A Tip and Two (or Three Depending on How You Count) Conversations

January 7, 2014


Left: Finch in the nursing home aviary, sketched with a worn and dried out Tombow Dual Brush pen. (These pens are dye-based and fugitive, not archival, but they are fun…) Use those dried out pens, there’s a lot of fun left. It looks almost like a motion blur when you view it close up.

Sunday I stopped in to see the Avidors. I had artwork of theirs to drop off and I needed some art instruction. I’d been out and about sketching and I had found it impossible to sketch a heating duct coming right at me. Ken is the king of sketching ducts and pipes, and the other busy, mechanical accoutrement of a present day cityscape, and Roberta is never stumped by spatial complexity.

R: So I was sitting there and already had drawn the side walls leading back, [blah, blah, blah—boring description pen in hand, scribbling on a scrap]. And I just couldn’t SEE how I could get this heating duct over my head to come at me, right at me. I couldn’t see how it would work.

KA: Let me just say you’re a great artist. 

R: Ken, that’s very kind, but that’s not the issue, I just couldn’t do this.

KA: Don’t think of it as something you can’t do…sometimes we tell ourselves we can't…

R: Ken it wasn’t a matter of an internal critic. I don’t have an internal critic that stops me. I just couldn’t see the answer and sat there for the longest time…

KA: But don’t worry, you’re a great artist and when this happens…

RA: Ken, she just said she doesn’t have that sort of problem, let her finish…

KA: OK, but I just want you to know I think you’re a great artist.

R: Thanks Ken, that’s kind of you, but I don’t think of myself as an artist, I’m a writer who draws.

We all laugh.

K: Well an artist can be many things…

I guess Ken thought I needed a pep talk…

R: Maybe that’s why I don’t have any trouble with an internal critic, because I think of myself as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, I have a critical eye. But I don’t let it stop me, instead I enjoy seeing what went wrong and working out what I can do to change and improve.

RA: Yes, an eye that helps you see a new direction to go…

R: Yes, an editing eye.

We got back on track with our discussion and Roberta suggested that I start with the item closest to me. I admitted that though I was working with one-point perspective I was allowing my head to move all over the place and messing up any chance at alignment. Then Ken went off on a wonderful riff about how using one point perspective could be deadly. (OK, so there are actually two tips today, this is the second after the marker tip.)


Left: Detail from the finch image. (Don’t know what type of finch this is as it isn’t in the aviary book and I haven’t looked it up. Basically it’s brown and then the chest is white with brown.) Look closely, when you enlarge it, to see how the worn tip creates neat striations and the dryness allows me to build up value.

We all had another good laugh. Ken gave me some tips on exaggerating lines. And I told them that we really did need to get video of the two of them talking about their favorite art professor and some drawing tips—basically because I think everyone should benefit from their experience. (So readers, I’m going to work on making that happen when it warms up a bit here in Minnesota.)

It was time for Ken to head out to a sketch out and time for me to meet up with family. Since we were going the same direction I offered to drop Ken off.

R: But I don’t know where it is you’re going Ken because I knew I had the family stuff and couldn’t go so I didn’t read any of the sketch out messages—do you know where you need to go?

K: Yep, it’s over by Wet Paint.

And we bundled up and off we went. It was -18 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s NEGATIVE. The wind was crisp. Even though we only had to walk a short block to my car I was stiff from the cold by the time we got there. We got settled into the front seats, I started the car, and said, “OK, where are we going.”

K: You know.

R: Nope I don’t. [laughing]

K: I left the note. Do you have a cell? I could call Bert.

R: Yep.

This was not the day one wanted to walk back a half block in the wind, or wait in an ice cold car. I fished out my phone.

I started to ask Siri to call Ken because that’s how I have their number listed, under Ken Avidor. Ken kept talking in the background so Siri kept saying she couldn’t find Lavilore, Canador, etc.

Remember, it’s cold out, the car isn’t warm.

I shush Ken and articulate, “Call Ken Avidor.”

Siri blandly replies: “You are certainly entitled to that opinion.”

I swear. I’m laughing. Ken's laughing. We cannot stop laughing. Tears are forming in my eyes because I’m laughing so hard.

I try one more time (before going to manual—it’s really too cold to type) and it goes through. Ken tells Roberta where the info can be found. As she reads it to him he takes out a pen—which doesn’t work, perhaps because it’s too cold. So I whip out a pen I’ve been keeping close to me and start writing on the back of his drawing pad as Roberta reads directions.

We hang up the phone and pull away from the curb…

Meanwhile, on another day, perhaps in another universe, I’m practicing poor posture in my TV-viewing chair, because I really had not intended to come in to the room, except that “Stargate” was on and I was drawn to it because Kurt Russell has such a wonderful buzz cut in it, to name just one thing. And the next thing you know I’m sitting there…

Dick: You really like him don’t you?

R: Who? Kurt Russell?

D: Yeah.

R: And you don’t?
(stated with the incredulity one might utter “duh?!”)

D: No, [he laughs] I do too…
(his voice trails off; he knows that I know that he is particularly fond of “Used Cars” but then we both also like Jack Warden.)

I never take my eyes off the screen, I cut into his trailing voice.

