Once again I decided to dig out an old piece of art of mine and write about it. I find that to be an interesting exercise that can help me shed some light on my current work. Looking further back on the path can help me look ahead. So I pulled out an old 8.5×11 inch ink drawing from April 4, 1999 creatively named “Ink Drawing #8.” At least it was named something. I didn’t always name things back then.

This days I’m adept at making spontaneous ink drawings. I can take a pen or brush and just start drawing in ink without putting down any underdrawing in pencil. It’s a skill and technique that took me a long time to learn. Ink Drawing #8 was one of the first drawings that I made when I was first learning how to do that.

It started with me buying some coquille board. That’s a drawing paper that’s a good heavy stock but with a very fine pebbled texture on the surface. It was the first time I ever tried using that type of paper and though I enjoyed using a brush and ink with it I found it hard to draw on with a pencil. So I ended up saving it for a while until I started drawing in just ink. This board may have even been the impetus to start me in that direction.

One interesting aside about this drawing is that there is a false start on the back of it. I stared a drawing of a large monster or some such on the back but after a couple of dozen lines defining its basic shape I bailed on it, turned the paper over, and started a new drawing on the other side. Of course I don’t actually remember doing this but since the drawing is in ink it’s still there.

Ink Drawing #8 is one of my better drawing from this period. It works for me. It’s not perfect but I’m not looking for perfection when I’m drawing this way. It’s almost impossible to attain perfection with a brush and ink when drawing spontaneously so it’s better to go for interesting and happy accidents. Keep it simple and think ahead.

With spontaneous ink drawing there is often stuff that drives me crazy but I have to live with it. For example there is one small area of this picture the my eye is drawn to as not quite right. To the left of the woman’s right arm (the one that’s behind her body) the slat of the handrail of the bridge and the line of her arm create a triangle. That triangle seems a little off to me. All these years later and I still notice it. It’s kind of nuts but not everything can be perfect in an ink drawing so I accepted it and moved on. That and there was no real way to fix it. That’s another thing you have to accept when making a spontaneous ink drawing. It’s not a technique where you can fix everything. But that’s strength too. It frees you from worrying so much about mistakes which can be paralyzing for an artist. Sometimes you have to throw away the eraser.

This drawing reminds me of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” There are no screaming people in mind but the composition of the diagonal bridge and the high horizon line in the background are very similar. Plus there is a small person approaching a larger person. I must have had that painting in mind when I drew this because it’s a very particular composition.

My main weapon of choice in making this drawing was pattern. The four main ones are the horizontal stripes of the water, the vertical stripes of the bridge railing, the brick pattern of bridge road, and the diagonal stripes of the woman’s shirt. That each one is distinct helps the piece. I could have crossed the water pattern over into the railing to imply that the railing was made of iron rods rather than a solid wall but that would probably have cause visual chaos. It would have messed up the distinct diagonal of the piece. Roads not taken are important too.

One of the things I really like is the figure gesture of the woman. She’s bending backwards and twisting her head towards us. She’s standing still but also in action. I find that hard to capture. The diagonal lines in her shirt also help to make her more action oriented. The are just curved enough to suggest a there dimensionality to her and make her move a little bit. While the shape and texture of her pants, which look like a big jar, ground her. The pants give her a solid base.

I like the man walking towards her. Though a lot of him looks to be made out of blobs he has a movement to him. He’s coming forward. Not running but in a bit of a hurry. His legs aren’t even differentiated one from the other but they still read as his two legs. I also like how his shirt has turned into a bullseye with his head near the center. It lets us know that he’s coming.

I also used white paint on this drawing. Since I was making a finished piece I went back in here and there and whited out some black lines. Not to make it perfect but to make it presentable. I even drew with the white paint on her gloves. I used it to emphasize the fingers. Give her hands a little bit of a gesture. I can tilt the original and catch the light on it in such a way as to see some of the white paint that’s been drawn over in black. It’s almost like looking at the underdrawing. That’s neat because usually an underdrawing gets totally obliterated. It’s like a little time machine or glimpse into the process.

One last thing. There is also some writing on this piece. Way down in the bottom left corner it says, “Conditions inside the maze were so cruel that the rats no longer longed for a sense of order but dreamed to embrace the warm bosom of chaos.”