Unbound, beyond the sketchbook practice

There is a stack of sketchbooks in my studio filled with sketches done over the years during my boys’ karate classes. These quick sketches are exercises in composition, gesture and analysis of movement, they are also the point of departure for the Karate series.

Today I am sharing a mixed media drawing and the sketchbook pages that inspired it.

karate side kick sketchbook

sketchbook gesture drawing

revisited-sketch

Sketchbook gesture revisited

The top line drawing was the quick gesture drawing done on site at the dojo, its generalized character  is the result of rapid note taking. The next image shows the same drawing embellished with mixed media marks and color. This later version was the inspiration for a piece titled  “Warm up”. Due to the minimalistic nature of the initial gestures, I relied heavily on memory, imagination and a little bit on direct observation while developing this drawing. The subject matter and the mixture of materials which include water-soluble  graphite, acrylic wash, charcoal, sanguine and chalk pastels were conducive to energetic mark-making. My focus here was on gesture, rhythm and surface development. To capture the gesture, I  paid close attention to the tilts of the three moveable masses of the figure (skull, ribcage and pelvis).

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Adriana Burgos “Warm up”, mixed media, 21″ x 29″

I am pleased with the resulting sense of movement and the surface quality that emerged from the layers of material and look forward to future media explorations as the series grows.

A memory in brown and black

This end of the year I had the opportunity to get away with my family for a week. We stayed by a lake in the woods around Stone Mountain. It was a great way to bring in the new year, we did some hiking, sat around bon fires, watched the kids play out all day in spite of the cold and spent time with family and friends. I got to work on a small silverpoint drawing which I will share in a future post because it could use some refining.

I am however sharing a journal drawing from our trip to Stone Mountain three years ago. It’s always great to find time to draw on our nature getaways. This two page spread is a landscape study in warm and cool temperatures to show depth. It is part of a written journal in which I record our family’s experiences when we go camping. Keeping journals and sketchbooks is a great way to record life experiences, I hope my children will look through these journals in the future and find many of the memories we have created together.

study-of-woods-in-black-and-sienna

Adriana Burgos, Study of woods in black and sienna, 2014

In this particular sketch, I used sanguine, graphite and charcoal. Using the red and black is always an interesting challenge, because although the drawing is still a value drawing, the temperature shifts from black to red brown offer an added quality that allows me to manipulate depth through value contrast and temperature.

I look forward to sharing new memories through sketchbook drawings this new year.

 

Idea development sketches for “Fort”

I have come to love the mysterious quality of the landscape around the area I live. This summer I started working on the South Land series, a body of work inspired by places I visit periodically in the Georgia and South Carolina low country. The natural resources here include marshes, beaches, swamps and woods. In this series, I am combining images from sketchbook drawings, and my photographs into narrative compositions.  Always an avid reader, I find inspiration in literature and I believe the juxtaposition of figure and landscape creates a sense of story worth exploring.

thumbnails-fort

Adriana Burgos, thumbnail sketches for “Fort”, graphite on paper

Today I am sharing some thumbnail sketches and a preliminary sketch  for “Fort”. The thumbnails are about 3″ wide and were done with graphite in my sketchbook. The larger comp is roughly 15″ x 11″ done with sanguine pencil. Although the small graphite drawings were meant to be different ideas for a single piece, I intend to develop several finished drawings based on these. My main objectives here were to experiment with shapes in relation to the picture plane, placement of the elements, movement and depth. I was having fun with the effect of directional lines across the space. The orientation of the branches and tree trunks create a choreography of linear structure that I find striking.

study-for-fort

Adriana Burgos 2016, “study for Fort”, sanguine on cream stonehenge paper,

The final pieces based on these studies will be large charcoal drawings. This is the ideal medium  to continue my experimentations with value to create a sense of atmosphere. I hope to be posting progress soon!

Recent charcoal drawings

 

The last couple of months have certainly been busy, getting ready for the academic year and for a recent group exhibition I was part of in Savannah Ga. The name of the exhibition was “Nature Nurtured” and it featured the work of eight artists, all members of the Foundation Studies Department at SCAD.

I exhibited the charcoal drawings shown below as well as three silverpoint pieces. These images express my responses to some of the places I have visited regularly over the years combined with my interest in narrative drawing. I consider them  the beginning of a series I plan to call “Southland”.

I look forward to sharing  process shots for these as well as some installation and gallery shots in the coming weeks.

 

 

Mixed media karate sketch

The sketchbook is a great platform for media exploration. I was experimenting with ink wash this week, playing with warm and cool temperatures. This drawing was based on one of my quick karate sketches while observing my kids’ classes.