R: So what are we doing having this conversation?

My eyes are still on the screen.

R: There are some things, after a relationship of this duration, that I feel we don’t have to discuss any more. 

Dick laughs, gets up, and leaves the room to go back to work while I remain watching “Stargate” for another 20 minutes until my need for better posture trumps all. (FYI I am also similarly helpless whenever “Big Trouble in Little China,” “Escape from New York,” or “Captain Ron” comes on.) 

As you go about your day just remember yesterday Dick said I'm still as snotty this year as I was last year. 

AND DON'T FORGET—one-point perspective can be deadly! I have that on advice of experts.

    • Chris
    • January 7, 2014

    OK you were out sketching in -18 and you’re worried about one point perspective? Or did I misunderstand…
    Anyway, you made me feel better. The extreme forced perspective is brutal. I just move rather than attempt it. And maybe that’s defeat, but life is short.

    • Michael Martin
    • January 7, 2014

    Thanks so much for entertaining me this (warm) late afternoon in Brussels. I should be drawing but am not; just sitting around whilst my old bones settle into aching rigidity. Get off your backside Michael!
    I have been there so many times myself (the duct problem I mean) .l am/was an architect so buildings , and ducty things are one of my pleasures. As is reading your blog. It is/warm here today c10 C. Two years ago minus 20 celcius.
    Michael, an ex architect, artist(?) Musician and blog reader from Somerset UK.

    • Tina
    • January 7, 2014

    Your blog is one of few I read during which I literally do “lol”! You and Dick are a hoot!

  1. Reply

    Thanks Tina. I am much funnier than Dick! But perhaps only because he is always laughing. Thanks for reading!

  2. Reply

    Michael, thanks for writing. I’m glad you’re where the weather is warm. (Yes, you should be out sketching!) If it were 50 F I would be out on my bike, to hell with the sketching! We are all going a little crazy up here with this deep freeze. For my part it is made worse because 1. I have no Alaskan Malamutes to walk and force me to go out into it, 2. I’m forced to sit inside and draw things like duct-work, and 3. to 9,000. I want to be outside on my bike.

    I hope you rallied and got some sketching in today! Have a great year!

    • Donna
    • January 7, 2014

    Soooo Roz, how do you sketch the duct coming at you? ?

  3. Reply

    Evasive measures seem the best approach Donna. That’s what Ken suggested, while he doodled a more twisty pipe structure than I was dealing with. Making things interesting with different angles and such is always a good approach.

    If you’re going to stick with the deadly 1 point perspective then the best approach is to START with the nearest object (on in my case the offending duct) and work back from that. ALL THE WHILE making sure that you don’t change you vantage point/viewing point.

    I’d recommend you try some for of slightly evasive tactics just for the visual fun. But I don’t regret sticking with the issue and thinking about it.

    • Dana
    • January 8, 2014

    You’re laughing, Ken’s laughing… I’m laughing!!! Out loud! My cats look at me as if I’ve gone off the deep end. That Siri… she can be so clueless! … and now I’m off to read about the deadly one-point perspective. One of these days I’ll get some real instruction.

    … and Stargate does it to me too.

  4. Reply

    Siri can be clueless, but in a way she can be so right.

    When the first of my friends to have an iPhone got one he demonstrated its features and Siri was one. He asked her where to dispose of a dead body (perhaps because he’d read about this “quirk” or because of my past with search dogs) and there were some odd entries on the list, but the second one was “a foundry.” Which was creepy hilarious.

    I just wish that Siri would learn that when I say “call Nan” (and enunciate carefully) she wouldn’t say, “I can’t find man, do you want me to search the internet?”

    Sometimes it seems that Abbott and Costello programed Siri. Now that’s a comedy bit!

    I forgot to add—good luck with the one-point perspective!

  5. Reply

    Well…Mr A is right however you process it: great artist.

  6. Reply

    I am laughing now. You – not an artist! Pshaw! Right! I’ll believe that never! I’ve lived in Minnesota and remember seeing at times that we were colder than Anchorage AK but my grandson is now in Fairbanks (army) and didn’t go snowboarding yesterday because it was -35 degrees (not including windchill). I thought it was a pretty smart move. Even -18 is cold though and I am quite happy being back in southern California where I get up to 30+ degree mornings and 70 degree days!

  7. Reply

    Avidor right? Naw. But thanks for your vote of confidence. I’m still working on that one point thing!

  8. Reply

    Timaree, thanks for the vote of confidence. And the good news is after weeks of below zero temps yesterday it was in the 40s and today it was in the 30s, so we’ve had a bit of a thaw! And I needed that!

    • Dana Burrell
    • November 19, 2018

    I followed the link in one of the “Related Posts” at the bottom of today’s blog post and was rewarded with another good chuckle! Seems I commented on this post nearly 5 years ago but today it’s all about Siri’s “You are certainly entitled to that opinion.” Nothing better than a good laugh with friends. I remember something about them moving to Indianapolis… I hope they’re well.

    1. Reply

      The Avidors have moved to Indianapolis. I think the winters are warmer there and Ken may have given up on snow piles! But they are doing well. They sketch everywhere!

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