I should start by explaining something: I’ve been asked why some of my drawings look “unfinished” while others have a rendered, “finished” look.
I use a drawing technique called “contour drawing”. It’s been called “blind drawing” and several other descriptive names but what it consists of is putting the drawing instrument, pen or pencil down on the drawing surface and then, while staring at the subject, drawing without lifting the pen or pencil!
If you can, imagine an old -fashioned pantograph, a drawing instrument that has a graphite lead on one end of a device fixed in the middle, with a sort of pointer at the opposite end. The pointer is manipulated over an image and the graphite lead reproduces it onto the drawing surface.
Now imagine your eye being the pointer and your pen or pencil being the
graphite lead (which, of course it is)! You must look very slowly at each millimeter of the subject while your hand traces what your eye is seeing! It tales a lot of practice but soon becomes a habit! It’s advisable to use an irregular shape like a hand or other body part or even a crumpled bit of fabric. It should be done very slowly so that you get every subtle curve or bend. Otherwise it becomes non-specific and lacks character.
Before I learned this (in the UCLA Art Department) every human subject I drew had a generalized non-specific quality.
With contour drawing there is also a more interesting variation in line quality — some lines are more urgent than others! It depends on how long a subject remains in one position. Faking becomes obvious because it doesn’t look like the rest of the drawing — since there’s no urgency!
You have all the time in the world to add something and it becomes static and falls into the category of the habitual style you’re trying to avoid!
So that’s why some of my drawings look “finished” while others don’t!
If you are seriously interested there’s a book called The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicolaides. There’s a detailed description and exercises to practice along with other drawing techniques. We used it as a textbook at UCLA.
But getting back to 1969: I was back in Manhattan from Puerto Rico and I did have a tan thanks to my sun-pill.
I wasn’t the glorious light mahogany tan that Bill and Gary had attained, I was more of a Dutch elm color — but I was tan for the first time in my life!
I learned the perks of a healthy tan while crossing East 79th Street to go to Mike Malkan’s Bar when the driver of a crosstown bus flashed his lights, winked and blew me a kiss! I assumed it was a compliment!
I met Richard Barsam and Jesper Nyeboe at Goldberg’s Pizzeria. Richard was a college professor at Richmond College of the City University of New York and the author of an important book on Nonfiction Film.
Dick was, like me, a native of Los Angeles and his Armenian-American family was from Pasadena. My best friend from UCLA fraternity days, Bob Stone’s family, was Armenian on his father’s side and also from Pasadena. When Dick’s parents camp to New York for a visit and after I was introduced to them, I asked Dick’s mother if she knew the Stones. Somewhat curtly she responded that they were in fact cousins and for some undisclosed reason there had been a serious family rupture and they no longer communicated! She quickly changed the subject and I was left trying to reconcile that Bob Stone and Dick Barsam were cousins!
Life continued and so did work! And I had an appointment with an art director at Grey Advertising. Another good commission!
A young Parisian, Martine Benichou, came to town and to give her a clearer idea of New York I took her to Max’s Kansas City! I wasn’t able to gauge her impression of the transvestites and Warhol acolytes but she nevertheless invited me to accompany her a few days later to meet a friend in Forest Hills!
The following night I took her and a friend to the West Boondocks Restaurant way downtown near the Hudson River. Their specialty was soul food and I knew enough to not take Parisians to anything pretending to be a French restaurant! The West Boondocks had reminded my good Parisian friend Bernard Sabatier of his childhood in the Pyrenees! Who could know that some items of soul food were the same as rural French food?
And so, on May 1st we set out for Forest Hills, an adventure for me, too!
So there we were when I met her friend, Monsieur Suroco.
I’m sorry to say that I don’t really remember much more than that we were in Forest Hills and it seemed somewhat suburban with large trees and gardens. Forest Hills Gardens wasn’t kidding!
The next night Annie Rieger and I went to Casa Laredo.
Annie had decided to wear a sort of Bavarian blouse and said she was coming as Heidi!
I was still tan — but it was beginning to fade to a sort of knotty pine look!
Gary had found an apartment with Bill in Brooklyn and they invited me to come for dinner and see it!
The apartment was quite large and Bill had covered the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator with copper sheeting so that the kitchen had a warm, cozy feeling. I started wondering if I’d be happy living in Brooklyn.
Going home I stopped into Dorrian’s Red Hand which was right around the corner from my apartment; and even late in the evening was buzzing with activity. I wondered if Brooklyn might be too quiet and isolated for me.
A few days later Annie invited me to her friends Bill and Carole Castagnoli’s apartment for a tiny birthday celebration.
The Castagnolis told me how good I looked.
The tan was still working!