Wednesday, Jun 26 2013 10:20 AM

Eye Gallery Chapter Two: David Vanderpool draws his way around obstacles

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    Artist David Vanderpool works by day as a graphic artist at The Californian.

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    David Vanderpool's drawing for Eye Gallery.

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BY MATT MUNOZ Californian staff writer mmunoz@bakersfield.com

Artist David J. Vanderpool works in precision. A study of any of his finely detailed, highly realistic drawings -- including his piece at left -- reveals perceptive eyes and a steady hand.

Actually, make that one perceptive eye.

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About Eye Gallery

The annual art series is a partnership between The Californian and the Bakersfield Museum of Art whose purpose is to put the work of local artists in the spotlight. This year we asked 10 artists to collaborate on a story, in words and pictures. Each was given 96 hours, a canvas and all the work that had been produced to that point. The story will unfold in Eye Street every Thursday through June 27, when the museum will host a reception for the artists and unveil other exhibitions.

CHAPTER TWO: Musical longing

Somewhere between dreaming and reality, I started to question, "Where was I?"

I knew the melody that had awoken me. I was even familiar with the pain it brought. I just wasn't too sure who the man was standing in the courtyard -- or his reason for being there. I did know that I didn't want to relive that longing again. I couldn't. Not if I was to make it through another night like this.

"The only challenge was making sure the drawing was clear and sharp due to dealing with a cataract," said Vanderpool, 52, who by day works as a graphic artist at The Californian.

"I had to stop every so often and ask my wife if I was getting this right. As for the drawing itself, I wasn't too sure if I could pull this off in the short time given to complete the project. A drawing this size has always taken me a month to complete, with just a few hours a night and weekends to draw."

Vanderpool was referring to the twist thrown at Eye Gallery artists this year: Each was asked to contribute a "chapter" to a larger narrative, which will unfold every Thursday over several weeks. The artists were given reproductions of all the work that had come before and 96 hours to finish the job.

And if the compressed timeframe and cataract weren't enough, Vanderpool has been dealing with limited hearing for years, making it difficult there for a while for the artist to fully appreciate music -- the loose theme of this year's project.

"As an artist that was limited to what I was able to hear for so long and only in the last few years able to hear without having to wear a hearing aid, you guys selected an artist that perhaps appreciates sound more than most people in general. I have a whole new interest and appreciation for music. In fact to hear most any sound after the surgery a few years back was a blessing, even the sound of a train in the middle of the night."

But any physical challenges the artist has dealt with have worked to heighten his sensitivity, fully expressed on paper with the help of a graphite drawing pencil.

"It is relaxing, requires little to no thinking and since I was a child, it was my escape. I draw with all lines. I never use traditional blending tools to smear the graphite. I use lighter pencils to blend the darker pencils, keeping the pencils sharp and the lines close to each other as each drawing slowly comes to life on the paper."

For his Eye Gallery subject, Vanderpool chose a black-and-white performance photo taken by photographer Jeremy Gonzalez featuring Bakersfield guitarist Pablo Alaniz and a vintage 1950 Fender Telecaster guitar.

"Being a portrait artist, I like drawing people I am attracted to, which means character, charm and who can offer me a challenge, to avoid 'mug shots' when it comes to a drawing, and turn everyday people into a treasure for the generations to follow."

Given the state of your hearing and sight, how did you feel about Eye Gallery revolving around music?

As for my sight, anyone that has dealt with cataract understands how it is a gradual change through time and most chalk it up as old age and get new glasses; however, being an artist I knew it was something more than that when my eyes were hurting. ... I can say I have had cataract surgery in my right eye since this drawing was completed, and so I look forward to seeing what everyone else sees once it's on display.

Explain your process/technique:

I draw from photos, whether they are a local person interested in a drawing or a model from another country. This allows the model to pose once and I can draw at the oddest hours. However I use the photo as a reference and add my style to the drawing that meets the needs to the client's interest. The trick is to focus on one section at a time. Skin tones, eyes, fabric, etc., rather than the overall subject. That way the project doesn't become overwhelming. A grid, mirror or light table can only offer an outline. The skill is taking it to the next level, and that part can't be cheated. You either have it or you don't.

What kind of art speaks to you:

I favor realistic and works from the old masters and Renaissance period. If you have to think too hard, question if the painting was hung upside down, or you left confused looking at what is in front of you, that's not my thing.

When I knew art would be my passion:

When I was told I had to stop drawing as a child, that boys played baseball and football and didn't paint or draw, I took that as a challenge and to prove them wrong and drew everything that sat in front of me. Yes, my way of rebelling!

Work you're proudest of?

"Courting" was last year's Best in Show at the Kern County Fair, and one of my wife's favorite drawings so far. It's not so much being proud of it or it being better than any of my other drawings, but because I did not give up when I was told I had to stop drawing.

Do you get many commissions?

Yes. There are times when I have to turn down commissioned assignments because I have too many to get done, and there are times I turn down assignment because I was not comfortable with the subject matter. I draw portraits and figure drawing, but I have a limit to what I will put my name onto -- even commissioned drawings that the world may never get the chance to see.

And yes, there are times when there are no drawing assignments for what seems like ages.

How hard is it to find a place to show your work publicly?

Very hard. I get art galleries who tell me they love my work and then turn around and ask me, 'What else can you do?' -- as if drawing was not an art form. And then there are galleries who will tell me my work is too contemporary while another will say it's not contemporary enough; however I finally had an art gallery in London explain it best. He said that an art gallery cannot profit off a drawing like they can with a painting, because of the time variant between the two.

Memory of the first time you sold a piece of work:

High school. Guys would pay me $20 to draw girls they liked on pin-up bodies.

Who's been your most supportive mentor?

Art teacher from junior high that I also kept in touch with through my high school. He said to create what you have passion for and there will be others who will come to you one day. Never create to meet the public needs, since most have no idea what art is. Create what you desire and introduce yourself to the world through your work.

How to learn more about my work:

paper2pencil.com

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