I have been almost exclusively using pen and ink and ink washes to create this work. It was important to me to use simple tools and materials to create an immediacy and accessible quality to the work. After not having drawn in close to 25 years, I picked up the pen as a way to get my fingers moving again and see if I could recapture my brain-eye-hand connection. In exploring a range of subjects, I found that as my technique evolved that it was perfectly suited to depicting the feel and gestures of botanical images. Simultaneously, I was discovering historical images of plants from the 16th to 19th centuries that seemed both revolutionary and aesthetically inspiring. So I have continued to use these images as the source of my drawings/paintings.
Working from an artist’s image vs. working from the actual plants of course is a very different kind of process. The artist has already worked through and developed a level of abstraction, which is an interpretation of the image through his or her own eyes. In fact the images I am working from are usually etchings, often done by a professional printmaker who is often times not the original artist, thereby adding yet another layer of abstraction. Working from these prints, I can manipulate the artist’s attempts to render the object by cropping the forms, reimagining it in a new and different setting and combining it with other images in ways the original artist had not conceived.
The drawings are built in stages or layers. The boxes are purely fictional and are created first to give the overall image its architectural setting. The plant images are then selected, often because of their sculptural quality, and placed due to the form of their cropped shape as well as the compositional unity they create with the other chosen images. The plants are sketched in pencil and shifted around until the overall composition works for me. Fictional as well is the light source. It then becomes my challenge to figure out what that imaginary light source would do when it falls upon a complex form in space – since our brains will always translate a scene with a spatial logic that will complete the illusions I am crafting. Then the drawing/painting is built in layers, going back and forth from pen to brush as I first lay in the outlines of the plants and then build up the shadows. I create three densities of watered down ink for my washes – light, medium and dark – and then slowly build up the density until the shadows make logical and aesthetic sense. The shadows can have as many 10 to 20 layers of wash applied to get the needed effect. I return with pen to put in final details and often finish with yet one more layer of wash for a last effort to balance the densities.