Posts Tagged ‘Drawing on Mylar’

Change it? Okay, YES, Change it!

August 26, 2019

“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.

IMG_5926 WEB

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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Two shows Delivered … resetting the studio for work!

February 3, 2014

Installion, of a large drawing

Installion of a large drawing

Excited and exhausted; to say the very least.

During January I installed two large exhibitions in two weeks. The installations went well. I was really quite happy with getting to see the works up on the walls together!

One exhibit had an opening reception that was very well attended, I got lots of questions and discussion, and folks seemed to have a splendid time. So I walked away with good feelings … relieved, happy and even a little euphoric.

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view of part of the exhibition at Mary Baldwin College

Answering some questions at the reception

Answering some questions at the reception

To be honest though, when that kind of scheduling happens, my studio and my life tend to get pretty … no … really messy.

As the two shows loomed on the horizon, I began to focus more and more on the logistics of finishing, prepping and packaging for transport. At the same time I was continuing to make the last few works for each show. This left me a bit crazed and frenzied at times. I was switching back and forth between production mode and thinking about logistics. I wasn’t putting supplies and equipment back in place at the end of each session.  The studio got way out of hand!

Normally, once a show is up, I start to wind down.

Even the prep table and storage areas became really messy

Even the prep table and storage areas became really messy

When some of the exultation and weariness begins to abate, it is usually time for that reflection to begin … to take stock of where my work is/is going, to decide if I need to shift directions, alter my course, or adjust my strategies. That is usually a very good thing for me but I have to admit that more than once I have let myself fall into some type of post-show stupor and have had a hard time getting back to a steady working routine.  This time, I really couldn’t stop … the other show had to get out the door in less than a week!

So I kept moving.

Now the second show in Pennsylvania is up … and I am noticing an interesting turn of events. Even while working on and installing the Pa. show, the heightened analysis process that I use after completing milestones/projects had begun. So, instead of collecting my thoughts while I was puttering through the studio doing some straightening up … I was already in full reflection mode when I walked back into the studio upon returning.

All the drawing ables, supply tables and chairs are full of stuff!

All the drawing tables, supply tables and chairs are full of stuff!

The practical tasks seemed, this time, to jump into sharp focus and to hand. First, the studio needed re-organizing and cleaning. Working in mixed media, if everything isn’t put away after a few sessions, it can leave the materials in a disheveled heap. It was a bit of real jumble as you can see here!

One messy wheeled table (sort of a mobile taboret)

One messy wheeled table (sort of a mobile taboret)

There were transportation and packing materials to properly store. And I have to make some sense, some order out of all the resource images, sketches and photos … as well as pieces of plants, dried seedpods, maps, and other studio materials to file away or re-evaluate for use soon. (I am not sure I have ever really gotten a good filing and storage system for doing these items!) I usually look about and see if there is something that I think that I need from old resources or need to go get/create at this point.

While I am getting things in order … it is good time to do a materials inventory too. Whether there is any income from these shows or not I’ll need replenish my stock, to order some fresh supplies and repair/replace any damaged or broken equipment.

So as tools, supplies, resource images/objects, are sorted out, the periodic cleaning MUST take on a high priority! I expect that it may need an even more intensive version this time ‘round. I would call it a “spring cleaning” but we are still in the depth of winter.

As I said before, I usually build to all these tasks as I reflect on my direction. This time, the practical/logistical tasks are happening at a quickened pace. It sort of reminds me of my German colleague and friend Brigitte Weyer, who moved into a new town, home, and studio … and was painting within two or three days. Even with some of the boxes still packed.

It seems as though I am resetting for new work already!

The studio is getting back to a workable state!

The studio is getting back to a workable state!

There are two medium size drawings that I need to switch out the glass for sheets of Plexiglass (aka: Acrylic glass, Acrylite, Lucite, Perspex) so they can be shipped. And I have already prepped two large Mylar sheets … because I’ve set some ideas into motion for several large drawings

I am also feeling the need to be working on my aqueous media painting … the works on panel and paper. I have a major multi panel painting in the works and three or four smaller single panel pieces roughed in. I need to start applying some color layers. That feels exciting just thinking about it!

Look closely, I have already started laying in the first color passages!

Look closely, I have already started laying in the first color passages!

There are some large watercolors on paper in the pipeline too. I am also really chomping at the bit, anxious to get outside (even in spite of this much colder than average winter) to begin working on new small sketches and studies.

Once I have really gotten all these moving … I will, as is my praxis, let the work lead the way; letting each of these strands of working weave themselves into an organic and fairly seamless whole.

There is a good lesson to take-away from this experience. I have known for many years that I need reflection time … but I do want to avoid the post show let-down and stupor induced paralysis it can bring with it. My scheduling of these two exhibits right on top of each got really messy. You could ask my wife. Perhaps though, it taught me again to NOT completely stop … to not let rethinking and re-ordering become a false reverie.

