Monday, July 6, 2015

Inspiration Is The Reward of Persistence

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Sumi Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

There is a fairly convoluted source of the title of this post. I have been listening to Robert Greenberg's course for The Teaching Company on composer Igor Stravinsky. As he was talking about how Stravinsky studied composition with the composer Rimsky-Korsakov he quoted Stephen Walsh, from his book Stravinsky: A Creative Spring: Russia and France, 1882-1934, on Rimsky-Korsakov's working methods. He was old school and regimented and believed that "inspiration was the reward of persistence."

The reason that I even noticed this I think is that I'm now on about the 50th sheet of sketches from my own photos of birds using the Kuretake Sumi Brush Pen. Why in the world am I doing this? It almost seems like penance, though there is no denying the pleasure in using the brush pen. But for all the pleasure there's a lot of pain. Almost every page has at least one mistake on it, where I wish that I'd made a different mark rather than the one I did. Some pages are all mistakes.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Sumi Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

My thought has been that I am learning something. By having to decide on just one unerasable line for the top of the head, or the chin, or the curve of the breast I'm making decisions and learning something. I think that the bulk of what anyone learns come from making decisions. They may be right or wrong but you don't really learn much until you invest in a decision.

There's also a bit of hope in this. I'm hoping that it will pay off, especially as I get to page 50 and it doesn't look significantly better than page 1. But still I think that at some point it will pay off, that at some point I'll spontaneously put to work all that I've learned and that the work will look spontaneous, not labored.

So I hope you can see where this quote regarding Rimsky-Korsakov was so striking to me. And it does ring true. Sometimes for me my most inspired, or at any rate the least labored work, will come after a long time doing studies of some sort. Below are two more pages from the recent spate of sketches with the sumi brush pen.

Purple Finch. Sumi Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Sumi Brush Pen Sketch by Ken Januski.

I'm most likely going to kill off one of my web sites soon and replace it with pages right here. You can see some of the replacement pages in the links on the upper right under Gallery. It was easy to choose some woodcuts and linocuts to use as examples of my work. But due to moving from one computer to another over the last few years I've lost track of many of the photos of my own field sketches.

So today I went through the sketchbooks for the last 6-7 years, back to my very first incredibly feeble attempts at drawing birds from life, and scanned a number of them into the computer. Two of the most recent are below. In the first I added watercolor to the pencil sketches after I got back home. In the second I added wash using Caran d'Ache Neo-color II water soluble crayons in the field to the Black-crowned Night Heron and Yellow-breasted Chat.

Though there is still a lot of room for improvement I think you can see some improvement compared to the earlier sketches below them.

Wood Thrush, Acadian Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo. Field Sketch by Ken Januski with watercolor added later.

Black-crowned Night Heron and Yellow-breasted Chat. Field Sketch with Neo-color II Crayon wash by Ken Januski.

All in all I'm glad that I've pursued sketching birds from life. There is just one primary source for that: Drawing Birds by John Busby who just recently passed away. It was that book, later complemented by the artists who then frequented the Wildlife Art thread of Birdforum that convinced me that working from life was the primary method of making wildlife art alive. Even more it convinced me that wildlife art could be ART.

Green Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Cedar Waxwing... Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-headed Woodpecker... Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

There are some artists who can do field studies that are far more realistic and accurate than most wildlife artists can do spending hours in their studio. But I'm not one of them. Neither was John Busby as far as I can tell. .He was more interested in capturing the life of birds. In doing so he also turned them into art.

So my field sketches never look at all finished. But that's really unimportant. To me they are generally exciting. And eventually, after all that perseverance, they tend to inspire me to more finished work.  Thank you Mr. Rimsky-Korsakov!

Canada Geese, Common Grackle... Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

White Ibis, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Chipmunk... Field Sketch by Ken Januski.

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