Change it? Okay, YES, Change it!


“But will it be any better than it was before? Will I ruin it trying to make it into something I couldn’t quite achieve the first time around?”

Those are the questions I was asking myself this week in the studio.

Nascent WEB

Nascent, a mostly graphite, white conte, and ink drawing on a 50 x 36 sheet of Mylar, (as of February 2014).

It is not all that frequent, but sometimes when I finish working on a piece I have a nagging feeling that there is another solution available; a different way to wrap up a piece, not always better but a resolution that I haven’t yet discovered.

IMG_5916 WEB

That is exactly how I felt about Nascent, a drawing from my Natural Family History series. I had originally worked on Nascent in late 2013 and early 2014. I knew almost the moment I had “finished” it that there was at least one more way to solve the content vs structure issues of this drawing. Back then, I had to move on at that very moment so I put it in its designated storage tube and tried to mentally leave it there.

Now, I have to tell you that I didn’t feel as if I was being called to come back to the piece. It wasn’t bad a bad piece; there were things that were quite well done. But, every time I saw the digital reproduction of this drawing, I just knew that I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t explore some of the possible changes. Of course to do so meant a risk, taking a chance. I could destroy the very things that I did find satisfying about this piece. There was some quite delicate drawing and a use of negative space that created a nice tension between the human figure and the lone stem and opening bud of Queen Anne’s Lace.

IMG_5925 WEB

Facing that fear isn’t always easy to do.

Truthfully, most of the time I decide to just ignore the fear. That has come easier and easier as I’ve gotten older. I have ruined countless paintings, drawings, sketches and studies in my life. If it comes to it, what’s one more? I haven’t died or even broken any limbs botching a piece of art. The studio or the sketch board is the one place that, no matter what poor or brilliant path I take, the repercussions are all in my head. The piece can be screwed up and no one will chastise me for it. I might lament the loss of materials when I use up a large  expensive batch but I can’t say that the time was misspent though; I’m bound to have learned something even if the work is a horrible failure.

So, as you can see below, in the early stages of the reworking of the drawing the biggest and most noticeable changes are the inclusion of a lot more imagery based on the Queen Anne’s Lace plant. I have added several more partial renderings as well as hints of an entire field of them. These were derived from photographs and sketches I have made the past few years of this wild native in the fields and roadside all around me.

In the studio, I have continued to use graphites, conte, and lacquer and non-lacquer based India inks. In the section seen below, I have also been using some “new to me” acrylic inks, particularly a transparent burnt umber that I find to be particularly appealing.

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Near the center of the sheet of Mylar there are now quite a bit of subtlety rendered plant forms added into this new version of Nascent.

Eventually, I also added more bits of plants imagery behind and below the drawing of my Mom (as a late pre-teen) on the left. You can also see that I have added a map of the coastline and harbor of Kinsale, Ireland. She was born there  and, during the years of WWII, her mother brought her younger children (my Mom and my Uncle John) from London to escape the Blitz.  After doing so much work on the plants and adding the map, I increased the level of detail in the image of my Mom just a bit too.

So, here is the piece as I took it off the drawing board. Is it done? I don’t know yet. I am again putting in it’s tube though. And I will be taking it along with twelve or more studio studies and about 15 or 16 other of my large drawings on mylar, all fellow members of my “Natural-Family-History” series, to exhibit at Troy University in Troy, Alabama.

Nascent, (2014-2019) WEB

Nascent, in it’s current state, (2013-2019).

It is a bit of a trek to get there, but certainly not any longer than this piece has taken to get where it is today. The journey I and Nascent have been on are well matched. I have known for a while now that neither I nor my work seem to change smoothly or effortlessly … but both do show up and eventually benefit from challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It is good to have my studio back up and running and to be working on larger mylar and paper pieces again!  Don’t worry though, I’ll keep working on my mixed media panel pieces too.



POSTSCRIPT

Below are a few pics of the exhibition at Huo Bao Zhu Gallery on the Troy University campus. I have not been back to see the exhibition yet but they did decide to use the newest version of Nascent in at least some of the PR for the show. I will be on campus late next month to talk with art students as well as other members of the university and the community. I will also go back for the formal reception and a gallery lecture in late November.

 



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2 Responses to “Change it? Okay, YES, Change it!”

  1. Louisa Cahan Says:

    John, I used this blog to teach a senior citizens class yesterday. They were impressed that a “real” artist has paintings he is not happy with (they would call such paintings failures) and that you felt it was worth the time and money spent for learning, even if you didn’t like the finished product! One of the workers commented that this was not just an art lesson but also a life lesson.

    • johnahancock Says:

      Thank you Louisa, You are right, I spend a lot of time thinking and taking about art (or about teaching) … but it is really life issues that I am trying to resolve.

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