Still Life With Bread, graphite, 13 1/2 x 16 1/2.
Dennis James Martin
Metal-point drawing is extremely rare these days. After graphite was discovered, and especially after the pencil was developed in 1792, the technique fell into oblivion. But deep in the heartland, Oklahoma artist Dennis James Martin is keeping the tradition alive. One of the oldest drawing techniques, metal-point is an extremely difficult and precise method that was practiced by Italian Renaissance artists Michelangelo and da Vinci.
Martin’s sensitive drawings—mostly figurative—are done in pure platinum and gold. He uses a thin rod to draw. It’s a slow, tedious, and exacting method because of the time it takes to prepare the surface to receive the marks and because of the difficulty of making marks with the metal rod. Martin’s drawings are often large in scale, and thus an individual work can take up to six months to complete. His elegant figures have a dreamy, ethereal quality. The delicate metal-point works are also the result of years of experience and experimentation with the technique. “I’m just trying to do beautiful work that is timeless and that people will enjoy,” he says. “I’m trying to make drawings that receive the same attention as paintings—as major works of art.” Martin is represented by Bernarducci Meisel Gallery and Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York, NY. —BG
South Broadway, charcoal, 24 x 49.
Minnesota artist Skip Steinworth began his career as a commercial lithographer. The business was lucrative, he says, but ultimately unfulfilling. In the late 1980s, Steinworth shut down his operation and eventually sold his equipment to pursue drawing full time. His graphite-on-rag-board works generally take anywhere from four to eight weeks to complete.
Steinworth’s compositions range from complex tableaus of ordinary objects such as bowls, pencils, and rocks to minimalist depictions of flowers in vases. Often he incorporates an incongruous element into the scene, like a photograph of himself or a tape measure deposited amid a traditional still life of flowers and fruit. “That offers a little surprise for the viewer,” Steinworth says. His works are subtle, elegant, and at times mystical. His exact shadings of graphite create delicate shifts in tone and light. “I want to take objects and imbue them with something more than they are,” he says. “I want to make them compelling so the viewer will want to look at them.” For inspiration he turns to black-and-white photographs, traditional 17th- and 18th-century still-life artists, and modern painters like Piet Mondrian. Steinworth is represented by Hackett-Freedman Gallery, San Francisco, CA. —BG
Still Life With Self-Portrait, graphite, 23 1/4 x 33 3/4.
Though her main focus is on oil painting, Brooklyn-based artist Nita Moore frequently returns to drawing to hone her skills. “Drawings are the foundation for everything else,” she says. “I get a lot of pleasure out of drawing—the act of creating a flat image in graphite and making it appear three-dimensional is very satisfying.”
A native of Columbia, SC, Moore studied art and Italian at Smith College in Northampton, MA, and spent her junior year living in Florence, Italy. After graduating, she moved to San Francisco for three years before coming to New York in 1998 to study under the tutelage of Jacob Collins at the Water Street Atelier in Brooklyn. “It’s great to have a community of artists—for me, that’s the main value of being in New York,” she says.
Inspired by Baroque masters such as Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Vermeer, Moore paints and draws a variety of subjects, including figures and landscapes, as well as her favorite, the still life. “I keep coming back to still lifes because I enjoy setting up beautiful shapes and creating abstractions,” she says. Moore is represented by John Pence Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Meredith Long Gallery, Houston, TX; Grenning Gallery, Sag Harbor, NY; and Century Gallery, Alexandria, VA. —AH
The Last Ride: Nez Perce Tragedy, graphite, 60 x 40.
In his earliest memories Don Crowley says he “was always drawing something,” but one fledgling artistic experience in particular stands out in his mind: a “magic moment” at the age of 4, when suddenly he saw in his crayoned circles a completed painting of a caravan of horses. He continued pursuing his artistic ambitions throughout grade school and high school and graduated from the renowned Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. Following a long, successful career as an illustrator in New York City, Crowley turned all of his energies to creating fine art, specializing at the time in Native American portraits, and a year later he and his wife B.J. moved west permanently to be near his subject matter.
In the years since, Crowley has become one of the most highly respected artists of the Southwest, elected a member of the Cowboy Artists of America in 1994 and named Artist of the Year by the Friends of Western Art in Tucson in 1998. He won the gold medal for drawing at the 1995 and 1999 CAA shows and, although he has also won gold and Best of Show awards for his oil paintings, Crowley says he sometimes feels, “If I could have my way, I would do nothing but draw.” He is represented by Ray Tracey Galleries, Santa Fe, NM, and Scottsdale, AZ; Husberg Fine Arts, Scottsdale, AZ; Settlers West Galleries, Tucson, AZ; and Legacy Galleries, Jackson, WY. —BD
The Squeeze, pencil, 17 x 23.
Born in Russia, Andre Kohn currently lives in Arizona and is becoming known for his large-scale graphite portraits of Native American figures. He sees similarities be-tween his Russian heritage and Native American culture. He says that the figure portrayed in The Last Ride: Nez Perce Tra-gedy is not a specific person but a character formed in his imagination to illustrate the story of Chief Joseph and his tribe’s attempted escape to Canada. “In their last days they put on their best clothes and hoped that they would reach freedom,” says Kohn. “But they didn’t make it.” The figure is dressed in historically accurate clothing and headdress.
Kohn became interested in drawings when studying the works of the old masters. “I felt a sense of discovery and participation when I looked at the sketches of classical artists,” he says. “I was amazed by how much could be said by just one line of pencil, graphite, or charcoal, and I wanted to pursue that and see if I could touch the viewer’s soul.” Kohn is represented by Heritage Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ; Ottinger Gallery, Chicago, IL; El Presidio Galleries, Tucson, AZ; and Joe Wade Fine Arts, Santa Fe, NM. —MB
Deanna XXII, 24k gold on paper, 19 1/2 x 28 3/4.
Brian Cobble grew up in New Mexico, and although he later lived in several other states, he says he’s always been drawn back to the Land of Enchantment by the lure of its unique and mysterious light. South Broadway was inspired by a scene in Albuquerque, NM, although Cobble admits to rearranging the elements somewhat. The gas station that appears in the drawing has since been torn down. “I’ve always been drawn to those places on the edge of town where the natural and manmade interface and overlap,” says the artist.
Cobble’s works convey the complexity and the dark mystery of nature, often by focusing on desolate scenes where “nature seems more powerful than the people or the buildings that inhabit it,” he says. The human presence is implied rather than actual, lending a haunting sense of absence that recalls the effects of Edward Hopper’s work. “Hopper is one of those artists who I think went out and really looked at America,” says Cobble. “There’s a haunted feeling to his works. I also really like Charles Burchfield and George Inness, but Hopper was the most ‘American’ painter.” Cobble is represented by Valley House Gallery, Dallas, TX. —KB
Featured in “Portfolio: The Art of Drawing” February 2001