Although I am actively working in the studio on these large figure drawings, the logistics of my November solo exhibition at the Trustman Gallery are starting to need more attention. I spent most of the morning shooting photographs of the three figure drawings I’ve finished so far, and I have to get started on a new artist statement for this show. I already have an artist statement that is an overview of “Falling“, but this series of large figure drawings really warrants a new statement since it’s much more specific than the previous works in this series.
Within just a few weeks of working, I’ve already seen a learning curve in these figure drawings. My marks with the etching ink have loosened up a lot recently, and the consequence is the the figure drawing on the left in the image below feels too controlled and stiff right now. That drawing is nowhere near finished, but I’m really going to have to make some major changes to get the composition more dynamic and lively.
I’ve gained some really good momentum with these figure drawings. Just a few weeks ago I was dreading working on these drawings, but I’ve made enough progress lately that working on the drawings has become a very satisfying experience. A huge part of this is the fact that my schedule allows for significant time in the studio four days a week. I am almost finished with the etching ink sections of the drawings, which means I am close to completing the work I need for my November solo exhibitions. This is great news, because it means I don’t have to stress anymore about meeting the November deadline. Knowing that the majority of the hard work is behind me, I can now work at a less frantic pace.
Last night I created the digital image above so I could look at all 5 figure drawings together as a group. My studio doesn’t have enough wall space for me to hang all 5 drawings together, so this digital image allows me to critique the drawings as a group. The final stage of this series will be tweaking each drawing in response to the others in order to create the dynamics I’m looking to achieve in the series overall.
When I started this series of drawings, I conceived the images as a sequence. The idea was that the first image was extremely dark and dense, packed with anguished figures. As the progression moved forward in the drawings, the anguished figures would start to diminish, become more ghost-like, until they almost disappeared altogether. Simultaneously, the single standing figure in the center of the composition would begin to emerge more with every image, becoming more solid and concrete as the sequence went along.
At first I put the 5 drawings together in a digital image in this linear sequence that I described above. However, seeing the digital image of the 5 drawings together got me questioning whether this sequence was truly representative of my intentions. These drawings are meant to represent my treatment and recovery from depression, but the more that I think about it, the process has been anything but linear. You don’t start out depressed, and then get incrementally better every day through treatment. The process is much more complicated than that. Even with treatment, your mood still fluctuates. The depression comes and goes; sometimes it’s barely there, while other times it comes back full force. As a reaction to this thinking, I’ve decided to instead to mix up the images, so that the moods leap and change with every drawing.
This drawing above is very close to being finished. Today I devoted most of my time to solidifying details with the lithographic crayon pencil, as well as lightening up various areas by scraping away at etching ink on the Dura-Lar with an x-acto knife.The Dura-lar is very thick and strong, so I can be really aggressive with the x-acto knife without worrying about damaging the Dura-Lar. It’s times like these that I’m really glad that I’m not working on paper, paper is so fragile and wouldn’t be able to take the physical beating that I put my drawings through.
These last stages of a drawing are extremely satisfying, since all of the really difficult grunt work is done, and the essential structure is well established. As a result, it feels effortless to finish off areas with the lithographic crayon pencil and x-acto knife. The work at this stage in the process is mostly cosmetic and gets instantaneous results. I’m going to leave this drawing alone for now, and do one final pass after I get the other drawings further along.
I also added another figure in the upper left hand corner, which you can see in the image below. There was only one figure in that area before, so that section felt flat and lacked the transparency and layers that were throughout the rest of the piece.
I finished up the etching ink part of the process in this drawing above today. I’m putting this drawing aside temporarily so it can dry before I go back into it and firm up the details with lithographic crayon. The top left hand corner and the lower right hand corner feel a little sparse, so I might eventually add some extremely light and subtle figures. I’m going to get some distance from this piece and decide later if I want to add more into those areas.
I started into this drawing below which felt great, considering that I haven’t touched it since July. The figures in this drawing will be very light and ghost-like, whereas the figure will be much darker, defined, and concrete by comparison.
Before, I thought that these 5 large figure drawings I’m making for my solo exhibition at the Trustman Gallery would be the end for this series. I’m thinking now that I might want to do two more large figure drawings, making for a total of 7. These 5 figure drawings go in a sequence, and I think I need more contrast at the beginning and end of the sequence.
