I recently had the good fortune of pondering doodles, cartoons and sketches with Wadhams-based painter, Kevin Raines (www.kevinrainesart.com). Kevin is an art professor at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore, Maryland. He is also a world class artist and avid outdoorsman.
Kevin’s legendary large-format paintings of North Country wilderness scenes transfix the viewer, offering the illusion of actually stepping into a remote mountain stream or forest. My wife and I hope that one day we’ll be fortunate enough to own of his sylvan landscapes, but until then we sneak peeks whenever he opens his studio to the public.
Kevin Raines: Storyteller
In addition to his alchemist’s gift for rendering nature in paint and canvas, Kevin is the consummate storyteller. Teaching for more than three decades might account for his casual and effective narrative style, but I find myself wondering if it isn’t in fact his artistic process translated into words. Since first visiting his studio about a half-dozen years ago I’ve been drawn to the field drawings (and notes) he records quickly, unselfconsciously in situ to guide his subsequent work at the easel.
It’s no exaggeration to say that his field notes enrapture me. Like a powerful, transporting film or book, Kevin’s field notes – despite (and possibly because of) their intended use as private references for the artist – transform me into a voyeur. They are visual storytelling. The sketches and notes invite me to observe the artist at work, to “eavesdrop” on his creative process and to decipher what compels the painter.
Doodles, Cartoons and Sketches
I’m not proposing that Kevin Raines is a casual doodler (or even that he has a desire to doodle). Far from it. He is a master of his art. His field notes are simply reminders and drafts. But they tell a captivating story unto themselves. And his generosity in opening up these intimate notes to his audience allows us not only to enjoy them but to learn from them.
During our recent conversation about doodling, Kevin explained the evolution of the word cartoon. Later he shared “Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Renaissance Cartoon“, an informative blog post on the topic. Although a full reading (don’t worry, it’s short) will better cover the interesting connection between cartoons and Renaissance masters Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, I’ll briefly excerpt a few details about cartoons.
In Italian the word for paper is carta and the suffix “–one” means large, the “cartone” was a very large sheet of paper. These cartone or cartoons as we have come to call them were specifically: large and very detailed drawings used to create paintings and frescoes. These differed from sketches or studies in that they were the same size as the intended painting and were created to transfer the image.
The drawings were made to transfer the images to the painting surface in one of two ways. In the first the cartoon acted as a type of stencil, thousands of small holes pricked the edges of each line and a bag of charcoal dust was “pounced” upon the cartoon. In the second the cartoon acted as carbon paper, the back of the image was coated with charcoal dust and the image was carefully traced…
After the fresco lost its popularity in the 16th century and painters frequently drew directly on their canvases this style of Renaissance cartoon fell out of use. Over the next century the word cartoon took on its modern meaning of another type of drawing, frequently used in political satire and later as illustrations. (Art History Blogger)
In a sense Kevin’s field notes are classical cartoons, sketches that may later be used to transfer a scene, a moment, an impression onto canvas.
Stuart Brody’s Cabin
Essex resident “Stu” Brody’s new timber frame cabin has been under construction this summer, the fulfillment of Stu’s longstanding dream. Photos have appeared on Facebook documenting the beautiful, timeless construction technique. In this era of ubiquitous cameras (and easy digital sharing across social media, email, etc.) we are afforded the opportunity to observe and enjoy so much that would have been lost or only narrowly circulated before digital camera, smartphones, Facebook, etc.
And yet this beautiful sketch by Kevin Raines offers a perspective unlike any of the photos. It tells a story in a single frame. It offers a glimpse into the passion and precision that pervade this project. And so I offer heartfelt thanks to both Stuart Brody and Kevin Raines for making this possible.
I hope that Stu will not mind the spotlight and that Kevin will not object to my loose link between Essex doodles, cartoons and sketches!