More masked portraits

Two illustrations of people in masks

I’ve continued to do these masked portraits, though they’ve been meandering in different directions and styles. That’s me, though. I think when I get to a point that I’ve done a number of things in the very same style I begin to feel like I’m just doing a sort of copy+paste art. Which is absurd, really. For most artists who gain any sort of following, it’s precisely that recognizable ‘signature’ way of seeing and expressing, of storytelling, that leads to that.

For some reason, I remain a sort fo chameleon or shape-shifter when it comes to art. It’s something I’ve been battling with my whole career. Why can’t I just pick a lane and stay in it, become the best at *that*?

Two illustrations of people in masks, red and black, very intense

You can see, even among these few, how wildly they vacillate, style- and feeling-wise.

The below is one that I did last evening, based on a person we saw leaving the cemetery when were arriving. I had no intention at the time I made a mental note to draw them, that it would wind up being in these insanely cute and happy Easter egg colors, but that’s something that has been coming out in the mask drawings. Digital has been pulling me in ways that I don’t often go when I’m working with real paper and materials.

These look like the works of at least 3 separate artists! Maybe I’ll go back to just black and white, or at least more in a monochrome palette. I don’t know. I’d just really like to get to a place where my work is recognizably and unmistakably mine.

The therapeutic quality of art-making

When my office first announced that we would be transitioning to working from home, I imagined there would be so much extra time for things; I’d have time to write more here, time to make more art and perhaps complete a few projects that have been on hold. But it hasn’t really felt like that, despite that so many things that used to take up my time are off the menu for awhile.

Initially I found I could’t focus on being creative at all; I was overwhelmed and a bit frozen by the new reality. The only time I didn’t feel this way was when I was working; interacting over Slack and via audio meetings, etc, with my designers and co-workers.

Having work to do was and is really helpful; the opportunity to feel productive and useful, even in small way, is so good for one’s mental health, and I feel very fortunate to be able to continue working.

Finally this past week something shifted, though, and I started what has turned into a little series of portraits of people in masks. Above is the first one I did, and when I began drawing her, I hadn’t any plan to put a mask on her, but that’s where it went, and I’ve done one each day this week. Below are a few others. I’ve been posting them to instagram, if you want to see all of them.

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Reclaiming some sense of control

Digital ink drawing of an old house and trees
A house on Jones Street in Savannah

The past few days I’ve finally begun sinking hours of time into acts of creation (outside of my design work—I’m still working full time hours via telecommuting, for which I’m incredibly grateful).

Despite my plentiful physical art supplies that have accrued over years —like my watercolors which have been sitting out at the ready, for weeks but only used once so far— it’s the iPad that has drawn me in. Maybe it’s the immediacy of it, the ease of being able to duck in and out of a piece spontaneously, that’s made it my medium of choice this past week.

Digital ink drawing of a weathervane on top of a round tower, part of a sandstone building in Edinburgh
Weathervane in Edinburgh

Whatever it is, I’ve found myself spending hour upon hour, zoomed in and getting lost in details. As I wrote when posting one of these on instagram, I believe it’s the sense of control that has drawn me to this obsessive practice.

So I was up until 2am working on this lonely tower. I just get all zoomed in and I can’t seem to stop w the textures and lines and teasing out details. I think it has to do with the utter lack of control we have in this battle against the deadly invisible. The void that is yawning around every grocery aisle or on every doorknob.

So, finding a sense of control where we may is a kind of balm. Like how washing ones hands for so long and so bloody frequently began as an annoyance and has become our (perhaps) life-saving, lung-sparing mantra.

Digital ink drawing of the juncture of two buildings in Brugge, with the restaurant's sign "Diligence"
At the sign of the restaurant, Diligence, in Brugge
Digital ink drawing of two worried-looking cheese knight horses in a black void
Chess horses

These two chess horses with sorry looks on their gentle faces is the exception to the fiddly inked lines this week.

What have you found yourself doing differently since all this began? Since lockdown and stay-at-home started? Is there anything in particular that’s helping you cope?

Inktober has returned!

