Sunday, October 23, 2011

Penny Hanson and Julie Peters invited me to guest teach for their art class at North High School again. I really enjoyed my experience working with the students last year, the kids are talented and well behaved. This year was no different and as a bonus, several parents joined us. I’ve taken the direction of introducing the students to short, gesture poses. There is a tendency to get too focused on details and get bogged down in their drawing. So my goal is to create an environment where they don’t think so much and just draw. At first there is resistance to the short poses, but as the class progresses, they start to get comfortable with the idea of gesture drawing. We had dance students model for us and they were wonderful. This year I took some time to talk with the class after the drawing about my approach to drawing. I’ve been mulling over some ideas of drawing and Butoh that needed to be shared. In all of my teaching experiences I’ve learned more about my subject through preparing for the classes. Thanks to the students and teachers for giving me this opportunity to get my ideas down on paper, organized and shared.. Below is an edited version of the class notes.

Class Notes For Guest Teaching

North High School, 9-28-11

We all tell our stories through various forms of communication. These stories come from parents, ancestors, friends neighborhoods etc. Over the years, I’ve become very interested in how drawings in particular and art in general tell these stories.

We are usually not aware that we are telling stories, and if we are; we carefully edit the stories to a version that we want others to hear. Underneath the fa├žade, the carefully crafted image we think tells the story we want our friends or the world to hear lay the real stories. We may be aware that we’re creating a persona, and are very much aware of our perceived shortcomings, dreams and thoughts that scare the hell out of us. But even deeper in our souls, there lay the real stories. This is the territory of Butoh; this is what I want to draw.

Of course, my drawings are a reflection of my own stories as well as my subjects’. My movements, my perceptions, my tastes, my “style” come from some place deep within. There is a process working that allows a particular drawing to “speak” to me, inviting me to pursue and develop that image as a more finished print. If a drawing or piece of art winds up on a gallery wall, the stories of potential viewers come into play. It’s this intersection of the model, artist and viewer’s stories that interests me. This confluence of sitter - artist - audience hopefully creates an environment where drawings (or art in general) become an interactive experience, not merely a casual viewing. It’s not a matter of being shocking or making social / political statements, it’s facilitating interactivity at a core, human level

So how do we get there? Is there a process?

Like most things esoteric, the magic happens when you’re not striving, not trying to achieve a particular goal, but rather you’re just doing, without much thought. So I think it’s best to draw at a brisk pace. Don’t analyze too much, dive in and just do it. This is why I had you doing two-minute gesture drawings for the entire session. I didn’t want you getting hung up on details; I was hoping to set up a scenario where your minds would be wrapped up in visually measuring the angles, sizes and masses of the model’s form and nothing else.

In terms of unveiling the stories that we discussed earlier, it’s more of a lens through which I evaluate my drawings. During the course of a typical Tuesday evening session at Suncrest, we will do 10 gestures and 4 to 5 twenty minute drawings. Sometimes a particular drawing appeals to me immediately. I review my drawings over the course of the next few days Sometimes it’s a facial expression that intrigues me, sometimes the overall gesture of the body as a whole that catches my eyes. One lesson I’ve learned from Butoh is that the entire body can tell our stories. I’m learning to trust my visceral reactions to the drawings as I work with them. If a particular drawing “speaks” to me I’ll start the process of making a printing plate and go from there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tsunami on the Square, Prescott, Arizona

Heard through the grapevine that Koichi and Hiroko Tamano were going to be performing at the Tsunami on the Square festival in Prescott, just up the road from me. The Tamanos were among the pioneers of Butoh, studying and collaborating with Tatsumi Hijikata in the 1960’s. During the seventies, they moved to the Bay Area where they have trained a new generation of American Butoh dancers. The Tamanos are re-locating back to Japan so this was one of their last performances in the US.

