Sometimes I can’t finish things. Luckily for me that’s not too often but this week was the week for it and I found that frustrating. It was all about me wanting to make a large piece but not being able to. I haven’t made any of my 20 by 28 inch ink drawings in a while but I wanted to get one started again. I didn’t seem to be able to. In the past they’ve been fairly easy to start. I start them just like every other drawing I make. I pick a drawing out of one of my ink books that are full of drawing ideas and I work up a working drawing from that. Usually a six by nine inch drawing but sometimes a nine by twelve inch one. That’s why I do all those small ink drawings. So I can have a place to start from. And that’s where I started with this one.
After I found a drawing I liked I printed it out in blue line on a six by nine inch piece of paper. Nothing new there. I started to draw but quickly got nowhere. Nothing was working. I couldn’t get the eyes right, the spiral shapes were all wrong, and I had no idea what to do with the background figure. It was a frustrating bit of drawing. After about half an hour I decided to put that drawing aside and look for a new drawing idea to work form. Putting a drawing aside is almost always the right answer when I can’t make it work. Maybe I can another day.
I went back to one of my ink books and found another face drawing to use. I still wanted a face to work with so that’s what I went with. Once again I printed out a six by nine inch blue line and started to draw. More frustration. I gave up on this drawing even faster than the first. I couldn’t get it done. More swirls to struggle with, more eyes that I couldn’t find anything interesting to do with, and another dull neck. It seemed like I would never get that drawing done either so I decided to change course yet again.
I went back to my ink books and looked for a drawing that was more figure and environment based. I found something with less face in it and more body. I thought for sure I had this thing licked and I’d have a finished drawing soon enough. It didn’t happen that way. I couldn’t figure the drawing out. I worked on it longer and harder than the first two but to no avail. Hard work isn’t always the answer. I can’t bull my way through a drawing that’s not working. That’s a hard lesson to learn but every artist has to learn it. So I abandoned a third drawing. I even decided to abandon the whole idea of a large ink drawing. That would take too long and I needed to get something done. A smaller piece just so I could accomplish something. A decided to switch over to one of my “Dreams of Things” covers.
A few days before I had managed to get something done when I couldn’t get much done. I inked “Dreams of Things” #12 cover. One of my faux comic book covers. The way I got it done was to change up my inking technique. I usually use a smooth line to ink with and that takes a certain amount of concentration. I decided to switch over to a rough textured line technique that doesn’t take the same kind of concentration. It’s more free-wheeling. That worked for me a few days before with cover number twelve and I got that cover inked. I decided to work up another cover. The difference between covers twelve and thirteen would be that I already had the pencil drawing done for cover twelve and I had nothing yet done for number thirteen.
I had already proved to myself that I was going to have trouble getting any drawing done that day so I decided to dig through a bunch of my old drawings to see if I could find something that was finished enough to use. It’s pretty easy for me to do that since I scan in all my drawings so they’re all digital files on my computer. It did take a while for me to find one I could use though. Every drawing is not for every occasion. I was even getting frustrated as I was looking through the drawings and not finding anything. It was that kind of day.
After settling on a drawing I had to modify it a little. That wasn’t too hard since I did it digitally but even that was frustrating. I actually picked a horizontal drawing that I cropped and was using vertically. It was a drawing of a person in some kind of elaborate Japanese influenced armor. The person had super-wide shoulders that made the piece horizontal but I cropped it in such a way as the shoulders didn’t even fit onto the sides of the paper. The drawing was from a few years ago and I don’t think I ever made anything finished out of it so it was about time I did.
I don’t think I could have finished the cover if I inked it in my usual way. I obviously didn’t have my usual concentration that day. That much was obvious. Instead I inked with the side of my brush. I used a line that wasn’t thick-to-thin but was uneven. It took me a while to get it done. I was talking on a Google-chat as I was working and that’s usually and easy way to get distracted but this time it helped. I could work slowly and methodically while being able to either listen to someone or take a mental break and talk. It probably took me two and a half hours to ink. I think if I was on I could have cut that time by half an hour if not more.
It was a tough day of not finishing stuff. Days like that can try anyone’s patience. I’m glad something finally came together.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got seven new comics.
