Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sometimes summer is all about the work!

Spending days immersed in the subject of Santiago Ramón y Cajal.  Long days in the studio, coupled with visits to the NIH, has brought forth a flourish of creativity.  Examples of new work posted below.

New image on accordion book cover.

New accordion book pages below:

New drawings created by me through the study of Ramón y Cajal's work at the NIH:

Marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14" 2015.

Marker and pen on paper, 11" x 14" 2015.

Friday, July 24, 2015

More Summertime Drawings

My accordion book is becoming more developed in the narrative, color and cover.  There is also a continued intensive investigation with Cajal's drawings.  Each day in the studio brings deep thought and greater understanding of Cajal the subject.  I end each day feeling enlivened and inspired.

Below is my artist book on Cajal in progress with some of samples of the recent pages:

Study of Cajal's work, marker and pen on paper, 16" x 20"

Study of Cajal's work, marker and pen on paper, 16" x 20"

Summer Sun

Bend low again, night of summer stars. 
So near you are, sky of summer stars, 
So near, a long-arm man can pick off stars, 
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl, 
So near you are, summer stars, 
So near, strumming, strumming, 
So lazy and hum-strumming. 

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summertime drawing board with Ramón y Cajal

My drawing of Ramón y Cajal's drawing of the retina June 9, 2015, ink and pen on paper, 11" x 14."

My imaginative and surreal portrait of Ramón y Cajal Summer Solstice, June 18, 2015, ink and pen on paper, 11" x 14."

Summer Solstice details below:

Summer Sun
by Robert Louis Stevenson (1885)

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Picking up where the previous pages left off...

New images within the visual narrative of my ongoing accordion book project about the life and times of Santiago Ramón y Cajal.  The process has been immersive, so for today there will be more images than words.

Accordion book pages open, graphite and ink on paper, 5" x 13"

Accordion book pages open, graphite and ink on paper, 5" x 13"

Collective detail of accordion book pages, graphite and in on paper, size variable

Accordion book pages open, graphite and ink on paper, 5" x 13"

Collective detail of accordion book pages, graphite and in on paper, size variable

If a photographic plate under the center of a lens focused on the heavens is exposed for hours, it comes to reveal stars so far away that even the most powerful telescopes fail to reveal them to the naked eye. In a similar way, time and concentration allow the intellect to perceive a ray of light in the darkness of the most complex problem. 

Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Neuron Nests and Branches

When Cajal was a child he would steal and raise baby birds from their nests.  He would also collect baby bird nests and pay his playmates to collect them, too.  He would make detailed drawings and notes about them, and when he was done, he would return the baby birds to their mothers.  These activities were the beginnings and the psychological foundation for his scientific research.  Additionally, birds were important symbols of strength and resilience to him throughout his life. 

This is a drawing of two nests juxtaposed with neuron branches by artist Dawn Hunter
New Nests and Neurons, graphite and ink on paper, 16" x 20"

This is a detail of the drawing that features nests juxtaposed with Neurons by artist Dawn Hunter.
detail, New Neuron Nests

Like an earthquake, true senility announces itself by trembling and stammering. 
Santiago Ramón y Cajal

This is a portrait of Santiago Ramón y Cajal juxtaposed with Pyramidal Neurons by artist Dawn Hunter.
Graphite and ink on paper, 5" x 13"

This image portrays the "branches" of the neurons juxtaposed with an image portraying self reflection near the end of his life. Cajal describes in his last biography written at the age of eighty, his fears of neurological deterioration and his self awareness of it in old age.

It is a page from my accordion book project about Cajal.  Each fold out or open page is 5" x 13," and contains a unique drawing. This work is an ongoing evolving work that chronologically through the fusion of Surrealism and Romanticism, portrays his childhood imagination and biographical events from that time.

Other images from the accordion book are featured below from beginning to its current end.  This project is ongoing, so other pages will be added.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

May Day 2015, drawing of Santiago Ramón y Cajal

In celebration of Santiago Ramón y Cajal's birthday, annually I create a new drawing or painting.  This year I drew a portrait where Cajal is positioned at the edge of the format, and through composition and surrealism explore his tendency to think of subjects in tandem, specifically the past and the shaping of the present by the past.  In this drawing there is represented a fusion and juxtaposition of his thoughts & perceptions of neural networks and his recollections of his explorations of abandoned castles of his youth.  With total and heightened awareness, I would say that Cajal lived his daily life in three parallel states:  recollecting the past, active discovery in the present, and visualizing the future.  In his biographies he makes clear how much his scientific observations were shaped by his boyhood perceptions & experiences.

May Day 2015, graphite and ink on paper, 5" x 13"

An excerpt from Merlin's Song by Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Daughter of Heaven and Earth, coy Spring,
With sudden passion languishing,
Maketh all things softly smile,
Painteth pictures mile on mile,
Holds a cup with cowslip-wreaths,
Whence a smokeless incense breathes."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

At the NIH...drawing Cajal's drawings!

It is remarkably humbling to study, by drawing, another artist's work.  It is said that to understand a work of art, one must see that work of art in person.  I agree, and I would take that sentiment a step further and add that to truly understand some works, one must draw them.

