Thursday, October 18, 2012

On ink drawings and information graphics

I've been taking pictures of the city that I use as reference for ink drawings.

It's good to have ink on my fingers. It's good to smell materials other than the plastic and metal of my computer. It's good to have a tangible object in my hands after a drawing is finished. 

I'm finding it refreshing not having the luxury of command z. I think things through before making a mark. It forces me to be focused in a way that working with a computer, where I can always go back a few versions, doesn't allow.

Having things instantaneously happen often leads to less analytical thinking on my part. When I was an assistant art director at Scientific American in the late nineties I was given a slow computer. The refresh rate of the screen was laughable. Yet it forced me to think things through before making a decision about the layout I was working on. I grew fond of this machine, similar to how I felt about my old, beat up, honda civic. The work became a meditative process.

I want to do an information graphic in ink. It would be a breath of fresh air compared to the ultra-clean, precise, heavily styled work that my studio does. In a drawing there's often a clarity of intent that is stronger than that of a digital 3D rendering. In fact, editors sketches sometimes get across the idea of an information graphic more clearly than the final artwork I create. There are times when I'm purely a stylist. Style doesn't doesn't have much to do with telling a story or conveying information. That said, I am a proponent for beauty. Beauty draws people in. And when one is drawn in they can begin to glean information from the graphic.

Juan Velasco, the art director of National Geographic, makes the most beautiful sketches. Every time I see one of his drawings I ask him why they are commissioning us; they could simply just run what he drew. I'm serious about this. John Grimwade has some of his gorgeous pencil sketches on his site: I would love to see one of these drawings printed rather than the final executed in a vector software. Now that I think about it, some of his drawings were just published in the premier issue of Priest and Grace's new, wild, irreverent, balls to the wall soccer magazine Howler. The drawings (along with the magazine) are worth looking at.

My experience of life is that it is pretty damn messy. Maybe I'm attracted to drawings because they aren't perfect, just as life isn't.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Starting a new series

Jim Angell stopped by the other day for lunch and a studio visit. He was struck by the portraits I had started and given up on. He liked the way I had arranged them on my wall as a group. We did a little rearranging and editing and came up with this series:

These work well as a set, or a twelvetich, or whatever one would call it.

Jim gave me some guidance regarding what to focus on. I'll be starting a series of pictures at 20" x 16" using this piece as a starting point:

Leaving off the head adds a level of abstraction to the work that opens it up. The next picture I'm working on draws inspiration from this Renoir painting:

Here are the sketches I've made so far. (The piece on the upper left is a finished painting.)

I'm drawn to the two sketches on the right. I'll live with them for a day or two before making an encaustic version of one.