Check them all out here:
Physical effort. Some things take more physical then I think they will. They fool me every time. Maybe not every time. After all it’s why I put off this particular task. Wrapping paintings in plastic to keep the dust off them. That’s not something a successful artist who sells painting has to worry about but for those of us who are unknown and unsold it’s a problem. Dust build up over the years and gets into the nooks and crannies of the paintings. It can wreck things.
Besides dust wrecking things leaning a painting against another painting can wreck things too. I try not to do that but I have too many paintings in too small a space so I have to. I even built a painting rack to stop that from happening many years go but I filled that up. A thirty by forty inch painting can take up some real room. Wrapping the painting in plastic can help with the paintings not rubbing up against each other but if there is too much leaning weight on the paint it can still be a problem. I try to keep that to a minimum.
For my smaller paintings, the ones around eight by ten inches, I use envelopes and cardboard book mailers. A painting that size can slip into a ten by fourteen inch envelope and keep it clean. There is also not much weight to a small painting like that so there isn’t much of a rubbing issue once they go in the envelope. I keep them on a shelf so they’re not stacked up bearing each other’s weight. As you might imaging the smaller paintings are easier to handle and store.
I didn’t even have a ton of paintings to cover. I haven’t done much large painting in the last few years. I don’t have the room to store them. I had five paintings that were around the thirty by forty inch size plus another twelve paintings that were eighteen by twenty four inches. Less than twenty paintings. That shouldn’t take too much effort. Right?
There really isn’t much to wrapping a painting in plastic. All you need is plastic sheeting and some duct tape. The effort comes with the paintings being so big that I have to wrap them on the floor. It takes a lot more out of me working on the floor than working standing up. I’m not in bad shape. I like to cycle so I exercise regularly but working on the floor means I have to work kneeling and there is a lot of getting up and down going on. I have a rubber mat on the floor that I usually stand and work on so I tried to kneel only on that mat. I say tried because sometimes I forgot and kneeled for a bit on the hard tile floor. It’s amazing how much my knees hurt after doing that for a few minutes. I’m lucky enough to have good knees that never hurt so when they do it’s a shock.
The plastic sheeting comes on a ten foot roll so I pulled out a pencil and paper to figure out the size I would have to cut the plastic to for it to wrap an eighteen by twenty four inch painting. Remember how they tell you to measure twice and cut once? Well that didn’t help me because I added wrong. After I cut out the first three pieces they were too big. I went back and looked at my little diagram and saw I my mistake. I somehow figured I could only get three pieces across the ten foot length when I could actually get four. It kind of blew my mind a little that I messed up the simple math.
After the plastic is cut it’s time to tape them up. I place the painting on top of the canvas and then fold the sides in so they meet in the middle. Let them overlap a couple of inches. Then I run the tape down the seam from top to bottom and cut it off with my tape scissors. I have a separate pair of scissors for cutting tape because the tape glue always gums up the scissors. I take the tape residue off with rubber cement thinner but I don’t need the tape gumming up my everyday scissors. After that I fold the bottom corners over a little and then fold the bottom four inches up and tape that to the back of the plastic where the other seam is already taped. That leaves me with an open top on my “Envelope” where I left about four inches of plastic that can fold over and keep the dust out.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Doesn’t sound like much does it? But its the repetition that gets me. Seventeen paintings means I have to get down on the ground and then stand up again maybe sixty times. And it took me from two to three hours to do. Plus I had to dust the paintings first. Especially the big ones. I used my big soft drafting brush that I’ve had for thirty years but I had to carry the paintings outside to dust them off. It’s not as easy as you would think to dust a painting. The dust really sticks on there. Another thing that took more effort than I thought it would. Ain’t life like that?
Overall I’m glad I got this task done. I don’t think I’ve done this in five years. The fact that I haven’t done a ton of large paintings in that time added to my putting it off. Why pull out the plastic and tape for three paintings? Six paintings? Nine paintings? Next thing you know there are seventeen paintings. Things add up. Be careful when they add up to fatigue.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics plus a book.
Check them all out here:
Time, distance, and nostalgia sure can change things. It can certainly change how a photograph is viewed. In general photography, in the documentary sense, freezes its subject in a specific time and place. Especially when the photo is about a place. In the human-made world things change all the time. Buildings go up and get torn down, roads get built, and business come and go. Take a photo of a place and it may look the same the next day but what about ten years later? Or twenty? Or thirty? Change wins out in the end.
