Monday, May 18, 2015

For Your Consideration: A Dragon

Here's a dragon that I just made. I was at a grammar school concert with nothing to do with my eyes. So I made sure to have my book and a couple of pens with me to keep me occupied. Unfortunately, I was seated on bleachers which hate me and all people who need to sit on them. But I struggled on with the dragon. After all, without something to occupy me, my mind wanders and I don't pay attention to what's going on.

I made this one with no preliminary drawing, just straight to pen. After the pen work was mostly done, I switched to watercolor pencils. I hope you like it.

I'm a fun guy, right?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Colorized Classics

Way, way back in the day there was raging debate about Ted Turner and what he was doing to old movies. He was taking dumb, boring old black and white movies and modernizing and improving them with color. Of course there were those Luddites that were totally opposed to color and wanted to live back in the days before color was invented. Jerks!

Or seen the other way; here was a guy that took films that were conceived in black and white, executed in black and white, and directed so as to take full advantage of black and white for the complete visual experience and ruined them by slapping a bunch of garish, pastel girly colors.

That's what I've done here. Both of those things. I think of these images in black and white but feel compelled to watercolor them afterwards. Who's to say which is better?

Conceived in B&W

Ted Turner-ized
Original Recipe
Extra Crispy                                       

Friday, May 8, 2015

New Drawing Book Piece

Here's a new piece that I assembled from scraps I had laying around. The Rembrandt self-portrait copy is from a few years back when I was demonstrating linocuts. The same goes for the trilobites. The watercolored background is a little more interesting. I normally keep a scrap of paper laying around on my desk in order to clean out watercolor brushes. Usually that paper looks like what it is: a mess. But this time it turned out looking like a real watercolor! So I kept it and put it into my magnificent collage.

Yes, you say. That's all very "interesting", you say. But what does it mean? Always with the what does it mean. Why can't you folks just look at a piece of artwork and appreciate it for its plastic qualities? ("Plastic" is a word which here means characterized by an emphasis on formal structure.) Notice the three horizontal bands in the composition: black pen, COLOR!, black pen. It's visual action sandwiched by calm line work. What about the left hand side being filled with imagery and it being offset by the right hand side's minimal imagery? That's some dynamic symmetry for ya! How does the seemingly random watercolor relate to the rigidity of the linocut line work? What tension! What part does the text play in how we see this piece? The big, fat letters are on the left, under the portrait and large trilobite; while the monster head is on the right, above the visually light, skinny letters and small trilobite. It seems to provide a sense of movement or tumbling as the heavy top right wants to fall over into the thinner, emptier bottom right. Or does the imagery on the left-hand side anchor it sufficiently?

Wow! Such questions to ponder before we ever get to what does it "mean". Artwork is not a didactic book, it is meant to be seen first, and then we can think about what it means. By the way, I won't tell you what this means. Maybe it doesn't mean much of anything. Or maybe it comments on the vision of the great artist, Rembrandt and what his powers of seeing were able to behold. Your choice.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Why Do We Draw?

Why do we draw? Let me start off by saying that, for me, drawing stands as synecdoche for all of art. At least the visual arts. I think it is foundational in that it teaches us to see; it teaches us to use our eyes properly. Without drawing there would be no printmaking, painting or sculpture. Simple as that.

So why exactly do we draw? In college I vividly remember standing in my professor's office around a table with him, another professor and a couple of graduate students where we were discussing something. For the life of me I don't remember what. But I do remember putting forward this little gem of wisdom: "We all draw in order to learn." To me this was almost a tautology. Why else would anyone do this? I mean, sure, it's a lot of fun; it looks cool, and it beats working for a living. But when you get right down to it, we all do this in order to learn about the world. Well, they pounced on me like starving hyenas on a three legged gazelle. It was made clear to me that other people draw for different reasons than learning.

That shadow in the lower right is... ummm.. part of the composition. Of course it's not lazy photography! How  DARE you?! Real artists don't cut corners. Philistine. However, as I read the notes I made almost 20 years ago, they sound pretty pretentious. I think I was trying to sound scientific. I was very young, cut me some slack.
I still draw to learn. Even if the learning isn't always the type of learning I was doing in the drawing above. I still do that type of thing, but my definition of learning about the world has expanded. Now I want to know not just what things look like but I want to know what I think about things.

Two drawings done in chapel. Both have monsters, neither deals with monsters in the text!
Sometimes this leads me into some unexpected territory. Often, I'll hear or read something and then just start drawing with no idea what will happen next. Images and juxtapositions suggest themselves and I draw them. Often the meaning, or my idea comes after I have had to me to look at and think about what I've done.

So, after all these years, I still draw to learn.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Janus Angel

In the midst of working on my brand new linocut, I have been working on another linocut. It's kind of like this:

See how cool your host is? I went so far as to go to a free meme generator for this!
I am really having a linocut renaissance here. In fact that sounds like a very cool band name...

Dude: "Did you catch the The Linocut Renaissance this weekend?"

Dude's friend: "Yeah, but they really gouged me on ticket prices. I couldn't get any relief."

This is the part where the laugh track informs you that the above dialogue was funny. So funny that you should be literally laughing out loud. Or LOL, if you prefer.

So what's this image you ask? Here it is as it appears in my all-new drawing book:

The orange on the left and blue on the right mark this image as a casualty of drawing book carnage. It happens.
The idea as it was explained to me by my friend, Ned, is that the Old Testament ends with a curse andy the New begins with hope. The angel delivering the messages pronounces fire and dread on the left and Gabriel on the right announces John the Baptist's birth.

There's more going on here, but I do not like to explain my images too much. A little here and there is okay, but too much explanation is too much explanation.

