As you develop as an artist, knowledge can be a whisper you can’t quite catch. You read things. Are taught things. But they are often grenades, and won’t explode in your head till years after the pin is pulled.
Happens to me too. These damn whispers. In my journey as a painter, I became a texture junky early on. Falling in love with gnarly brushes. Steadfast bristled soldiers that many painters would have tossed long ago. (Hopefully with a salute for fighting the good fight. ) But I didn’t know why I liked texture. I just did. I was hearing ‘whisper, whisper’ in the woods and tip-toeing toward joy.
Later, like a kid fingerpainting, I was digging how the abused bristles would separate, leaving striated drag marks. What would happened if I spun it? Zig-zagged it? Stabbed it on the canvas as if through a shower curtain? That was cool. I was putting energy out of my body and into the work. Giving it mojo. The marks had character. Added a rhythm. A trail. And most important, left a sign that a person was there making them. ‘Whisper, Whisper.’
Many paintings later, I arrived at sort of a dry-brush attack with the tools, as can be seen in this early stage of my cover for ‘Angel and Faith #2’ for Dark Horse. The whisper was becoming more of a mumble, because, I noticed as I altered the direction of the bristles, the brushwork could dictate form. I was no longer making random marks and ‘filling shit in’. I was consciously thinking about every stroke before I pulled it, and the consequences.
What was I doing? I was painting light and shadow over FORM, rather than just light and shadow shapes. There is a difference. Conscious stroke direction can do this. (The bonus of which is, if I let the strokes show through, I find I have to do LESS rendering in the final stages- The bristle striations do the heavy lifting.)
In this same cover, I was trying to replicate the etching lines of a USA dollar bill in the background. One line at a time. Not being much of a cross-hatcher back then, (Why do in 12 strokes of a pen what you can do in one stroke of brush?) it occurred to me that if I apply the same logic of brush-stroke-direction-dictating-form, to individual lines, I could get the same results.
Quickly, before the whisper faded, I drew something to cement it in my skull. The lines had little arrow heads and everything. It was swimming. In motion, while at the same time, frozen in time. Cool.
When that thing we’ve been glimpsing out of the corner of our eye- that thing we were scared would vanish if we looked too long, starts to solidify, starts to form words… we have to listen till our ears bleed.
Many more paintings and one week ago, I arrived at this self portrait. I think I am getting it.
I started with a ball point pen drawing, a road map for what was to come. Blasted it out with white FWink, (which had the happy accident of the ink bleeding.) Then did a crude brushy lay in of color/value to give me a base to build on. The fun came by finessing the hell out of it with Nikko nib/dip pens and more FWink.
The fear is overdoing it. We are told not to add too many lines to a drawing or it will be, gasp, ‘overworked’. I’ve done it in black and white, it is a real fear. Death by a thousand stings.
But I have a theory: If I am working in zones of limited value ranges, I can put as many god damn lines as I damn well please. Life by a thousand lines.
Is it a painting? Is it a drawing? Is it both?
I don’t know. I will have to dig deeper.