|Amon Azizov on Wien Walk in Central Park. Photo Peter Walsh|
As he waits patiently for his customers in Central Park under Wien Walk's majestic oaks and plane trees - the mothers from New Jersey and Upstate New York bringing their tween children, the middle-aged tourists from Ohio, the young lovers from the Bronx - artist Amon Azizov feeds the squirrels peanuts from a bag.
Dressed in a denim jacket with the collar turned up against the sun and a cap riding low on his head, Mr. Azizov is prepared for a long day drawing in the open air. Every item in his kit, from the lightweight painting easel, to his worn brushes which sport just the right spring in the bristles, to the Velcro he uses to quickly transform his sample portraits of figures like Nelson Mandela into a workstation, suggests a man committed to using the fewest materials to achieve the highest ends. He has the aura of a sea captain or a mountain climber.
Originally from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he trained as an artist and was a member of the Soviet Union Artists Union, Mr. Azizov uses the “brush technique” like his fellow former soviet Artashes Karslian working just a few yards down the path on Wien Walk. “I’ve been working here in Central Park for about seven year now,” he says. Mr. Azizov and Peter Walsh exchanged portraits on Saturday morning, August 8th, 2011.
|Amon Azizov and Peter Walsh exchange portraits.|
Some comments from Peter Walsh:
“Amon and I were introduced by Artashes, who explained the portrait exchange to him in Russian. But I found his English to be quite good. He asked that I draw first and he second. My own drawing went quickly and I was able to catch a good likeness but make a rather bad drawing. I fell to some of the most basic errors of portraiture: I had trouble setting the eyes and I cropped the back of Amon’s head where I should have given it room. Being an amateur, I was rusty.
Amon took a bit longer to do his portrait of me, which is quite good and has the clean, airbrushed finish that the brush technique produces. First he laid in the over-all structure of my head and then he methodically dropped in each of the parts: my mouth and nose, then my right eye, then my left, then my left ear, then my shirt.
When he’s not doing portraits, Amon is a sculptor. “I’ve developed my own technique that relies on sheet metal. No clay or other sculpting materials,” he says. “For example, about two years ago a completed a 16-foot tall giraffe.”
I was pleased to learn that we live fairly close to each other in Brooklyn, Amon at the Newkirk stop on the Q train and me at the Church Avenue stop on the F. Not so surprising I suppose as the neighborhoods have many Russian speakers and communities from across the former Soviet territories. Between us lie several great Central Asian restaurants on Ditmas Avenue such as Restaurant Afsona (Uzbeki) and Café Sim-Sim (Azerbaijani).
The drawings will be posted soon.
NOTE: I also began an exchange with Min Gao, a very talented Chinese artist who also shot some important video footage that has been used in court to defend artists working in New York City’s parks. But business picked up quickly and customers were waiting so I wasn’t able to do my portrait of Gao. We’ll complete the exchange soon.