The festival was held on the historic courthouse square in Prescott across the street from Whisky Row. A very prominent prop used in the performance was a large transparent fabric bubble in which Koichi entered the stage. The Tamanos were joined by Harupin-Ha, their dance troupe. A fellow participant at the UCLA symposium, Bob Webb, performed with them.

There was a particularly poignant moment during the performance that stood out to me. A young girl, perhaps eight or nine years wearing fairy wings sat to my left at the edge of the stage. As Koichi slowly moved up the stage, he noticed the girl. His face softened into a slight smile, he turned towards the girl and waved to her. The essence of Butoh, as I see it, is taking a journey into the deepest recesses of your soul and letting whatever you find dance. Watching the spontaneous joy that a child brought to Koichi’s dance made me smile too.

I got home rather late that evening and did a quick sketch from memory. The next day I did a more careful drawing and drypoint print using a photo as a reference.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Butoh Road Trip

The journey of drawing Butoh did not stop after my posting here last year. Since then we’ve been able to schedule a few more sessions and I’ve been making contact with the Butoh community on several social network sites. An announcement came out for a Symposium in Los Angeles at UCLA. The travel would be relatively easy so I signed up.

The premier event of the weekend was a performance by three highly respected Butoh artists, Katsura Kan, Joan Laage, and Moro Akaji. Watching them gave me a new perspective on Butoh. Each reveled interesting nuances that simply cannot be experienced in a video. During his performance Katsura Kan repeated a gesture of covering his right eye with his hand. I had brought a small drawing pad /pencil and quickly sketched the gesture during a break. Later on that evening in my motel room, relying on memory, a more detailed drawing took shape. The final print, a drypoint intaglio, collagraph collage is included in this post.

The second day of the symposium was a discussion on the history and present state of Butoh. All very interesting and educational, however what I enjoyed most was meeting dancers, fellow artists and academics dedicated to the study of Butoh. I meet a number of very friendly folks and look forward to continuing correspondence with them.

The last morning of the symposium was a movement workshop with Katsura Kan. He introduced us to a very simple exercise that teaches you awareness of the body moving in space. I spent the remainder of the day revisiting my childhood neighborhood in West Los Angeles.

All in all a great trip!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Having Some Fun

We've managed to schedule two Butoh dance/drawing sessions in the past few months. Got numerous drawings and a couple are starting to find their way onto dry point plates and through the printing process. They both make me chuckle a bit, hope it works for you too.

Speaking of having fun, I was invited to teach a life drawing session at Penny Hanson's North High art class. I thought it would be fun and a complete departure from the norm and have them do a short pose session. Fortunately we had wonderful student models from the dance department who were more than up to the challenge of multiple short poses. The students drew 30 second, 1 minute and 3 minute gestures for half of the session. We were able to do a dance/short pose format for the remainder of the session. Towards the end of the class you could see the students loosen up and start to really enjoy gesture drawing. Ms Hanson has a great group of students who have talent and are a joy to be around. Hopefully I'll get a chance to go back.

I will be showing my work during the entire month of March at the Paisley Violin in Phoenix. I'll be joined by Stu Biscoe, Joan Thompson and Audrey Van Kirk. Hope you get a chance to drop by. Paisley Violin is located in the heart of the Grand Ave art district, 1030 Grand Ave.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Upcoming Shows

January is going to be a busy month! I will be showing my work in two exhibitions. Hope you can drop by and see the shows.

Shemer Art Center - Negative Space Group Show
Reception: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 7:00 - 9:00pm
5005 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, Arizona (enter off Arcadia Dr.)
The show will run through Feb. 16, 2011
For additional information go to the SACAMA website

Printmaking: A Contemporary Perspective
Arizona Print Group Exihibition
Reception: Sunday, January 23, 2011, 10:00am - 12:00pm
Church of the Beatitudes, 555 W. Glendale Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona
The show will run through Mar. 2, 2011
For additional information please visit the Arizona Print Group website

Looking forward to seeing you.

Some New Work

It's been a while since I've posted, lots of stuff going on. Time to put up some new images of my recent prints. Enjoy.