Sunday, August 9, 2009

Projecting Past the Drawing

What is it that makes me take a perfectly good graphite drawing and cut and tear it to pieces and reassemble it into something new? I mean, it was a pretty good effort at capturing the running brook, the stones and the vegetation and I might have stopped there. But, I was encountering the same feeling that I have with a photo. It was flat. It failed to catch the sense of depth and time that I felt looking at the view. So I was driven to add more to it, to push it past the flat rendering, the sense of frozen time. It's all about capital S Seeing, knowing not just what I am viewing but its context, its position in relationship to the rest of the world. Nothing exists out of context. Its the process of discerning the context that occupies my attention and drives me to do something more to it.
How to drag the context into it? Good question. Multiple layers with different treatments might reference that the scene changes over the progression of the year. the use of color or not might call up the way things change when viewed under different light. (How might it look at dusk?) Part of the image on terra cotta pastel paper might bring up the way that it contrasts with other streams or places I have seen. I could go on but maybe you get the picture. We don't just look at one thing and see it. We also see the other things we associate with it. We can never look at one thing and see the one thing. Wherever we look we always see the world. A drawing ought to say something about that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hecktic Summer but...

Everyone has visitors but I am trying to get back in the swing of things. I have made at least some progress on the concept I am working on. I am adapting some old printmaking techniques but using some new tools. This is the original stream drawing after it has been scanned and processed then printed on various papers for further manipulation. It's not unusual for a printmaker to pull prints for further manipulation and I am doing essentially the same thing. The inks are pigmented so longevity and colorfastness should not be a problem. My idea was to take the image and project it out into space so I am attaching it to acid free foam core and layering multiples to give me the overlap I want. I'm sure that something called Tole might come to mind It has already been pointed out to me. This is not Tole. Tole is more or less a type of paper sculpture with the parts assembled to preserve a realistic representation of the object in space. My ambition here runs more along the Cubist sensibility, presenting multiple aspects of the subject and both breaking the picture plane while retaining the flatness of the drawing. The concept will evolve with the work.

Monday, June 29, 2009

After a busy spell...

I was quite busy the last week or so. I completed a couple of new drawings to hang in the lobby of the Footlights Players theater down in Charleston. They are having an Irish play and wanted art in the lobby with an Irish theme. I did one of Ross castle and then one of some various elements taken from the Irish countryside. I take frequent pictures of my work in progress for several reasons. first, I like to document the progress. It gives me a sort of map of how I arrived at the finished product. I sometimes discuss the work in progress with other artists and this gives me a conveient way of doing that over the internet. Another reason is I can print a copy of the current point and experiment with different options and decide which is the best one to use.
The last drawing that I completed I had over 40 different shots and it occurred to me that I should assemble something like a flipbook showing the progress. I strung them together and constructed a video and redid it several times and here is the result. I hope this works.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New work, Still In Progress

Sometimes we have ideas of where we want things to go and sometimes we don't. This is a stream along the road going through the center of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. I stopped to take pictures and climbed down to the stream. The thing that struck me the most was the stream bed and the jumble of rocks. I saw the randomness of the placement, the texture and the color in the water and thought "Wow! If I could only capture that!" So I gave it a shot, knowing it would be a bit more complicated than the work I had done before. It's not perfect but I am pretty happy with it so far.
When I started this one, I was thinking the one graphite work. I got some ideas along the way. What if I did the water in color to capture all the variety? What if I had all that time in the graphite and messed it up when I put the color in? Fortunately, I have the capability of printing a scan onto the same type of paper the original was done on and that allows me to experiment without endangering all that time i already have in it. Of course, its not unusual for a printmaker to pull a print and experiment where to take it next so I am just doing a version of that. The idea that I have in my head here is that I don't want the color to overpower the graphite work. So far, so good.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What It Feels Like To Draw

This is the first time that I have posted an unfinished piece. This is the current project I am working on. The others were drawings I have done earlier in the year to illustrate particular points. Since I wanted to address what it feel like to draw, I decided the current project would be more appropriate.

