The early work was created exclusively using pen and ink and ink washes. 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 and nature-based images. Simultaneously, I was discovering historical images of fauna and flora from the 16th to 19th centuries that seemed both revolutionary and aesthetically inspiring.
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 or “sets” I create are purely fictional and exist to give the overall image its architectural setting. The plant or other images are then selected, often because of their unique sculptural qualities and then I arrange the forms to create interesting relationships and compositions. 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/eyes 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. There can be as many 10 to 20 layers of wash applied to get the needed effect and value. 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.
In 2017 it was time for the next challenge – watercolor. Surprisingly, the technique for layering that I developed using pen and ink was perfectly suited for applying watercolor. Also a surprise, was my ability to retain the effects of light and shadow using a mixture of color and ink washes. I developed my own way of using watercolors to suit my needs and the outcome I was trying to achieve. I am excited about continuing to learn about color and getting it to exhibit different lighting effects – a challenge that could last me quite some time.
My compositions have also shifted, trying to find different and unique ways to compose the page to create credible settings for the objects. I first played with the mandala format, which created wonderful opportunities to reinforce through repetition – emphasizing the form itself and the relationships between the objects. The more recent images now seem to require a realistic setting to help the viewer create a visual logic and a level of believability of the scene. I seem to be moving towards creating more elaborate “architectural” settings that play with light and shadow to create the kind of space, atmosphere and relationships I’m seeking. All of these stage sets are imagined – the finding of “homes” for the many objects I choose to depict then becomes the fun compositional challenge.