a super-duper drawing for "Blab"
i've been a fan of Monte Beauchamp's publication, "Blab" for many years. recently Monte asked me to contribute something to the latest issue of this seminal, semi-annual collection of bizarre drawings, paintings, and stories.
much of the work from this issue will be shown at LA's Copro Gallery on sept 11th. check it out if you're in town. monte's taste in artists is always impeccable.
the theme of the issue is "the afterlife". and as is my way, i adhere to themes inasmuch as they allow me to somehow make something weird that involves lots of naked ladies. i self-servingly offer that my contribution is to be a drawing of what someone's idea of the afterlife might look like.
i haven't spent much time drawing lately (been making an animated project for the last several months), so i wanted to use this as an opportunity to really get lost in a drawing trance like i haven't done in a long time. the format of the book is nice and large and i've been offered a double-pg spread, so there's plenty of room for me to cut loose.
i had a stack of past doodles to refer to for the figures, so that part was pretty much taken care of. so i set to doodling a thumbnail of a strong composition that i could drop all those figures into. it actually took quite a while and was pretty frustrating (since i was so rusty), but eventually i settled on this:
|rough composition doodle|
i scanned the drawing and enlarged it a lot. then in photoshop, i adjusted the pencil lines to very light "non-repro" blue, and printed it out on a nice big sheet of strathmore paper. from there i just hunkered down to filling that sparse skeleton with as much mayhem as i could come up with. here's what the pencil drawing ended up looking like:
|large pencil drawing|
here are some close-ups of the pencils. i'm a sucker for close-ups!
the next step was to scan in this 25x13" drawing (done in four parts, then manually stitched together). i ended up adding a few more figures before then printing this one out in non-repro blue as well. this time i printed it out onto a synthetic surface called yupo paper. this stuff isn't actually paper at all, it's made of polypropylene, but feels SO nice and organic. if you've ever drawn on mylar with graphite, imagine that great sensation- and line- times 10. i use 4B graphite and the result is basically what i've been looking for with pen+ink for the past 20 years. it's like drawing with the best nib you've ever owned, with none of the unreliable/unpredictable headaches. technically, this is grahite, but since it is replacing ink, i'll refer to it as the line drawing. this way, the previous pencil drawing (above) and the line drawing (below) won't get confused, even thought they're both graphite.
here's a shot of the pencil drawing with the non-repro blue print-out underneath.
i started with really fine lines first, almost like the approach of a printmaker. because it's such a complicated image, i wanted to start by just getting a clear map of all the elements of the drawing. but to be honest, i totally lost my nerve at this point and realized that there's no way i could do this piece justice by just improvising the lineart as i usually do. so i printed out another non-repro version to use as a tonal guide. i know, this is getting ridiculous. i never thought i'd be the type of artist that would put this much planning into a drawing. i always took pride in my seat-of-my-pants approach. but for a change i'm enjoying the attention to detail, and i really feel the need to allow the drawing to tell me what it needs, and not be concerned with any outside factors.
so for the tonal guide, i printed it out on strath again, and just attacked it as spontaneously as possible. i just wanted to figure out what parts should be light/dark, prominent/obscure, near/distant, clear/diffuse, etc. like i said, i normally take a lot of pleasure in improvising all that stuff, but this piece feels like it needs more.
here are some shots of the tonal guide:
once i was confident that i understood this insanity and could somehow make it work as a cohesive whole, i went back to the line final line drawing. i really wasn't sure this would work, i had crammed a ridiculous amout of stuff into this thing. here are some in-progress photos:
this whole process was pretty intense, i definitely succeeded in creating a situation where i'd have to get lost in the process. it was a welcome return to good ol' fashioned drawing.
here are some snaps of the finished piece:
and here's the final drawing. it's 25.5x13". remember, you can click on it to see a larger version: