I have studied drawing for over 30 years. My drawing-work currently focuses on understanding the relationships that exist between the spaces-taken and the spaces-not-taken by my drawing-marks. I explore these interstitial spaces in an attempt to better understand where their endings and beginnings originate. It is my hope, as I journey deeper into these realms, that I find the in-between to be as wide and fruitful as what it serves to separate.
“my Pleasure my Pain I & II” is drawn with graphite on arches cold pressed watercolor paper. Each drawing is identical in height and width: 70” x 45”. Combined the two drawings took 80+ hours of drawing, and required the complete use of over 100 pencils and 20 erasers.
When I started these drawings, I did not know what they would look like. I just knew I wanted to draw something bigger than myself, and I wanted to use graphite and eraser. I chose to create these drawings on Arches 190lb. cold-pressed watercolor paper because this paper can take a lot of drawing and erasing without tearing, and is perfectly suited for wet-media if the drawing needs it.
My preliminary plan was to create a large scribble drawing that would emphasize the circular mark-making ability of the human arms and body. I decided it would be best to use both hands and have my pencils sharpened on both ends to help speed up the process, and allow me to get into a successful drawing rhythm. After a few hours of drawing and using up 6 different pencils, I found myself unhappy with the process and the result. It took me over an hour and two full erasers to erase my first attempt. I realized that my supplies where not going to suffice and I was already physically tired from drawing. After a few visits to various Art-stores, and testing various pencils, I ended up deciding on the General’s brand Draughting Pencil. I chose Generals because it’s strong smooth graphite keeps it’s sharpened tip shape longer than other pencils. I knew I would need a lot, so I bought every pencil I could (60) from every Art Store in the area. I also bought 10 new steadler plastic erasers. I figured these supplies would cover my drawing, but in the end, I needed nearly double those supply numbers.
When buying Art supplies, try to buy double what you think you’ll need. I have found the double-plan to be very effective in helping me not have to run back and forth to Art-Stores during my drawing times. I also got a bottle of wine.
As for the drawing, I wasn’t 'feeling' the scribble manuever, so, using 1-hand at a time, I started rhythmically slashing the pencil on the paper at a downward angle, back and forth, left-hand then right-hand, making these very aggressive X-like lines. As an area on the page would begin to fill up, I would move to another area (still X-drawing as I went) continuing to draw there. I soon realized that if I tilted my upper-torso (to the right and left) while drawing in my X-motion, I could more efficiently cover the surface to the level I felt it needed (however, my idea of what the drawing needed was changing as the drawing progressed. What I thought was done turned out to be just begun, etc.) Eventually the X-moves proved to be limiting in it’s results, so I had to incorporate more types of arm/hand/ body movements.
The ‘dog-paddle’ was one I used quite a bit. Imagine a dog swimming vigorously. Now imagine moving like that with pencils in your hands. This dog-paddle-drawing-movement, gave me more control of smaller areas, and by tilting my body, left and right, I was able to get to parts of the drawing that the X-marking could not consistently hit.
I also thought of the idea of ‘up and down’ picking for a possible drawing motion. If you play guitar you know what I am talking about. The idea of up-and-down picking is that if you strike the guitar cord with a downward motion, you should strike it again as you are coming up from the downward motion. So, I evolved this very wonderful idea into a ‘up-down’ drawing motion.
There are various interpretations I ended up creating and using from the ‘up-down’ drawing motion. The first idea was to have my left-hand-pencil 'downward-strike' the paper, then rhythmically, the right-hand-pencil would 'upward-strike' the paper. I soon realized that it was more natural for me to start with a left-hand-pencil downward-strike, followed by a right-hand-pencil upward-strike, but then stay with the right-hand-pencil, have it downward-strike, followed then by the left-hand pencil downward strike then upward-strike. So, the flow was, left-pencil (down), right-pencil (up-down), left-pencil (up-down), etc. This variation was great to draw in rhythm to music, but was complex in its timing. There were more drawing moves that were needed, but I think you get the idea. Try to look at the drawings and see if you can visualize/physicalize the drawing movements there were required to complete such marks. Try to do this with all drawings.
As this drawing progressed, I realized I was very interested in applying an even distribution of marks. I was trying to create a field of marks that was consistent in its application, look, and placement. It was also important that the space left (not marked) was also consistent in its spacing, size, and saturation. The only way to keep track of that was to consistently stand back from my drawing. This back and forth, close then far, visual exchanges with my drawing continued inside the rhythm of the mark-making. In standing back, I noticed elements of the drawing that needed more marks, less marks, different type of marks, etc. When standing close to the drawing I was able to focus more on the moment and the particular area rather than the big picture. The standing-close-standing-far, was in the same fold as the idea of using my left and right hands to draw. A balance was being achieved in the drawing by the balancing of opposites involved in the drawing process. This balance is difficult to achieve and it only take a small bit of un-attention to have the drawing fall out of balance. Such moments can result in hours of re-drawing to re-find that so easily lost balance.
The decision to have the drawing reach the far left and right edges of the page was a difficult one to make, as was the decision to not have the marks go to the top and bottom of the paper. For me, these decisions tend to happen in the process of drawing, and at some point I made the decision to have the drawing/s to look like they do now. What was an unexpected discovery was how difficult it was to achieve this mark-making balance when working with the edges of the paper. In the beginning of my edge-time, I realized that my up-down, dog-paddle, X-moves, etc. were not effective and were damaging to the paper. I could draw out-of-the-paper (inside to out), but to come back into the paper, from the outside, over the edge, to the inside was ineffective. The edge was getting dented, and the marks themselves were having their directions shifted by the impact of hitting or going over the edge of the page (throwing off the visual balance). I knew Right then, the decision to go to the left and right edges of my drawing, was going to be a time-costly decision.
After much trial and error, I discovered, it was best to go only one direction (from inside the drawing out over the edge to the wall). The ‘dog-paddle’ move proved was most successful, but the edge version of the 'dog-paddle' was both hands marking in only one direction, from inside the drawing, over the edge, to the wall. In short, the left and right edges, took much longer than I imagined and much more energy than I had hoped. The wine was helpful at these times as well. Of course working on such large drawings in my bedroom (my studio :) is difficult due to space limitations. In the beginning I was using a ladder to draw the higher parts of the drawing. However, after drawing for hours on the ladder, I sometimes would forget I was on the ladder and almost feel off a few times. Not Good. So, grudgingly, I reverted to un-tacking the drawing from wall, and would either raise it up or down, depending on the area I was needing to work on. It was more time consuming than I liked, and was a difficult relocaton with such a large piece of paper. The paper seemed to like to fall over my head a lot, and engulf me.
I finished the first drawing with no plans on creating a second. However, When I stood back and looked at my finished drawing, I realized it needed a twin. Also, I feel it’s shame to do something only once. It’s typically better the second time because of all the skills and knowledge that was attained from the learning process of making the first version. This was very true in this case as well.
The second drawing, although taking about the same amount of time as the first, was further developed and achieved a deeper more consistent application of mark-making. Although I feel all of the edges of the second drawing are more successful than the first, the first drawing always has a special place in my heart because it went through more of the rough times, and is the original. However, both drawings are strong for their own reasons, and are even stronger together. Can you tell which drawing was drawn first?
The title “my Pleasure my Pain” and the drawings themselves were partially (if not mostly) in response to the sadness I felt over a loss I experienced in my life.
As with many times in my past, when I am in pain, I draw my way through it. One mark at a time.