 white lines with roller

They were the best drawings they’d done. Everyone was surprised (except me).

Alex Pitthan’s 15 black lines


Mark Orzechowski’s 15 lines.


Mark Orzechowski


Mark Orzechowski


Rachel Ciaramella


Gabriel Gomez


Gabriel Gomez

So we did that for awhile, then I told them they could have fifteen strokes with black and five strokes with white, using only a roller. Now they were excited and dove right in. Again, beautiful drawings resulted. No longer were they meandering around being noncommittal. The lines they were putting down were to the point and essential. 

Mark Orzechowski

Today we did it all again, but they could have eight white lines instead of just five.

It will now be interesting to see where this newfound confidence leads them in other media.

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Johnny Winter February 23, 1944 – July 16, 2014


Johnny Winter by George Pratt for d’Addario Guitar Strings

 

This was originally written and posted on Facebook. I’ve added a little here and there and am including some images from my sketchbooks.

Saddened by the death of Johnny Winter.

I’m from the same hometown of Beaumont, Texas and was incredibly fortunate to get to meet Johnny at his home in New York in the 1990’s.

Johnny Winter Rehearsing

I was working on my blues book and a friend of my mother said I should talk to Johnny Winter about the book. I didn’t know if she was serious or not. But she immediately called Johnny’s mother and mentioned to her that Johnny and I should get together. I thought that would be the end of that.

Johnny Winter Rehearsing

 However, when I got back to New York there was a message on my answering machine: “Hi, this is Johnny Winter and my mom says I should call you.” I was flabbergasted.

And in the strange way that synchronicity works I was called the next day by the art director for d’Addario Guitar Strings to do a portrait of Johnny for a calendar and poster they were producing. I sent my sketches to them which they routed past Johnny’s agent who did not like them. I called Johnny and asked him if I could just run the sketches by him personally. He agreed and had me come to his home.

 He and his wife were so warm, friendly and generous! I talked with Johnny about my book and then showed him the sketches for the d’Addario piece. He picked one out that he liked and I said I’d do a painting of that one. “What if I don’t like the finish?” He asked. I told him I’d do another one until he was satisfied.

While I was there I played Johnny a recording I had made of Jack Owens who was living in Bentonia, Mississippi, where Skip James was from. Before listening to the piece Johnny mentioned that some people claim that the dirt in that town contributed to Skip James great voice and playing, but he felt that it was just Skip James. After listening to Jack play the song Johnny exclaimed, “Man, I’ve got to go to Bentonia and roll around in that dirt!” It was fun, because I had played Jack (93 years old at the time) some of Johnny’s music and he loved it. “He’s a note man, like me!”

Jack Owens, Bentonia, Mississippi, 1993

 I went home and painted the piece. In order to get his approval on the finish, Johnny said I should bring the painting to his rehearsal at Sony Records. I was psyched! I dragged the painting, which was a large oil, on the subway to the recording studio and he ended up loving it, as did his agent who was also there.

 Johnny told me to just hang out while they rehearsed. I was walking on air! I got a private 3- to 4-hour concert of Johnny and his band jamming like you wouldn’t believe. In-between songs he would tell stories about all the old bluesmen and their songs. Just incredible. While I listened I filled a sketchbook with drawings. They’re simple sketches, more about the energy rather than me trying to really capture a likeness. But I thought I’d throw some of them out here for you to see.

 When Steve Budlong, James McGillion and I finished our blues documentary we entered it into the New York International Independent Film Festival and invited Johnny to the screening. Our minds were blown when he actually came, stepping out of a limo and sitting down to watch our film. We won Best Feature Documentary at that festival.

Johnny’s playing is amazing and so unique. I love the way he belted out his voice, always reaching, never settling. Always giving it his all.

He’ll definitely be missed!

PS: An aside about the painting for d’Addario. The painting was purchased by d’Addario for their collection, but was in the Society of Illustrators show that year and published in their annual. When I went to pick the piece up I left the Society, which is uptown Manhattan and entered the subway. It was rush hour. I was beat. The painting was large. I had to wait awhile for a train, which was pretty usual back then. My route required lots of train changes in order to get to Brooklyn. Anyway, I was so beat I got on the train and was zooming along when I realized that I had left the painting on the platform!!!! Cripes!!! I was freaking out! I had already been paid for the original and was going to be shipping it when I got home. My heart leapt into my throat! I sat there freaking out waiting for the next stop. I bolted from the car and ran full out over to the platform across the way to get on the next train going back the way I’d come. Wait. Wait. Wait. Finally a train! It couldn’t move fast enough for me! I just knew that painting was going to be gone by the time I got there, and it would serve me right.

However, the train pulled in and I ran out scanning up and down the platform. Ahead I could see a group of old ladies crowded around something on the platform. They had my painting and were trying to see if there was a name or an address on it. Sweet relief! I couldn’t believe the piece was still there.

The painting and I got home safely, and it made it to d’Addario just fine. All’s well that ends well.


GEORGEPRATT.COM Website Total Overhaul


The new face of GeorgePratt.com

It’s been years, really, since I’ve made an effort to post to my www.georgepratt.com website, much less do a complete overhaul of the thing. The main reason was the thought of having to go back into Dreamweaver and mess with all that was just too daunting for me. The other reason has been that I really enjoyed the simplicity of this blog and being able to just fire away and post things pretty much effortlessly. But I knew that I would have to take the plunge sometime. Obviously it’s been later rather than sooner. But better late than never!

I migrated the site to Squarespace and I have to say that it’s so much more enjoyable than messing with Dreamweaver. If I could have kept my site at it’s original host Dreamhost I would have. They’ve been incredible, really. They still will manage my domain name and all. But in order to utilize Squarespace one has to work with their setup. But it’s been flawless.

I hope you’ll take the time to scope everything out. I’ve expanded the site and have hopefully broken it down into manageable chunks according to media and projects.

GeorgePratt.com Navigation

There’s a sizeable sketchbook section where I’m constantly scanning my sketchbooks and posting.

A constantly growing sketchbook section!

And I’ve also updated to include a Shop where you can purchase original art, prints and books. It’s in its infancy, but is growing constantly.

The Shop has Fine Art…


Watercolors in the Shop.


Drawings in the Shop


Monotypes in the Shop

 

Black.Light

Next to that is the Sequential Art Shop where you can see work from my graphic novels and mini-series. I’ve already posted lots of panels from my Wolverine: Netsuke mini-series from Marvel, and a pile of Batman licensing art. I will be posting work from Batman: Harvest Breed as well, though these are mostly fully painted pages, rather than just panels.

The Sequential Art Shop has cover work and content from Graphic Novels and Mini-Series.



Above the Dreamless Dead originals in the Sequential Art Shop


Wolverine: Netsuke


Batman


Magic Card Originals

 

Anyway, I welcome comments and suggestions about the site and I hope you enjoy perusing it all.