Yesterday, I approached attendance at my life-drawing group with some trepidation. I had recently returned to this workshop after many years away and I have purposely been working in black and white with the intention of distancing myself from my former method of using color on toned paper. For the black and white drawings I’ve principally used ink or charcoal, and I’ve been experimenting with the quality of the marks themselves, negative space, and distortion. My decision this week was to work in pastel on black cover stock – a combination I have used many times in the past – and to see if my process has changed in any way, is open to change, and can capture elements of similar attempts in the past.
What I discovered was that what I would normally have thought of as an under-painting offered opportunities for abstraction that I hadn’t considered before or had considered at times but discarded. At the point in the process when I would formerly have begun to build the body in more realistic ways, I chose instead to experiment more liberally with line and gesture and the creation of a particular mood and to allow the composition itself to dictate form and color. Indeed, a little war within myself ensued because I knew that I could either resort to my former methods and feel fairly confident of a successful result or I could recklessly follow this more adventuress muse that might so easily lead me astray. It was especially difficult to do this in a roomful of other artists who are accustomed to roaming around and making critical assessments.
When I did prevail in this challenging process I first experienced elation, then confusion, discomfort, and a need to explain myself to perfect strangers. But I didn’t back down, and I went home feeling happy with the results and the sense that I had broken ground by working for weeks to distance myself from engrained habit and to make room for the possibilities inherent in a largely new approach.
The painting I’m working on is not finished. The image below was created some time ago but is a direction I’m presently pursuing for my larger work.