“Have I wanted my time?” That’s a serious question that I sometimes ask myself while working on, or after working on, a piece of art. Of course it’s a question one can ask one’s self in many different parts of life but I’m only contemplating it in this art context right now. Though it’s not something I ask myself often. I’ve been making art for a long time and generally I know what I’m doing. But sometimes, usually when I’m trying something new, I don’t have as much confidence in a piece turning out like I want it to. That makes sense. If I’ve never quite done something before how do I know if it’ll turn out right? It’s always a risk to try something new but without it stagnation can set in.

I recently wrote about the sci-fi fantasy landscapes that I was working on. They were mostly five by seven inch pieces except for the two of them that were nine by twelve inches. Those two were the biggest ones I had ever done in that style. So of course I got it in my head to go even bigger with them. For a lot of last winter I had been working on black and white drawings that were on 22×30 inch watercolor paper. Those are pretty big and I thought I could blow my landscape drawings up to that size. Then I sat on the idea for a month. That’s how these things go.

I draw the five by seven inch drawings in ink. I don’t drawing pencil lines first. I grab my busted brush, dip it in ink, and have at it. They’re small drawings so I can compose them fairly quickly and even if I mess up I can start a new one without much thought to losing one. They’re low risk. I can also play around with the compositions as I do more of them. After the ink I use some watercolor on them to give them a hint of color. Not a ton of color. I’m not going for full illustrative color. I just want some subtle suggestions of color. The black ink carries most of the drawing.

For the 22×30 inch drawing I knew I had to figure out the composition before hand. I didn’t want to be drawing on such a big piece of paper without mapping a few things out first. Especially since I would be using the same busted brush as on the small paper. The brush was a lot smaller compared to the big piece of paper so I wouldn’t be able to lay out the composition with a few flicks of the wrist. Instead I got my big and chunky General’s sketching pencil to draw with.

I also set down all of the small landscape drawings on my drawing table to look at (the big paper was on my easel). That way I could pick and choose elements from the small drawings to use in the big one. I liked a certain building in one, the way the horizon line sat on the paper in another, and a background in yet another. I didn’t want to have to make everything up from scratch for such a big drawing. I loosely laid out my composition in about half an hour and was ready to go with the brush after that.

I started working on the big domed building in the center of the drawing and worked out from there. I think I worked on the ground after that and then all of the small buildings in the background. It’s a simple composition. The drawing is really all about the brush technique. It’s about building architectural shapes with lots of fuzzy lines. The busted brush is an old watercolor brush that can no longer come to a single point like it’s supposed to. Instead five or six points shoot off it and every time I go to draw a line I draw three to six of them instead. The uncontrollability is part of the technique.

After I finished drawing it all in black I decided to put in some color too. I was really undecided about color before this point. I had only added color to one of my previous big drawings and I wasn’t happy with how it came out. I thought the black and white ones were better. But I decided on color and laid in a sky first. After that I added color to the buildings and the ground. It’s simple color. There is not a lot to it but it gets the job done.

I was questioning myself through this whole process. Did I really like it? Would it turn out well? Was I wasting my time? This drawing took me all of Sunday to do and at a few points I really did think I was wasting my time. I hate that feeling. There is only so much time and wasting it doing bad art is not a good way to spend it.

After I painted in the color I went back in with more black ink too. Since I was putting the color right over the black ink the black got a little dull. So I went in and reapplied some more ink. It was then that I sat back and thought to myself, “This needs more.” So I added more background buildings and more stuff onto the big building. Originally it only had a cap on top and not this other things shooting off the side of the dome. I liked it better with a little bit more intricacy to the big building.

That pretty much finished off the piece but I still wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. It was new and weird and I didn’t know if I was successful or not. So I finished for the night and decided not to look at it anymore. The next morning I had to commute into the city and do some teaching so I didn’t look at it much that morning either. Though I still wondered if I wasted my time. After being gone all day I got home around 5:30 PM. As I was putting my bag down and taking the stuff out of it I glanced over after not thinking about the drawing all day and liked it. I though to myself, “I didn’t waste my time.” And that was a nice thought.