More Writings

Materials, Process

Charcoal and paper are an old and venerable combination. There are many specialty papers, usually with strongly laid finishes, formulated with charcoal in mind. Typically, Western papers manufactured for drawing are robust and durable, enabling repeated additions and subtractions of material. Planes and volumes can be developed and modified with a very full range of value.

With Japanese paper, washi, the situation is different. While produced in a great variety of weights and finishes, washi seems not so compatible with charcoal. To apply charcoal is to be abrasive; washi is more naturally receptive to printing and saturation. To achieve a very dark value with charcoal may necessarily involve the partial destruction of the surface. Nevertheless, applied with delicacy and care, a dry medium can enhance the unique, irregular surface texturing of each individual sheet of washi. Once accomplished, turning the sheet in the light and viewing it from different angles reveals the subtle patterning on the surface. This extends a wonderful dimension to the drawn image, a degree of complexity unique to each work.

The earlier work on this site was done exclusively on western paper, mostly heavier weight hot-pressed watercolor papers. The charcoal was aggressively applied. The first landscapes were done outside: a block of paper of paper set on an easel; completed over the course of several hours or a day. Situations were sought where particular light would enhance objects in ways seemingly contradictory to or inconsistent with the ambient light.

The drawings of sea shells were exercises in enlarging objects. A pattern or energy from the sculptural form was expanded into the surrounding space. Thereby, the "background" became an abstract of the original form, or the dimensional form of the shell a representation of a surrounding abstract field. These drawings are also characterized by working and reworking to achieve a wide range of value in the final rendering.

The sky pieces are large, multi-part works about the movement of air. They visualize the atmospheric dynamics which are pervasive even on cloudless, or still, days. All derive from direct observation and preliminary sketches, further amplified in the studio. While meant to be cohesive as grids, they do not fit tightly together as do puzzle pieces. The entire composition is brought into focus as a whole. These pieces, owing to their scale, take one to six weeks to complete.

NOTE: Selected sky piece images will soon be available online.

The recent body of work is abstract. They are simply about drawing lines. This is done first in ink, and subsequently amplified with charcoal. The process is very direct and the drawing is never corrected. They are done in sequences, usually in threes or fives. One sheet is drawn and finished; then on to the next which may or may not be a neighbor. Failures and successes are equally lessons for the next composition.  While there is a determined order and orientation of individual sheets, the final composition is meant to be viewed from any perspective. They benefit from being displayed on the floor, where I think of them as "walk around" pieces. For wall mounting, they can be presented either horizontally or vertically. Some pieces have a close connective continuity from sheet to sheet. Others are more discontinuous, or present changing aspects of common elements.

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