Jamie Wyeth drawings from the book "Capturing Nureyev," published in 2002 by the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine.
I sat next to John Dowd (www.williamscottgallery.com) at a recent session of the drawing group we are part of, and he did some wonderful studies of the models on craft paper using a black and white wax-based pencils. I thought it was a shame for him to create such powerful drawings on a non-archival paper, and I mentioned that Jamie Wyeth started out using the same kind of high-acid paper but switched to using archival papers. When I got home I did a little research and sent John an e-mail with photographs of Jamie's drawings and a reference to two papermaking companies that have both standard and custom-made papers with the same deep, warm tone as the craft paper. One is the New York company Dieu Donne Papermill (www.dieudonne.org), and the other is Twinrocker Handmade Paper (www.twinrocker.com) in Indiana. Legion Paper (www.legionpaper.com) makes Stonehenge, a wonderful cream colored paper available through retail and online art-supply companies, and it is great for both wet and dry media. Unfortunately, it doesn't have quite as depth of tone that attracted John and Jamie to craft paper. There are lots of colored papers available for charcoal and pastel, but they tend to have a rough texture that makes it difficult to get really smooth lines and shade patterns.
Jamie began doing drawings and paintings of Nureyev in 1977 and completed about 35 portraits before the dancer died in January, 1993. He reworked several early studies after Nureyev did, and he and included almost all the drawings and paintings in the traveling show documented by the book. Jamie once told me that the idea of working on a tan surface and highlighting Nureyev's body with white gouache occured to him because Nureyev was always wearing makeup, usually a stark white body color that accentuated his muscles and created a glow around him. "He was always performing. But it was one thing to see him in costume on stage wearing such heavy makeup, and another thing to see him walking down the streets of New York with the same theatrical presence. He looked like a ghost or some kind of bizarre creature, and I was fascinated enough by his appearance to draw and paint him that way," Jamie told me.