Monday, May 19, 2008

Vince Whitehead

Vince Whitehead, Ft. Jennings, Ohio Railroad Depot
Pen and Ink, 12" x 10"

It’s been awhile since I’ve worked much in pen and ink. But looking at Vince Whitehead’s Fort Jennings, Ohio Railroad Depot makes me want to get out my Sakura Pigma Microns, and have some fun.

Vince has posted several in-progress scans, details, and comments on this drawing on his site’s Work In Progress page. Looking at the reference photo reveals how Vince has utilized heightened contrast to sharpen and highlight elements like the depot’s windowframes, the decorative details at the gables, and even the roof’s shingles. Vince handles natural elements equally well; the trees, foliage, grasses in this drawing seem unstudied, effortless. Of course, they’re not; he just makes them look that way.

Limited-edition prints of this and many more of Vince’s drawings are available through his website.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Lost Episodes, Scene 4

Another Lost Episode, from 2006.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Lost Episodes, Scene 3

Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20; looking through in-progress scans of old work, it's easy to see where I should have made better choices. The drawing this enlarged detail was saved from was ambitious and fun but unfocused, and would have benefitted from more ruthless editing- The rest of the elements didn't work nearly as well as this one, and I should have recognized that. But this passage, at this stage, I like.

Catherynne M. Valente's short story Palimpset, from Paper Cities, An Anthology of Urban Fantasy, Senses Five Press

Thursday, May 08, 2008

In Silence, Scan 5

In the final scan, the cliff’s become more cliff-like, taken a step back into the shadows and assumed a supportive role, with a sloping lawn appearing at the top, between the building’s foundations. A rugged natural setting with another green tucked among the perhaps-ruins below, and immaculate, carefully tended buildings and grounds above- Those contrasts make for an interesting place, one I’ve enjoyed spending some time exploring.

Materials, tools: Strathmore Bristol Board; General charcoal pencils, Grades 6B and HB; Dixon Ticonderoga Graphite pencils, Numbers 1-4; kneaded erasers; Q-Tips.

To view the finished drawing, click here.

In Silence, Scan 4

I wanted the adjacent buildings to tie the tower into its setting, without compromising its impact or obscuring its brightly lit face, so I kept the new shapes and rooflines simple, clean, complementary. The small building breaks up the horizontals, and the light falling across it becomes another focal element. Trees and bushes function in the same way, and soften shapes, surfaces, edges. More sky smoothed, values adjusted throughout the drawing- Always an ongoing process. The cliff to right remains a work in progress.

Part 5

In Silence, Scan 3

Here, I’ve adjusted and cleaned up the tower’s lines, and developed its surfaces further. I like the new bridge, the flow of the bridge and walkway, and I still like the outcropping below. I’m reluctant to give up any of those elements, but though I’m usually partial to solitary, stand-alone structures, it seems clear that this tower should be the focal element of a community or campus.

Part 4

In Silence, Scan 2

In the second scan, the tower’s taking shape, and I’m working to bring the values of its roof and the sky behind into line.

Part 3

In Silence, Scan 1

In Silence is a charcoal and graphite drawing on heavyweight, acid-free Bristol Board. Tools include General charcoal pencils, Dixon Ticonderoga graphite pencils, kneaded erasers, and cotton buds. The drawing began with a light, nearly random blotting and rubbing of charcoal dust, applied with a cotton ball. I roughed in the tower’s shape by lifting out lights with a kneaded eraser shaped to a fine point, and developed detail with very sharp pencils, stippling from light to dark.

Exploration and discovery remain a priority of my process. In the first work-in-progress scan, above, I like elements of the outcropping to the right of the tower. But the crag the tower stands on doesn’t seem substantial enough, and the tower already seems to need adjacent structures.

Part 2

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Small Steps

If someone unfamiliar with any of my work were to view an unidentified selection of my drawings from ten years ago, or five, when I was working primarily in ink and graphite, then view a selection of recent pieces, say from the last year or two- Would they sense or imagine or expect them all to be the work of the same artist? I wonder.

If not, well, that’s probably a good thing. Considerations of marketability aside, if my work isn’t continuing to evolve in a way that’s perceptible in the finished pieces, then I probably haven’t learned or grown much in their doing.

I wish sometimes that the differences between a new piece and the last were more obvious, more radical, that the growth represented were greater. For me, growth has never seemed about big leaps, but a series of small steps. Like most aspects of personal artmaking, it’s hard to be objective about that; maybe I’m just too impatient, and not giving myself enough credit.

Dissatisfaction, though, is a good thing. I’m always trying to narrow that gap between what I want to achieve, and what I can. And as long as I’m continuing to move forward, small steps are okay too.

Keith Jarrett, interviewed by Ted Rosenthal for Piano and Keyboard, 1996

Thursday, May 01, 2008

In Silence

In Silence
Charcoal, Graphite; 5 1/2” x 16 1/4”

In Silence is the largest drawing I’ve done in several years. It’s been on the drawing table for a few weeks, and I’m happy with the result. More on this drawing shortly. Click on the image to view at actual size.

Recent reads, both short stories:

At Archipelago, Tracy Robinson’s Open Your Eyes, Red
At Barbara Campbell’s 1001 Nights, M. John Harrison’s Not A Hint Of Irony