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April 16, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, April 16, 2004

The not-so-sketchy details The not-so-sketchy details (April 16, 2004)

Local artist K.J. Wesler's drawings on display at CSMA

By Katie Vaughn

For many artists, revealing their sketchbooks is akin to showing the world their innermost thoughts and emotions. But K.J. "Moose" Wesler doesn't mind. In her latest exhibition, she puts her drawings and love of music and travel on display.

"Sketches of Spain and Other Musical Odysseys" is a collection of sketchbook images the Mountain View artist has drawn over the past 20 years. Almost all of the works depict musicians performing in a city Wesler has lived in or visited. The fine art show is the second at the Community School of Music and Arts, where Wesler teaches youth and adult art classes.

Wesler has long had a connection to both art and music. Her parents are music lovers, and her father played the violin and viola for over 65 years. Wesler herself played the clarinet and jazz saxophone as a child.

"There was always music around the house," she said.

But Wesler was most often seen with a sketchbook in hand and, to this day, is rarely without one. Her passion for drawing led her to study fine arts at Brandeis University. It was also in college that she began drawing musicians.

Wesler continued the practice in London and Boston, where she studied printmaking. She also used her sketchbooks to capture musicians she saw while living in Seattle and California and on visits to Prague, Spain, Australia and China.

An influential teacher in London urged Wesler to explore her surroundings and draw anything she saw.

"That's how I view what I do," she said. "I take my sketchbook and I go out in it."

She rendered the musicians while watching them perform, and the resulting images are sketchy pen or pencil marks on paper known as gesture drawings. Artists who create such works must draw quickly to capture the essence of their subject before it moves.

"There's not any time (to draw) when these people are working," Wesler said. "I developed a fluidity of motion to capture their motion."

Sometimes gestural sketches are the basis for more detailed drawings or paintings. Often they are regarded as artistic practice.

When Wesler started thinking about compiling some of her work for an exhibition, she initially overlooked her sketchbook drawings. Then she realized she had more than enough material in them for a show and that she preferred the drawings to much of her other artwork.

"I have stacks of sketchbooks," she said. "They're my most meaningful work."

While the artist has also created series of prints and paintings, she is fondest of her sketchbook work because of the technique it employs.

"For me, drawing is the essence of making art."

Although Wesler wanted to communicate the intimacy of sketchbook work, she knew she couldn't show many drawings by simply displaying open books. Her solution was to copy pages using Photoshop, print life-size reproductions and mount them on black backgrounds or on a platform.

Visitors can tell the sketches come from books since Wesler maintained page creases and included several sketches with scribbled notes. Most look as if they were created quickly, and some consist only of a musician's head, shoulders and instrument.

"It's an appreciation of a moment in time, yet they're fully recognizable moments," she said.

Wesler sent a few of her drawings to be enlarged into poster-size, which allows viewers to see the diversity of her techniques. In one, she used scribbled, sketchy lines to depict a musician. Another is almost abstract in its minimal use of lines that appear to be almost one continuous stroke.

"Where there's suggestion, that's where less is more," she said. "With a few lines you can see what's going on."

In the local exhibition, Wesler also displays a few non-musician drawings. These depict European architecture and incorporate much more detail than the other sketches because she had longer opportunities to observe the structures.

Wesler said she likes the exhibition because she was able to display her life's work, but in an unconventional way due to computer technology. It has given her ideas for new projects.

"I'm looking forward to making new work," she said. "But I am intrigued by what I can do with my old work on a computer."

Wesler is uncertain about her plans after the exhibition, but knows she wants to continue drawing, teaching and traveling.

"I hope to take another trip this summer," she said. "I don't know where, but I'm going to get a sketchbook ready."


"Sketches of Spain and Other Musical Odysseys" runs through May 28 at the Community School of Music and Arts, 230 San Antonio Circle.
Gallery hours are 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
The opening reception is April 16 at 5:30 p.m.
For more information, call 917-6800 or visit

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