Well I hadn’t planned on participating in Inktober this year, but then on the second, I decided I would after all, but with no pressure this year. No attempt at a narrative which I haven’t time to work out properly.

The pressure to craft un-flawed images is precisely what keeps me from drawing half the time, and also keeps me from experimentation and play, so I’m abolishing pressure! There’s plenty of that at work with deadlines as it is. Here are my first five drawings for this year.

I see from my last post that the entire month of September went by without a peep from me here on ol’ bloggy. That makes me sad, and I miss writing.

The only thing I miss, really, about being a sole proprietor is the bags of time I used to have. Time to allow things to percolate in my mind; to wander for hours in the late afternoon, on foot or on my bicycle. To put hours of time into this and other non-essential but satisfying pursuits, like my calendar projects.

There can be a paucity of time or energy (often both) that goes along with a full-time job into which one is invested and interested. Choosing how and where to spend those valued assets can be difficult.


Sketch of some fashion type ladies, Vogue-style

Strike a Pose

I bought a new refillable brush pen last night; it takes cartridges of permanent ink like a fountain pen. I did this drawing to take it for a test drive, and I kinda love how it turned out, after some pushing and pulling.

I paired it with a white paint pen and a dash of red ball point, for drama. In the background I was catching up on some episodes of Pose, so fashion, attitude, gender fluidity were influencers— not to mention Madonna’s take on that buzzword a la mode.

Netflix and draw: Blue Planet odyssey

pencil drawings of undersea creatures

When I watch something like Blue Planet II, practically every frame of the incredible footage begs to be drawn or painted, so I spent several hours last night sketching some of the beasties— and consequently missing many of the others. Next time I can draw some of the ones I missed this time around.

pencil drawings of more aquatic creatures, including walruses

Last week I did the same thing while watching (re-watching) Civilizations. Some sketched interpretations of ancient art came from that session.

Sketches inspired by the ancient art in Civilizations.

Little cabins in the mountains

black and white watercolor sketch of some simple mountain cabins and pine trees

I painted this little sketch from Friday night this afternoon, and finally made use of the goose-neck phone holder to record a time-lapse of it.

Crossing into a new year armed with a pen

Ink sketch of people at the bar

New Year’s Eve: the borderlands of the year; symbol of hope, renewal, revelry. To some, the biggest party of the year. To others, just a day like all the others. I reckon my take on it falls somewhere in between. It’s nice to mark it, to be in the company of others, but not the sort of event I buy new clothes for, (Although, to be honest, I rarely buy new clothes for anything in particular.)

Left: sketch of a woman on tv interviewing revelers at Times Square. Right: two men dancing at the bar

So it was I found myself at my local around 10pm. I braved the dismal rain for two whole blocks to meet up with TL after her shift at the restaurant. She went home before the changing of the guard, but I stayed.

I’d spent the day working on updating my art website, and along the way I realized I’ve not done any drawings in two years with my trusted old ball-point with the ink that smears so wonderfully—so I armed myself thusly before heading out, hoping to fill the last few pages of my sketchbook at the close of the year.

Ink sketch of people at the far end of the bar

The simplicity of working with a single pen is good for bar drawings. You must work fast, as people may walk away or re-orient at any moment, The setting is dim, so details are hard to pin down anyway. These are aspects of bar drawing that I really enjoy. No time for thinking— just keep grabbing what information you can.

The type of decision-making apparent in these sketches differs from my more thoughtfully-approached drawings. I learn so much from doing them, despite that they never look finished or beautiful.

And now, it’s time to begin a new Moleskine, the first of 2019. Happy New Year, and thanks for reading!

The Witch-boy: line etch proof

Here is a scan of an initial proof of my line-etching of the witch-boy. This is the result of scratching my drawing into a waxy coating over the copper plate, called a hard ground. After coating the plate, you can transfer your (reversed) image onto the surface to guide you as you make your lines into the coating with a scribe tool..

Once you’ve finished, the plate is ready to go into the ferric-chloride acid bath. The places where you’ve scribed into the hard ground coating will be eaten away by the acid, thereby “etching” the lines into the copper plate.

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