I love the immediacy and happy accidents that happen when drawing gesturally with ink. A lot of the warm against cool relationships of the drawing are mainly in the negative space surrounding the figure. For the background I applied brown, black and blue ink and let all the colors run into each other with wet into wet marks. After the wash drawing dried, I emphasized a few areas  with white and blue chalk and black charcoal.

The end result is exciting and has inspired me to explore gestural drawings with ink wash more. Studies from the karate sketchbooks will be a great point of departure for more work like this.

with bow pole study

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Adriana Burgos, Mixed media sketchbook study, 2016

Trees at Magnolia Springs

This past weekend  I was away on a camping trip with my husband and two boys. We took advantage of the long weekend in observance of the Martin Luther King holiday, and took off to one of our favorite Georgia state parks nearby, Magnolia Springs.

The weather was cold and windy, perfect for sitting by the fire. I did this little study on the camping journal.

At the beginning, I set out to do a pen drawing with my favorite sepia copic pen, but then I changed my mind and switched to graphite. I realized early on, that I was really in the mood for a drawing emphasizing big blocks of value.  I created some of the value shapes with the side of the pencil and then layered with finer marks, an approach I wouldn’t have used with a fine pen.

I liked the end result and had a great time slowing down to take in the beautiful natural setting.

Trees at Magnolia Springs

Adriana Burgos, Study of trees at Magnolia Springs, sepia pen and graphite on sketchbook paper 2016

Reflections on life and on being an artist

three generations detail

Adriana Burgos, “Three Generations” detail, Charcoal and pastel on paper 2008

With the transition of 2015 into 2016, I have been reflecting about a lot of things,  especially remembering my father who passed away last February. My dad lived a great life, he was very accomplished professionally and personally, he earned his PHD and became a father before he was 30, he went on to have four kids and a great career and throughout his life he was always generous and very humble. He experienced true love with my mother, I can honestly say, their marriage was truly exemplary. Thinking about his life has led me to reflect on how to live a full life myself. This is why my main goal for 2016  is to learn to integrate all aspects of my life in a balanced manner.

Like everyone else, I wear many different hats, I am a mother, daughter, wife, artist, professor and someone who loves to be active and enjoy nature. Being one thing should not rule out another, but after all these years I am still learning to juggle it all.

Professionally, I am a college professor and artist. Time for research and studio is as important as all the other professional demands. Over the years, I have come to realize that productive time in the art studio does not have to be a long painting session like the ones during graduate school. Although uninterrupted studio time is ideal sometimes it’s not possible. Under those circumstances it is better to work shorter times than do nothing at all, even if it means an hour here and an hour there.

When I first graduated from my MFA, 17 years ago; I balanced a full-time job and studio practice, by scheduling long studio sessions in the weekends. This was a change from being in the studio day and night but I adapted.  Two years later, I became a professor and I am still teaching full-time. I love teaching, it has deepened my understanding of visual arts and creative thinking; more specifically my understanding of drawing. I find that teaching forces me to evolve continually and allows me to be a constant learner.  My work in the classroom has influenced my art work, for example I have reconnected with direct observation drawing and though it’s not the only way I work, it has affected my work in a positive way.

During the academic year, I tend to work on small pieces and focus on larger ones in the summer.  As long as I’m regularly drawing, even if it’s only in my sketchbook  I am still growing as an artist. This is one of the reasons why keeping a sketchbook is so important for me, and why I started the Sunday sketchbook feature in my blog.

At  a personal level, my roles as mother and wife are central and I also try to find time to nurture personal interests such as reading, exercising and being in contact with nature. My reality as a mother is changing now that the boys are 9 and 12. I can do many of the  things I love with them, such as taking long walks or bike rides, enjoying a movie together and finding time to work in my studio. Things were not like this in their early years, I remember feeling like studio time was simply impossible and it would frustrate me. Now looking back, I wish I had not been so hard on myself for not being able to do much art work then. In the end, the joy and intensity of motherhood has only made me a better artist.

Many artists often have to change the way they work while they have small children. In my case,  I began working small,  which was a contrast to my preference for large format. Because of my focus on a new format, I began exploring silverpoint as a medium and did observational drawings of Nicolas (my firstborn) as he slept.  At the time, I was concerned about the drawings of my baby coming across as sentimental, now I understand I was responding to the wonderful experience of becoming a mother.

My work has become much more personal over the years. At my age, I have seen people’s stories unfold and I am more responsive to life. I realize now, that the drawings of family members at different ages, including the ones of my children and the ones of my father’s struggle with Steele Richardson’s disease are all part of one grand narrative. My every day life experiences provide powerful content for expression.  I have come to the realization that instead of compartmentalizing each aspect of my life, the key is in the integration.

Three generations

Adriana Burgos, “Three Generations”, Charcoal and pastel on paper 2008 Enter a caption