Here are eleven charcoal drawings done from life; done a few years back. The first eight below are studies, made during figure drawing sessions with my students. The final three were drawn in my own studio, as explorations of themes that I would develop further: a figure in an interior, a magnolia branch, and a self-portrait.
This drawing was a preliminary idea for a painting. You can just see, behind the figure, the outlines of the fireplace mantel that is in my studio. The theme–a figure in an interior–was new to me then, and I finally pursued it wholeheartedly three years later in the painting Solitaire.
This branch came from a neighbor’s tree. The study led me to a more polished composition, Study for Magnolia Grandiflora, and then to a painting, Magnolia Grandiflora. That painting is now on exhibit at the Delaware College of Art and Design, in the Zeuxis exhbition, The Unstilllife. The show will be there until January 14, 2017. It travels to New York City after that, to open at the Painting Center on February 28.
This self-portrait was done thirteen years ago. Depicting my own image, from life, staring into a mirror, is an endeavor that I mostly pursue in drawing, and only rarely in painting. It’s a great way to practice my portraiture skills without having to schedule a model, or worry that I might offend a sitter. I was aiming to capture expressive movement in this drawing, as if I was turning to speak to the viewer. Looking at it years later, I realized that the sweater was so voluminous, that I found it comical–thus the title.
I have just added nine works to the website gallery. All are portrait and figure studies. Eight are below. The ninth, an oil study in grisaille, was posted on this blog a few years ago, closer to when it was made. So I haven’t re-posted it here today. But if you want to see it, click here.
Jonathan Kamholtz honored me with an eloquent commentary in Aeqai Magazine on the drawing Solitaire. He was reviewing the exhibition, DRAWN, presented by Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati last month. I have excerpted it below:
Sheldon Tapley’s “Solitaire” is also highly finished, a study for a painting that he apparently decided not to paint. A young girl of indeterminate age has been building a house of cards, and has been cheating, taping them to each other. She doesn’t care, not about anything. Her profound boredom is pointed at the viewer as a sort of challenge which seems just on the verge of being translated into something sexual. Behind her, as if out a picture window, one of Frederic Church’s monumental paintings of the tropical volcano Cotopaxi is steaming up a storm, on the verge of an explosion of its own. On the table, beside the house of cards, lies an overturned gourd from which extends a wispy stem that might just be a fuse. Tapley has seen all the explosiveness woven into the traditions of baroque still life.
I realized after reading the review that I had unwittingly misled readers. My written statement for the exhibition seems to say that the drawing stood alone, as a study for a painting that was never made. I should have been clearer, since I did eventually complete an oil painting of the subject. That is shown below, accompanied by the statement I submitted.
This drawing was originally intended to be a study for an oil painting, but it became an independent work in itself. (The painting that evolved from this drawing is larger; it is now at an exhibition in the Evansville Museum, in Indiana, where I was once Artist-in-Residence.) The house of cards at the heart of the still life is held together with hot glue and masking tape: sloppy expedients that postpone its proverbial, inevitable, destruction. It was set up in my studio for more than a year. Card houses, and card games, have long been symbols of the vanity of human effort. Most famously, Chardin painted them. His paintings of youths building card structures have hovered in my imagination for years. Frederick Church’s magnificent painting of Cotopaxi erupting is reproduced in the poster behind the young woman. I have borrowed that many times, inserting it into any quiet interior scene that needs drama. The cat, Inky, was once a family pet, less prescient in life than he appears in this little memorial.