This week’s art writing on a piece of mine is going to be on three pieces. The only reason for that is I like to look at all three pieces together. These three are from this past spring and all three are done on five by seven inch 140 pound watercolor paper and drawn in marker. Though I made all of these marker drawings recently the faces themselves are based on old drawings of mine. It’s too bad I neglected to date when I made the original drawings but based on the dates when I first scanned them in they were made back in 2001. That was about when I was first learning to draw with only a black marker. I made a series of about a hundred drawings of heads with all sorts of strange markings on their faces. Though I never made any kind of finished product out of those hundred drawings I have used some of the faces over the years for other finished pieces. These three heads are an example of that.

This past winter and spring I made a lot of small marker drawings. I like the format. I can work with a lot of different images and I like the immediacy and instant color of magic markers. There is no need to wait for the color to dry. The color gets put down on the paper and is ready for another layer of color right away. Sometimes I like the wet on wet technique that watercolor offers but sometimes I want dry on dry and I don’t want to wait for watercolor to dry.

Though I present these three paintings as a series one of them came first. “Find Me” was made a month before the other two. My usual habit is to make these five by seven pieces four at a time. I dig through my inkbook for four drawings to work on, work them up as finished sketches, transfer the drawings to five by seven paper, use ink and marker to color them up. I find I can concentrate better when I have multiple images to work on. If I get bored or stuck on one of them then I move over to the next one. It helps. And they’re small anyway.

“Find Me” was among a group of four non-face drawings and it stood out. It was the first time I had worked with one of those old face drawings in years and I liked it. I liked the graphic nature of the face and the words written on his (or her, once again I’m not sure) cheek. I am a fan of words and pictures together and the way they worked well here intrigued me so I decided to dig back into those old face drawings from 2001 and find a couple more to work on. “Flight” and “Ram” were also done in a group of four but thematically belong in a group with “Find Me”.

The first thing I notice about this group of faces is that they seem to be pensive. Instead of looking straight out at the viewer, as is my normal habit, all three are looking off into the distance. I’m not even sure I noticed that as I was making them but it does make the words more prominent. Since the eyes are unchallenging it’s the words that get up into that mental space right in your face. It as if by looking away they are inviting us to read their faces because otherwise it would be rude to stare.

All three of the faces are drawn with he same technique. After being drawn in pencil on a separate piece of paper I transferred the drawing onto the watercolor paper. That’s an easy thing to do these days as I can run the watercolor paper right through my printer and print out the drawing on it and so not have to spend the time making the drawing a second time. After the drawing was on the paper I used india ink and a sable watercolor brush to make my black line. Sometimes I’d use a marker for this task but I prefer a brush. It’s a tool I can do more with.

In the original black and white marker drawings of one hundred faces that I made there was a lot of emphasis on the graphic nature of black versus white in the drawings. That’s gone in these ones as color takes over. While I have been using the markers for a while I used a different technique than usual for these faces. I used a scumbling technique where I roughly put down dark brush strokes of color on top of light ones. I wasn’t blending as is usual but creating a texture with the marker. The faces are not smooth. I find the texture brings them to life for me.

The two paintings “Flight” and “Ram” are further away from an actual face than is “Find Me” and have graphic elements drawn on them. I’m a fan of drawing arrows and like using them in my work. Usually they emphasize the direction of a shape and the way the eye follows the shape in a drawing. They never have any literal meaning in my work and exist only for their visual meaning. Arrows move things. In the original drawings the arrows and other circular and rectangular face marks were filled in with black making the overall drawing more graphic but here I left them open for color to round things out. The one graphical element left in these three is the black shirt in “Find Me”. That large are of black flattens out and sits back in space. And maybe the eyebrows in “Ram” too but they’re fairly small. Overall I didn’t want the flatness of large areas of black to overwhelm the space of the color.

The final thing thing that jumps out at me about these is the hair. I like that I used three different hair representations for these. Often in those hundred drawings the hair I drew was just a simple shape. That works okay for a black and white highly graphic drawing but not for a color piece. I had to find a way to make the hair work without just being a big shape or series of parallel lines. I think I did okay with that.

As an ending note I’d like to point out that I followed my “Always make the lips red” rule. Even on the green face. Sure “Flight” doesn’t have lips but if it did they would be red.