Multiple Medium Drawings

2013

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Multiple Medium Drawings Statement

When I started making art in a serious way, during my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1986, I chose drawing as my favorite means of expression. I would begin my drawings by soaking sheets of Mayfair Cover Stock in water to get them really wet. Mayfair paper is made with wood pulp and so it disintegrates rapidly, but before that could happen I would cover the sheets with different materials such as ink, Conté crayons and compressed charcoal. Before it dried, I slowly and deliberately ripped the paper to create organic shapes and contrasting values.

At the time, I couldn't articulate why ripping wet paper and mucking around with multiple mediums was so much fun. I've since learned that I was "automating" the creation of my drawings by allowing forces beyond my control – friction, gravity, evaporation – to have a constructive AND destructive influence on the work. Relinquishing a bit of control over ones medium creates room for unexpected things to happen. Jean Arp, a member of the Surrealists, automated the creation of his collages by allowing gravity and air resistance to determine where the shapes would be placed. He dropped pieces of paper from a height onto a support and then glued them where they landed, thereby creating artworks "according to the laws of chance". (Click here to learn more about Jean Arp and click here to learn more about automation.)

Later I began using other materials such as cardboard and burlap, which I cut with a band saw and burnt with a propane torch. All of my ripping, cutting and burning usually resulted in a huge mess that needed a lot more work before it resembled art and so I glued the pieces together in layers. As I added more and more layers, the drawings became thicker and thicker until some of them hung nearly a foot off the wall! After that, I had to concede that I was making sculptures instead of drawings. (Sometimes it's hard to appreciate the difference between 2–D and 3–D when you only have vision in one eye.)

The joy of making these works was in the discovery of the materials and what they could do. I had no preconceived ideas about how the drawings would turn out: automation makes that impossible. Instead I worked in a responsive and intuitive way. These experiences were very liberating and satisfying for me, but my drawings didn't have much appeal for many of my instructors. I remember quite vividly a brutal critique that I had with a visiting artist who chewed me out because he thought that my artworks were "too formal and not conceptual enough". Unfortunately I was very inexperienced and unable to defend my working method. As an art instructor I can now look back and confidently state that he was DEAD WRONG: an exploration of spontaneous and intuitive creativity is an excellent reason to make such artworks. (Below are images of some of those drawings.)

Now, almost thirty years later, I'm using a similar approach to produce a new body of drawings. I begin by using automated and semi–automated methods to add a layer of linear elements onto heavy, 100% rag paper. Slowly hundreds of individual lines accumulate to create rhythmic patterns that twist and turn and intersect with one another. When I am happy with the result, I turn to a variety of mediums – acrylic paint, ink, shoe polish, markers, wax crayons, compressed charcoal, powdered graphite, Conté crayons – to add layer upon layer of translucent colour, texture and shape until a luscious and sensual surface appears. During the later stages of this process, it can seem as though the drawing is "making itself". This is always the most exciting part of the work because anything can happen: the drawing could be headed for the trash can or it can suddenly "gel" and turn into something more amazing than anything I could have planned. When the work is finally complete and I can step back to have a look, it often feels as though I've just surfaced, slightly disoriented after been submerged in a parallel universe consisting only of colour, shape, line and texture.

A psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi uses the word "flow" to describe a similar experience and suggests that happiness can be attained whenever we allow ourselves to be completely and totally absorbed by what we are doing. Perhaps the lesson that my drawings are teaching me is that the simple act of giving up control allows a greater degree of engagement with the work: a counter–intuitive discovery that might have something in common with meditation.

This new direction is a refreshing change from the plodding, labour–intensive way that I've been working for the past few years. The spontaneity of drawing with multiple mediums really does make carving stone seem micro-managed by comparison. I've come to the conclusion that the investment of time, labour and money is so huge when making stone sculptures, that it's virtually impossible to allow chance to direct ANY part of the creative process. When it comes to reductive sculpture, you only get one shot at it! On the other hand, if I destroy a drawing that I've been working on for a few days (which has happened more than once) I simply get out a new piece of paper and begin again.

Older Drawings

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HomeBread CrumbsMultiple Medium Drawings

© 2016, Terry Reynoldson