I spent the morning installing my solo exhibition at the Sarah Doyle Gallery at Brown University. Installing shows is a huge amount of work, everything has to be perfectly measured. Nothing can be rushed, and you have to be extremely thorough and detail oriented. Nowadays, I am generally very good at anticipating what needs to be done. When I was the gallery director at theJewett Gallery, I oversaw the installation of many exhibitions over four years. Since that experience, I am able to deal with all sorts of different installations.
I wasn’t sure exactly what was going to fit into the gallery space, but I ended up installing all 21 pieces. I had 7 sculptures, 7 photographs, and 7 mezzotints. In the gallery, the pieces are presented as suites of 3 works, one image is produced in those three media.
The opening reception is this Thursday, Sept. 11 from 6:30-8pm. You can RSVP on Facebook here.
Today’s session in the studio was very smooth, I have left the mezzotints behind and have completely shifted my mindset into the drawings. I am feeling much less frantic about the November deadline as well. My new schedule this fall allows me to get into the studio 4 mornings a week for 3.5 hours. This is the most substantial, consistent amount of studio time that I’ve had in my schedule since I can remember. With the luxury of this schedule, I can finally clear my head and work at a comfortable pace.
I had my first day working on the figure drawings in several months. I knew that I was dreading this transition back into the drawings because I procrastinated for about an hour cleaning up my studio before I got started. Getting started felt awkward, but I eventually pushed myself to keep going and just blocked out some very basic areas of tone. I kept the tone very light and minimal, once the etching ink touches the surface of the Dura-Lar, it’s pretty much permanent so building up slowly towards the darks is key in the process. I’m also focusing on how much emphasis to put on each figure. Depending on the drawing, some figures will be very heavy and stark, whereas others will be more ghostly and muted. I am hoping this approach with increase the sense of transparency and depth in each drawing.
I hit a milestone this week: I now have 14 mezzotints complete which means I now have enough prints for my 2 November solo exhibitions. Out of these 14 mezzotints, there are three that I would like to redo. However, at this point getting to the redos is not hugely important. The most important thing is that I know I can pull off the exhibitions with the 14 mezzotints that I currently have.
All I have left now is to finish 3 large scale drawings, all of which have already been sketched out in vine charcoal. I’m feeling less overwhelmed by the amount of work that has to be done by November. I have to admit though that I’m not really in the right mindset to work on the drawings. The last time I touched the drawings was way back in June, and since then I’ve been deeply immersed in the mezzotints. Consequently, I’m not looking forward to being forced to change gears. If it weren’t for the November exhibitions I would just keep plowing through the mezzotints and do the drawings later. I know it’s going to take at least a few transitional sessions before I’m able to establish a good work flow for these drawings.
I brought 7 mezzotints and 7 photographs to my framer a few days ago. I met my framer about 15 years ago, when he was working at a shop in West Roxbury and I was living in Jamaica Plain. I followed him several years ago when he moved to a new shop, the Picture Place which is in Brookline. When I first started working professionally, I had no clue what went into framing, and never thought of it as an important part of the process. I feel extremely lucky to have found my framer, there are so many shops and I can imagine that it’s hard to find someone who is really good. He is incredibly knowledgeable about materials, has a terrific eye, and really opened me up to the vast possibilities. He is highly detail oriented and is always enthusiastic about explaining every single step of the process so that I know what will go into the work. I completely trust him when it comes to making selections, to the point that when I need work done, I just into the shop with no idea of what I want, knowing that he will come up with a tasteful solution. I also like that he is able to see the work objectively in a way that I can’t because I’ve been looking at the work so long, so he provides a fresh eye which I really appreciate. He comes up with ideas that I would never have thought of, and carefully considers every single factor.
Because I have to present such a large quantity of pieces, I opted to do just a mat and sheet of plexiglass this time. (by November, I will have to have 23 pieces total done) The pieces will then hang on the wall using L pins to hold everything in place. A full frame on all 23 pieces would have been astronomically expensive, and this is the first year in a while that I don’t have a grant to support my work.
I am glad to have finished this first round of work. My plan now is to finish 4 more mezzotints, which will finish off the 14 mezzotints I need for my solo shows this fall. Ultimately, I want to have a portfolio of 20 mezzotints, and there are also a few images I want to redo if there’s time. But for now, that minimum 14 print requirement is the most important milestone. Then, I’ll take a break from the mezzotints, finish up the final 3 drawings, and then if there’s time left I’ll start some of the mezzotint redos.