I have new works up and running. The studio is coming along. And we are planning a few trips (combining art and personal fun) and a vacation too.

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Going from study to “finished piece” … and back again!

January 9, 2014

Earlier this week I posted about a work (the working title was “Vixen”) that I finished a bit before the end of 2013.

Voxis Vulpis, mixed media on Mylar, 2013

Voxis Vulpis                                                            (the previous working title was “Vixen”)                                                         60×42, mixed media on Mylar, 2013

That piece is part of my on-going Natural-Family-History series; a group of large to installation sized mixed media draws that incorporate and align images from nature/natural history and from my family history as well.

Most of the time I work up the constituent parts of the drawing’s content pretty fully; If for no other reason, it becomes necessary to do so because of the size of these works. Most of the time though, I don’t plan the entire composition. It isn’t that I can’t. I certainly have worked that way in the past. I taught my students how and why it can be such a great practice.

Instead, I have been using a modified, jazz influenced praxis. Utilizing a hybrid hand-digital sketching process for the parts of the drawing, I can then create digital enlargements. Then I work up multiple sizes of the visual elements. With these and projections, I can experiment and improvise … sliding the pieces around as if in a collage.

Now, that has been the practice of late. But ever-so-often I do back track to a more traditional way of working and produce some  1/4 to 1/2 scale studies. In fact, the mylar drawing, Voxis Vulpis actually began as just such a study on paper. I thought it might be interesting to look at how I tried  to work up the image/idea. And how the study went so very badly … and made a come back … as a very different work!

view of studio wall with study, sketches and visual resources

View of studio wall with the 36×27 inch study on paper after I erased the fox image.                                          Notice the red pencil sketch of the seated fox looking leftward and also the visual resource photograph of a fox as well

early stages of a study for "Vixen" 36x27 mixed media on paper

early stages of a study for “Vixen”                                                             36×27. mixed media on paper

To the  left is a view of the studio with the study at an early stage of the process. Note the visual resource photo and the red sketch of a seated fox pinned to the wall. The messy, playful, nearly random staining underlayer is visible … as is basic drawing of the Hawthorn branches, leaves and thorns that had been begun for the top section.

detail of the study, using a raking light to reveal remnants of the erased head of the fox

detail of the study, using a raking light to reveal subtle remnants of the erased head of the fox

If you look carefully in the lower right hand area of the study, you can see remnants  of the drawing of the seated fox planned for this section of the of the composition. The B&W image to the right may help you see the erased head, snout, and nose of the fox just a bit better.

Upon reflection, I made a pretty massive change in the direction of the image. I thought the scale to be all wrong and I was also disenchanted with that pose. I even began to dislike the drooped head posture for this piece.

After erasing the head and body of the fox, I planned to add a different version of the fox. As I made that decision, I also began working up the additional design elements on the larger mylar piece this study was the preparation piece. As I worked on the larger work, I made the decision on the version of the fox I wanted to use; one that was in a standing position with the body oriented towards the viewer’s right … but the head still looking left.

I also altered the idea of the Hawthorn branches and thorns from being done in tonal dry media … into creating them with a rich black ink.

At this point I abandoned the study.

A bit later, as I was working on another large mylar piece, I looked across the studio and saw the unfinished study still up on a wall mounted drawing board. Whether by serendipity or some internal decision making process that I was not aware of, I decided to give that sheet of paper another go.

Since I was working on a 10 ft drawing that was going to need a bird known as a Tufted Titmouse, I figured I would try adding one of those to the composition. I had drawn some before … as studies for the larger work … but had not yet included one in a composition. So here was a chance to do so despite this piece being very different than the mylar one.

My First Encounter with the Wild 36x27, mixed media on paper, 2013

My First Encounter with the Wild 36×27, mixed media on paper, 2013 

Once I added the perched Tufted Titmouse work needed some more darks through the middle section. After working up the darks in the middle and some additional changes to the top register of the page, I backed off. I let a couple of days go by … looking from time to time while in the studio. After some small adjustments … I stopped  “tinkering” and decided it was done.

Now that it is complete, I realize that it isn’t really like either of the finished works it helped me prepare for anymore. That’s ok. The “study” went it’s own way and is now an independent work. I like it enough that I think that I’ll include it in my upcoming exhibit at Mary Baldwin College.

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So far, it is just called “Vixen” …

January 6, 2014

I am sure about one thing in this drawing. I was really, really scared to work up an image of the fox.

I often use bird images in my drawing for the Natural-Family-History series; I see lots of birds everyday. Even if and when I have to do research on the look and habits of a particular species or the visual differences between genders of mature/immature birds … at least I see many, many birds all the time. I have been watching birds, their behaviors, and trying to understand their relation to their habitat since I was about 12 years old.