I went to college in the mid to late 1980s at a small school in Westchester NY. It was a state school so it was called SUNY Purchase. I had a fun time there and enjoyed my time as an undergrad. The campus was a bit odd compared to any other place I’ve been. It was designed in the late 1960s and is one of the last great projects of modernist architecture. It’s built with a reddish brown brick and there is a lot of it. Brick to the left of me and brick to the right. The buildings were brick and the walkways and “Mall” were all brick. The trees were even all lined up in straight lines. There were very few reminders of the natural world.
The Mall was kind of the center of campus. It was a football field sized flat area with an all brick floor that faced all the brick buildings. You crossed the mall to get from one part of campus to the other. In front of the mall was the “Great Lawn” a large rectangular piece of green grass with a big tree in the middle of it. It was at least a few football fields big. Lots of room to play frisbee. In the middle of the Mall was a large bronze Henry Moore sculpture. It was the real centerpiece of the whole campus. It was big enough that you could sit on/inside it and students often did. “Meet me by the Henry Moore” was a sentence that was repeated time after time.
I describe this all to you because a lot of it is gone now. Being that is’s been thirty years since I first saw SUNY Purchase you can imagine that things have changed. I haven’t been there to see the changes but I’ve heard about them and seen pictures. The first and most egregious thing that they did was to move the Henry Moore. They moved it off the Mall and put it a couple miles away near the entrance of campus. A place where nobody goes except in a car to enter or leave. What was once the center of campus life has disappeared from it. That makes all the students of my generation and the ones before a bit sad.
The other thing they did is to tear up the Mall almost entirely and put down grass and plants where it was. They also tore up the the brick walkways and replaced them with larger three foot by three foot paving tiles in about four different shades. I’m not saying any of those changes to the campus are bad. I haven’t been there to see them but I have to think they were improvements. We students of the old SUNY Purchase campus usually had a mixed relationship with the space we lived and studied in. The clean lines and well defined architecture were certainly a sight to behold but the brick could get relentless. One brown color everywhere. The dorms were brick. The library was brick. The performing arts center was brick. All the buildings were brick. Two, three, or four stories worth of brick everywhere you looked. The ground we walked on was that same brick. It could get tiresome and we often did get tired of it.
I bring this all up because of a Facebook group I’m in. It’s a group of former SUNY Purchase students who were all there about the same time as I was. A typical Facebook group. I’ve been in it for a few years but only recently have I posted some old campus photos there. Back in the days before digital photography I used to shoot film like everybody else. I don’t have a ton of photos of the campus because in the days of film it was way more expensive to shoot than it is today. Yet I did go out on a couple of occasions to take pictures of the campus in general.
A second reason I don’t have more campus photos is that the ones I did take are generally pretty boring. I found it tough to make something interesting out of all that brick and all those straight lines. The pictures were as monotonous as the environment. Another reason they were failures was the format. There were no thirty inch computer screens in those days. I processed my film at a normal commercial lab and got back four by six inch prints just like everyone else. A four by six inch print of giant brick buildings isn’t that impressive. Almost any time anyone looked at my photo albums they skipped right over those campus photos. So did I.
Recently I dug those old campus photos out again. I scanned them in years ago along with all my other negatives and they’ve sat there in their folder without me thinking about them very much. They look better on a large computer monitor than they ever did as a small print. That inspired me to fix them up a bit in Photoshop (lots of dust and scratches on those old negatives) and post one for my Purchase Facebook group.
That act transformed those photos. After nearly thirty years the photos were finally interesting. They were of a place that was now mostly gone except in our collective memories. The place was especially gone because most people didn’t take photos in the mid to late 1980s and if they did it was photos of friends and not of the campus in general. Most of my college photos are of people and not places. Plus many more people can relate to the photos of place than can relate to photos of people. After all if you don’t know the person what does it matter if it was taken at SUNY Purchase or the White House? But a picture of SUNY Purchase? Everyone who went there can relate to that.
Nostalgia. That sure played a part in making these photos more interesting but so did presentation. That’s why I never throw out or delete my photos that I don’t like. Someday I might find a way to make something better out of them.