Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Actually, the more I think about this particular posting, the more I see the appropriateness as it relates to the shift in focus in the Beginning Drawing class. The obvious parallel is in introducing gesture drawings during the final two weeks while working with models: capturing the spontaneity of movement and representing the essence of form was the motivation behind creating this original series of sketches more than a decade ago.

While working in the production department at Trademark as a silkscreener (as opposed to a later stint in the graphic art dept.), I experimented with reproducing my original field sketches as serigraphs. After scanning the images they would be printed out as a positive and the burned onto a high mesh screen, and finally editioned onto Japanese hand-made (ex: kitikata) rice papers. These all culminated into a solo show at the now defunct Into the Woods Bookshop in 1999, which was an excellent setting to display these pieces, the perfect alternative venue in which to showcase works that also happened to perfectly reflect the ethics and ambiance of the business (most of the pics in this post were taken from that show).

The original images came from a long drive up the haul road with my photographer girlfriend in the depth of winter: we spent time around the last stand of spruce trees before tundra takes over the landscape, and it was during an intense near-white out from high winds with extremely bitter sub-zero temperatures. In fact we kept attracting the attention of pipeline service people who would pull over to check on our health and welfare, as obviously there had to be something wrong to be out in an hostile conditions.
Nope, just a coupla crazy-ass artists.

I remember I would have about two or three quick strokes with the brush before the ink would freeze (Diane's shutter also kept freezing up after a few shots) so we kept retreating to the cab of the pickup to thaw the art, our gear and ourselves out. The challenge behind encapsulating the cold, lonely beauty of the subject matter in such an environment was an almost total absence of context: the sky blended with the snow and left these isolated, almost abstracted spruce tree forms being blown by the arctic wind. While I filled a big sketchbook with page after page of gestures based on this road trip, only a relative handful were successful at imparting the experience, with only one, this particular piece, being the best.

The comparatively long odds of scoring the perfect sketch remind me of when I was a former philosophy major: I was given a copy of perhaps one of the oldest and definitely one of the best texts on art, the "Mustard Seed Manual of Painting," which was a pivotal resource for my artistic development at the time. In one of the sections, "The Book of Grass" I think it was, it was pointed up the necessity of doing hundreds and hundreds, if not ultimately thousands of gesture drawings such as these so as to statistically increase the chance of a "happy accident" - an improvisational, spontaneous, unconscious and purely reactive creation that appears under your brush without any deliberate guidance. Art as a Verb, not a Noun; a process and a part of life:


• Process, broadly, is a series of actions and reactions.
• It is a way of interacting with materials in a way that allows for an open conversation and an unknown outcome.
• It is a working method. It is an approach to creating work.
• It is the opposite of thinking of an idea, and following the idea through with no alterations or amendments from conception to realization.
• Process means you make room in your work for ‘happy accidents’ or interruptions; for example, in printmaking, there is sometimes ‘found writing’ on a print plate where an accidental, or unintentional scratch has occurred.
• Process can be a way of generating ideas; for example, you might not know what to write about in your essay until you’ve begun to write it, and the words begin to suggest form and content.
• Process means sometimes getting de-railed or redirected by drips, holes, sloshes, scratches or tears, or the way paper moves, or how metal bends, or in what way cement dries; it means being open to what materials might suggest the next move to be, leaving the materials a generous amount of space to direct the work.
•Process is a way of encountering otherness, a way of dialoguing outside of oneself.
Years later a local Buddist group, the Cold Mountain Zen Center, appropriated the image for usage on a tshirt design, this week I actually got one mailed to me, and love the simplicity and power of the image. So does Bird-Dog, who suffered through the indignity of another impromptu model shoot.

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