But foxes? I seldom see a fox.

Studio view, with Vixen at first stage mixed media on Mylar

Studio view, with “Vixen” at its first stages
mixed media on Mylar

In this series animals are used symbolically (Purely visually? Not so much). Here the fox is a totemic image … a stand in for someone very important in my life. When the subject and I talked, we discussed the images that I could  use; I wasn’t surprised by the suggestion of the fox.  I was Just unsure how to incorporate the image. And I wasn’t used to drawing this four legged creature … an especially shy and reclusive little predator.

Vixen (a working title), unfinished, detail 1 mixed media on Mylar

Vixen (a working title), unfinished, detail 1
mixed media on Mylar

Despite my trepidation, the fox is, frankly, the perfect totem for this person. Shy and reclusive I have already mentioned those; audacious, agile, quick witted, and tenacious are other common attributes that people throughout history and across cultures have seen in the fox. The one I think of most though is … graceful; especially when the word is well used to denote a natural combination of power and beauty.

The other imagery falls into into basically two categories: intricate, abstracted geometric structures and evocations of autumn. The scarlet hawthorn with it’s late summer to fall bloom and fruiting, the heart of an apple, and the fiery coloration are all appropriate, just like the fox,  to communicate, through visual analogy, the temperament and character of this family member.

'Vixen', detail A3, WEB

You can see I have also included some text. It is a bit of a wordplay actually. Vox. Vox ≠ Fox … and it was an unexpected, almost quixotic metaphorical turn in my head. And it is beginning to suggest a a more “finished title to me. I’ll leave that one for your imagination.

'Vixen', image A1, WEB

Well, this one seems to be about finished. Other than the fact that I like the intensity of the parts but I am uneasy about the “crowded” nature of the composition … I am not sure what I think about it yet. I do know that I have worked on it enough for now. Maybe I’ll come back and alter something about it later.  First, I am going to go back to the study I did on paper and eliminate the fox in that one. More about that in my next post.

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Drawing, more than process. Honestly.

October 20, 2013

For-Scythian Suite, detail #1

For-Scythian/Forsythian Suite, detail

Last time I wrote about the process of drawing.

I wrote especially about my process; what I assume echoes many others studio practice. But I didn’t even mention content.

When I teach, students always want to talk about content. When I am showing my work, I always get questions about content: “Why did you choose that subject?” or “What moved you to work with that image?” Even my fellow artists almost always ask a “What’s up with that?” kind of question.

For years, I didn’t answer that question well. If at all.

I could have been to young and naive, to unsure of myself to have anything to say. Maybe I really didn’t think that I should even talk about subject matter back then. Perhaps I was playing out the mid-20th C. art world game of being above the idea of image and subject. It certainly never came up much when I was studying in college during the mid to late 70s. I have heard a lot of artists, then and since, say that art should speak for itself … that they shouldn’t have to explain anything. When I returned for further study during the late 80’s, folks wouldn’t quit talking about content. But they were abuzz with deconstructing meaning, not talking directly about content or subject matter.

Formalist and Post-Modernist strategies are quite exciting; I enjoy discussing and using both. I also value direct, straightforward discourse, heartfelt honesty. Years and years ago, a director at a community art center/arts council called not being willing to explain my work in ordinary terms a form of snobbery. Intellectual snobbery and arrogance to be precise. (Guilty as charged Sally!)

Well, about ten years ago, I started this series of large drawings. The subject matter is, frankly, probably the most important part of the whole series. The subject is not just the process. It is not just the design. The subject incorporates all that … as well as the images in the pieces … AND the alignment of the images that I am bringing together.

I have come to title this series “natural FAMILY history.” It is comprised of images from nature, signs and symbols taken from weather, history, science, and culture, as well as totemic and/or visually recognizable representations of my extended family members. The drawings, combining/aligning such diverse … maybe even disparate … images into complex but approachable compositions … are about the convergence of personal history and natural history.

Vixen (a working title), unfinished, detail 1 mixed media on Mylar

“Vixen” (a working title), detail 
unfinished, mixed media on Mylar

I can not any longer avoid talking about the images. How could I; these are the people, the events, and the ideas that have brought me here. They are the family and the places that have sustained, supported, and challenged me. This is about love and pain, disappointment and total joy … a reflection of my journey and of my being.  These are the images I will carry with me to wherever else I may go.  So the drawings are hopefully … essential and intrinsically humane; an attempt to be honest about not just art … but about life itself.

So, yes , the design, process, and materials are fair game … so is the imagery and what I am trying to say or to trying to explore with the imagery.

And I will talk about them with anyone.

Ask away!


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