Monday, November 16, 2009
I always overwork my drawings when I'm getting used to a new medium but I'm at my worst with ink. It's new to me so I keep adding detail to a picture until it looks like a botched illustration or a frame from a bad graphic novel. When I try to fix it, I overwork it some more. I'll black out whole areas to try to obliterate elements I don't need or to regain some sense of space. It doesn't help. Eventually, dense curtains of smeary ink obscure whatever it was I was working towards. The picture is an incoherent, irreparable mess.I'm trying to pare down my drawings, to eliminate from them everything unnecessary. I resist the urge to 'fill' the page. What I love most about working on paper is the paper itself. Between its porousness and unpredictable texture, a single good line can alight upon all kinds of subtleties in weight, shadow, movement and perspective. Make too many marks, allow too little space, and you can suffocate it.One of my favourite works is The Bull, a series of 11 lithographs by Picasso. In the first three, the bull of the title is rendered realistically. In the fourth, the contours of the bull's solid body are traced, forming irregular but still three-dimensional shapes. As the series progresses, each unnecessary piece of line is removed until the bull becomes beautifully simple, if almost unrecogniseable. There is no shading, just an uneven, horizontal line.To me, the last version is much more engaging to look at than the others. It's as if the animal has been reduced to its essence.I'm not planning to deconstruct my ink drawings in quite the same way. But Picasso's stark reductions have inspired me to recover the purity of line, emotion and texture that I've too often smothered with clutter.