In my current body of artwork, I have committed myself to studying and researching the life and scientific work of Santiago Ramón y Cajal.  Recently, I have had the opportunity to view some of his drawings that are currently on display at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD.  The exhibit, curated by NINDS Senior Investigator, Jeffery Diamond, Ph. D., features six samples of Cajal's original drawings, on loan from El Instituto Cajal.

I have had the opportunity to visit the works twice, and during each visit, I spent several hours drawing his drawings.  Seeing Cajal's original drawings in person is extraordinary.  The works are much, much more than anatomical recordings.  The line quality of his work is descriptively delicate:  refined, sensitive and elegant, like other great masters - Dürer, Rembrandt, Goya, etc.  Half of the works on display were created in a straight forward manner with ink.  By that I mean, it is evident he did not draw those particular works out in pencil prior to adding the ink.  His level of skill and mastery allowed him to draw and develop an entire concept or observation with ink.  This means, there was no erasing.  What careful, thoughtful and remarkable precision in his recordings of the contours and qualities of the neurons.

The exhibit at the NIH has taken my understanding of Cajal to a new level.  Below, I am posting some photos of the exhibition on display at the NIH and my studies of Cajal's drawings.

When viewing my studies of Cajal's work below, bear in mind, I approached them in the same manner as Cajal:  with ink and no erasing.  My work in comparison to Cajal's, however, is flawed with some proportion, linear and scale issues.  While they may not be a prefect mirror of the master's work, I have learned a great deal from the process of creating them.

I feel so fortunate and I am thankful to all of the efforts put forth by Dr. Diamond and the El Instituto of Cajal in bringing these highly important drawings to the United States.  I look forward to studying these works more in the future.

The display panel and exhibition of Cajal's work currently on view at the NIH.

My drawing study of Cajal's hippocampus drawing.

The display panel and exhibition of Cajal's work currently on view at the NIH.

My drawing study of Cajal's drawing of the cerebellum.

The display panel and exhibition of Cajal's work currently on view at the NIH.

My drawing study of Cajal's drawing illustrating and comparing his theory with Golgi's.  This study of mine is the least complete.  For his illustration comparing his theory to Golgi's, Cajal first drew it in pencil.  I decided to stop my study/drawing about midway.  Next time I draw this work, I am going to sketch it out first in pencil - like Cajal.

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I have posted the below writing by John Berger on this blog before, and I am posting it again today, as I feel it really relates to what Cajal did and what I am attempting to understand in his work.

Inspiration from “A Painter of Our Time,” By John Berger

June 26

It is the most profound activity of all, this one of drawing.  And the most demanding.  It is when I draw that I regret the weeks, the years perhaps, that I have wasted.  If, as in the fairy stories, I could grant a gift to a child who was to become a painter, it would be a long life, so that he might master this activity of drawing.  What so few people realize is that the painter, unlike the writer or the architect or the designer, is both creator and executant of his art.  He needs two lives.  And, above all, to master drawing.  Nearly every artist can draw when he has made a discovery.  But to draw in order to discover – that is the godlike process, that is to find effect and cause.  The power of colour is nothing compared to the power of the line; the line that does not exist in nature but which can expose and demonstrate the tangible more sharply than can sight itself when confronted with the actual object. To draw is to know by hand – to have the proof that Thomas demanded.  Out of the artist’s world is solid, material. But the proof is never familiar.  Every great drawing – even if it is of a hand or the back of a torso, forms perceived thousands of times before – is like the map of a newly discovered island.  Only it is far easier to read a drawing than a map; in front of a drawing it is the five senses that make a surveyor.

All great drawing is drawing by memory.  That is why it takes so long to learn.  If drawing were transcription, a kind of script writing, it could be taught in a few years.  Even before a model, you draw from memory.  The model is a reminder. Not of a stereotype that you know by heart.  Not even of anything you can consciously remember.  The model is a reminder of experiences you can only formulate and therefore only remember by drawing.  And those experiences add up to the sum total of your awareness of the tangible, three-dimensional, structural world.  A blank page of a sketch-book is a blank, white page.  Make one mark on it, and the edges of the pages are no longer simply where the paper was cut, they have become the borders of a microcosm.  Make two marks on it of uneven pressure and the whiteness ceases to be whiteness and becomes opaque three-dimensional space that must be made less opaque and more and more lucid by every succeeding mark.  That microcosm is filled with the potentiality of every proportion you have ever perceived or sensed.  That space is filled with the potentiality of every form, sliding plane, hollow, point of contact, passage of separation you have ever set eye or hand on.  And it does not stop there.  For, after a few more marks, there is air, there is pressure and therefore there is bulk and weight.  And this scale is then filled with the potentiality of every degree of hardness, yieldingness, force of movement, activeness and passiveness that you have ever buried your head in or knocked it against.  And from all this you must select in a few minutes, as nature did through millennia, in order to create a human ankle, a human arm-pit with the pectoral muscle burying itself like an underground stream, or the bough of a tree.  From all this you must select the one lock and one key.  I think I would grant three lives not two.