Saturday, October 02, 2010

Drawings by Oscar Littlefield

My last post, Pointing at my iMac, included a 20-year old Everex computer advertisement.  I kept it so long just to use on Mixed Meters.  Yup. In my search for it I came upon a manila envelope I've been saving for even longer.  Dating the envelope is easy - here's the return address:

Inside are four pen and ink drawings.  I intended to have them framed.  As my Mother always said, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  Words to live by.

The framing and hanging might still happen someday.  Until that day comes I've scanned them for display here.  (Click on any of the drawings for an enlargement.)

The artist is Oscar Littlefield. He was a resident of Sioux City, Iowa, during the period when I was a child growing up there.  He earned his living as the director of the Sioux City Jewish Federation.  Art was his hobby.  I didn't know Oscar until the mid-80s, the last few years of his life, when he, a widower, had married my Mother's best friend, a widow like my Mom.

There had never been artist role models for me while growing up in Sioux City.  One very minor exception was a visiting composer who wasn't even close to being an inspiration. (Read a little about that guy in Drummer Replaced by a Machine.)

Oscar, however, was different.  When I met him I had finished my education.  My music had been inspired by a number of abstract modern artists.  He and I fell easily into talking about the creative process - and he quickly became a reason to look forward to my visits to Iowa.

Oscar's principal medium was woodcarving.  Some of his sculptures are visible now on the Sioux City Art Center's website.  Check them out.

His drawings made a big impact on me.  I saw them, framed, hanging on the wall in his home.  Even more impressive was a hand-written letter from Albert Einstein, displayed nearby.  Einstein was saying (in German) how hard it was then (in the '30s) to find a job for a young physicist - because he was Jewish. 

These four drawings, like most pen-and-ink drawings, are about lines.  Oscar generally makes his lines of even thickness.  Darker shadows are represented by carefully placed parallel lines.  The lines swoop and curve.  They go places.  Oscar uses them to suggest three dimensions, especially in the last one.  The skull-like silhouette is the only real bit of representation.  I may not have picked his intended orientation - especially in the first two. (Feel free to swivel your monitor around to check out other possibilities.)

This page at the Sioux City Art Center website discusses Oscar's working method as a woodcarver.  It says:
The approach is very simple: an artist looks for inspiration in random patterns and pays attention to their own personal, subjective responses and imaginings
These drawings seem to have resulted from exactly that method as well.

Oscar's drawings were comparable to my own pen-and-ink "doodles" - little drawings I've done my entire life.    I think that the abstraction, the process, the long curved lines and the medium itself reveal many similarities between us.

Examples of my own "doodle" drawings are viewable in one, two, three, four, five, six different Mixed Meters post.  (If you time for only one I suggest #3.)  Also, you could see some doodles done in the medium of refrigerator magnets (along with a good story about cat piss.)

Here's a post, not about drawing, but about growing up musical in Iowa: Me and Mahler, Me and Iowa.

Finally, here's a post called Sevens, in which I discuss the large pile of manure Sioux City, Iowa, is famous for.

Pen-and-ink Tags: . . . . . .

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