Monthly Archives: April 2020

Jane Doe

The last drawing of the 4”by 4” project was peeled off the board a few weeks ago. What was originally meant to be a 30 day assignment went over by two weeks, and in the end, it more or less finished on an arbitrary whim. The masking stencil that kept the project literally in alinement has been retired to the dustbin and a new stencil has already been cut, ready to start a new round.

“Jane Doe” 4”by 4” charcoal on paper

The project was more successful than I imagined. Out of the pile of drawings there are plenty that I would happily show on a public wall. Judgment aside, I think they are worthy of engagement and capable of pulling people in for closer scrutiny.

What lessons have been learned?

Well… aside from becoming more conscious with handling charcoal…

Maybe, don’t back away from an interesting challenge just because it’s outside the range of your assumed skill level…. or

If the choice is between either stopping short of the cigar and betting on letting it ride… let it ride… or

Just steer it to a finish and see what happens… or

Interesting is better than perfect… or

Making marks and making a drawing can land in essentially the same place, but with a very different effect.

Questioning Media In Hand

Mediums in general seems to share sets of assumptions, principals of design, but each medium still seems to have a set of assumptions and strategies particular to their qualities of the medium being used.

Are there any aspects of technique unique to charcoal drawing that’s generally leaned on by artists as a somewhat reliable path of connection between an artwork and a viewer?

As an example, as a potter, people are often surprised to hear that texture, balance, and weight are used to trigger arousal and response just as much (possibly more so) than form or function. With charcoal drawing, is it the wide range of value that’s available? Is it the softness of the media? All the possibilities of marks that can be made? I’m continually questioning what’s relevant, but so far, I haven’t explored wide enough to know.

Something Similar

As a potter, I’ve landed on a strategy for making my work that suits my temperament. Work is developed in small batches, limited to the amount of work that fits on a few ware boards at a time. Forms may be made with a set design in mind, but any adherence to a plan is generally loose at best. Form is regulated by exploration of personal taste and adherence to personal standards. Simple and somewhat routine.

… but while the form is a product of craft, created in adherence to an asthetics of functionality, form isn’t the end goal, form is a surface used for exploration of expression. The aesthetics of functionality is set boundaries dictated by tradition. Form that falls outside of personal standards is edited with a hammer. The aesthetics of surface are limited only by skill, taste, and curiosity, and while risk taking is encouraged, work that falls outside of personal tastes is openly questioned, occasionally applauded, but more often scrapped. As a consequence, a loss rate well over 50% is not unfamiliar in the ceramics studio.

Much the same approach is beginning to creep into the drawing studio. While learning the craft of drawing, risk taking is encouraged and as a consequence, most work is questionable.

I don’t know what makes a work “good” but I feel that I recognize “bad” when I see it. Unfortunately, what seems to interest me the most is work that seems interestingly problematic (not bad).

Interestingly Problematic Work in this case implies work that’s outside expectation, that proudly shares its character flaw as a celebration for being what is, and doesn’t feel the need to emulate in order to validate.

Post-it 4/23

Personality is repeated patterns of behavior that can be observed and measured. (I suspect our unconscious stradgies, tendencies and tastes, that we use to make marks and create compositions reflect our personality. Our conscious strategies that are used to manage our personality is our ego. My personal view is that for each of us, our tendencies are an authentic elements of our personalities, while the stradgies and tastes that we develope are overlays set onto us by the cultures that we are embedded in.) As a practicing artist, what you choose to make and how you choose to make it develops an observable pattern structure. It reflects a world view shared with our ego, even if what is being reflected is challenge to the status quo. 

Decisively Indecisive

I was thinking about shaving off the beard this morning. This is how it unconsciously shows up later in the day… It’s all to easy to write off indecision as a necessity of the moment,  but once the moment is over, the indecision is left on the page as a decision…
That counts as decisive, right? 

Post-it 4/22

Is it fundamentally important to differentiate between the action of drawing and the mark making? This is possibly a matter of personal semantics, but when I catch myself drawing, it’s an action of defining an image. It describes form and shape using line and tone. Mark making is suggestive, an accumulation of independent actions that, as they build up, lend themselves to a goal.

The resulting drawing is an artifact of the artistic experience of making marks.

It’s a difference in ideals that’s at play.


The further into this that I get, the more aware that I’m wandering in a maze of my own making. I’m making the work that excites me to make it, but I’m not putting into action and creating from my experiences, creating from my world. When I was younger, I wanted to be a photo journalist because I saw photographs as a documentation of an experience. A photographer had to be present in a particular moment to share that moment. So a journalistic photographer by necessity would have to embed themselves into experiences. I find that I feel very much the same with the drawings that I would like to create. I’d like to pull from the people and the narratives that are found around me, and just relax into developing around that framework.   Too many jelly beans and a person jousts gets sick.