There is something sensuous about the feel of the graphite being dragged off the point of the pencil as you draw a line. So many things come into play as the process happens. Its not the choice of paper or the hardness of the pencil or the angle or sharpness of the point or the pressure being applied or the countless other aspects involved with creating the drawing. Its all of them combined, the balance of all the minutia in harmony adding up to the seamless whole Thing that is the experience of creating. Some people refer to this as being in the "zone" and its a useful description. It certainly isn't everyday experience. Creation taps into more resources then are normally available, inhabiting that boundary line in the mind that is one step into the subconscious where intuition lies. Its the feeling of yourself flowing out through your fingertips out onto the paper. This brings to mind something else I heard in undergrad. "All art is self portrait." When we create, something of our essence is captured there. Its lightning in a bottle. It cant exist but it does. Art is one of those things that just happens. I don't mean to imply that it's easy or hard, it's something different. There are aspects about it that can't quite be pinned down. I don't think of it as "now I am going to draw this line in just such a fashion" because if I approach it in just such a fashion, it won't be right. Do you think of every step and movement as you're walking? No, you just do it. Art is like that too. It is possible to dissect the process but it's like peeling an onion. Once you finish removing all the layers you don't have a complete onion anymore. It's the whole thing that's important, not the pieces.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Color Theory

There is a marked difference between graphite and color pencil, more than just the color. The color pencils I used for this image are Prismacolor. The colors can be blended but its important to choose wisely which of the 128+ colors you want for the various parts of the drawing. Trying to adjust the blend by adding a little of this and a little of that can quickly end up with something that looks very much like mud. I think I used somewhere in the nature of 20 different colors for this which isn't a lot. Complimentary and tertiary colors can go a long way to simplifying the selection and avoiding muddyness. Fully half the choices were various shades of grey although it doesn't show that much. The top structure of the dock has mostly warm greys in it while the pilings have cooler greys. The relationship between the warm and cool colors is nearly as important as the choice of color overall and can affect the outcome in subtle, but striking ways. Notice the way some of the diagonal boards are handled with warm grey for the sunlit part and cool greys for the part in shadow. Things like that can go a long way to creating a convincing rendering. I am reminded of a quote from my undergrad drawing instructor, Chris Johns, who said, " In the end, its only pigment on a surface. The picture is all in your head." The Impressionists had it right. You don't need all the information on the page or canvas to convey the image, just enough and let the mind fill in the rest. Think Seurat. Just enough. There's magic for you.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tools of The Trade

My favorite tool is the yellow number 2 pencil. I have tried a lot of the different various drawing pencils out there and I do use them for different things but I use a yellow pencil for my graphite work 90% of the time. I like the way the line flows from the point. I try to keep at least three sharpened all the time that I am working. A lot is going on when I use them and I don't want to be interrupted by continually sharpening. I just switch off when the point gets too dull for the section that I am working. One of the things that I have learned is a sharp point is crucial in order to gain the type of detail I want. I suppose a lot of that comes from my experience as a jeweler and repousse artist. I still tend to work small and an 8 x 10 seems huge right now.
The quality of line, let me say something about that. Pressure is everything. A light pressure gives me a light grey. More pressure darkens up the line as I bear down. Ok, maybe that seems to self evident but think of it this way: I get at least 3 to 4 levels of grey in the same stroke depending on the pressure. A lot can be done with just that. Sharpness counts too. A fine point can only take so much pressure before it snaps. The only way to learn that is to break a few points. A blunter point can take a lot more pressure. That is one good reason to use several pencils at the same time because I can pick up one that is slightly used and apply a dark heavy wide line when I need it.
Other tools? I use several kinds of blending stumps. They vary in hardness and size. I use several different erasers also. Kneaded erasers are good for feathering, i.e. removing just some of the graphite to lighten areas without taking all of it up. Sometimes I trim shapes out of my white eraser to get a knife edge for branches or narrow parts. I even use a powered eraser on occassion.
More later.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

First Post

I am trained as a metalsmith and a sculptor but drawing was the first art I ever did and it has always been a big part of what I do as an artist.
Its only since I moved to the Low Country that I have felt motivated to carry my drawings through to a highly finished state. The area around here has so many beautiful and picturesque views it has become a principal inspiration and pencil seems the best outlet for that right now.
The image above is a composite done from a number of reference photos of live oak in the area. Live oak are wonderful subjects for drawing with all the detail they have and will be a subject I will return to frequently.