Keep looking for that new Temptation linocut; it is proceeding apace!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A New Linocut

I'm taking a short break from the drawing book excitement, not because I have no more books, but because... Well, because.

I thought I would take this break in the action to inform you about a NEW LINOCUT that I'm working on. I'm still in the drawing stages, but it promises to be a good one!

The idea for this one came to me in Lent. The idea is to make a polyptych that deals with temptation with Jesus' temptation in the wilderness as the jumping off point. I used the drawing that I wrote about on March 30th as the basis for one of the images. There will be appearances by St. Jerome, St. Anthony Abbot, St. Mary of Egypt, and others! It's meant to be a set of images for Lent and here we are out of Lent and into Easter already. But that's okay. I think the cutting of this block will take a long time. Comparable to the Cream Legbar in terms of difficulty of cutting.

I'll show more as I get it done.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Couple of Weirdos

I present here, for your viewing pleasure a pair of diplocaulus. In case you are not in the know (and exactly what sheltered-from-long-extinct-amphibians rock have you been living under anyway?) they are some long extinct amphibians. They were really big in North America about 300 to 250 million years ago. In life they were something like 3 feet long. Of course, there were different species of diplocaulus and they came in different shapes and sizes. I'm just trying to give you the general idea. You dig? You can see a few more of my diplocaulus here and here.

I've drawn mine in two ways. One of them has frilly gills like ordinary larval salamanders do today, the other does not. I have absolutely no idea if diplocaulus had this arrangement or not. Please cut me some slack as I neglected to get my paleo-herpetological PhD in between getting my art degrees and raising a family. Sheesh, you guys are a demanding bunch.

I simply love the outlandish and seeming wildly impractical boomerang heads on these guys. There are all sorts of theories as to exactly what was going on with the headgear, but I don't really care what the reason is. I'm just glad that something like this was real.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Drawings Done in Worship or Heads and Arthropods

For all of you who are, no doubt, just coming to this blog and finding the artwork here compelling, I have been writing about the history of my drawing books. You might say that is fascinating and you would be right! The drawing books are where it all happens. They are the place where ideas bounce and roll around for months, if not years. They are where things distill, ferment, simmer, condense, and other cooking-related things happen to ideas. However, what kind of a dish I am making often doesn't become clear for many months into a book.

Two heads

That was true of this book. In fact, I'm still unsure as to what I've made. I gave myself one rule early on in the making of this book: everything had to be drawn from life. There is only one page (that I'm not showing you) where I drew strictly from my imagination. It's not bad, it just doesn't fit.

A head and an arthropod
So I spent(d) a lot of time in church and a lot of drawing can be done there. When I was a Presbyterian, there was A LOT of time to draw during sermons (now I typically have 15 to 20 minutes during a homily!). Anyway, I ended up drawing a lot of heads of people in church. Hence the title of this book. I also drew a ton of crap, crawdad, lobster, arthropods in this book. Hence the alternative title.

Two more heads (presbytery is even longer than the longest sermon!)
The book itself is a pocket sized Moleskine. I bought it on clearance and thought I'd give these "legendary" books a try. It wasn't for me. I didn't care for the hardness of the paper or the way it accepted wet media. I'm sure they have models for that but I like making my own books so much I think I'll just stick to that.

By the by, you can see some of these drawings elsewhere on this blog. But you'll have to hunt for them. And also, I have a lot more scans from this book, and since I am fond of them, I'll post more of them next week.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The End of Lent

This being the beginning of Holy Week and since Lent is almost over, I thought I'd put up a drawing I have just finished. This is the temptation at the end of Jesus' 40 days of fasting. It's from my brand new drawing book that I just started working on in the last few weeks.

I think an important thing not to overlook here is the fact that this was a real temptation. Por ejemplo; if someone offered me a couple of tickets to... the Final Four, Wimbledon, the World Cup, the World Series, the Super Bowl, Citrus Bowl, Orange Bowl, or any combination of them, if I would just do X; it wouldn't be a real temptation since sports hold absolutely no interest for me. (Honest. I couldn't care less. It's not that I have anything against sports, per se, I just can't manufacture an interest in them. Now you know.) So for it to work on me, there would have to be a much different kind of temptation on the table. I can think of about a dozen things off the top of my head...

Anyway, back to an actual temptation, Jesus had to really be tempted if this episode was to have any real meaning. As such, I have tried to show him emaciated and weak. At least physically weak. Since I have never fasted for that long, I have no idea if 40 DAYS of fasting leaves one spiritually weakened or strengthened. I assume it would be immediately weakening or Satan would not have chosen that time to act.

The little bat-winged speech bubble is not quoting any scripture, rather it quotes something else. I'll give a very special no-prize to anyone who can tell me where that line comes from. I suppose if you give in to the temptation of the devil... err... Google, you could just look it up.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sins Committed Sins Remitted

My post on Monday was kind of a cheat. I know that. But then again, this new baby is sucking an awful lot of energy out of our family. It's funny how 7 to 10 pounds of fury and need can run a whole family! Eva is our sixth child and, as such, one can be forgiven for thinking I would remember how difficult newborns are. AHA! That's exactly where they get you! If you remembered how hard it is to have little babies, then you would never dream of having another one. "Never dream"... of course we don't dream now... since we NEVER SLEEP! Or, I should say, my wife never sleeps. I'm sleeping okay, but I have sympathy exhaustion. It's the very least I can do.

We must press on with my narcissistic need... errr... commitment to explicating my work to an inquiring public. It's time to talk DRAWING BOOKS! Specifically the drawing book done immediately after Family Resemblances. As I said, I spent about 4 years making that book and I didn't want to do that again. So I made a much thinner book in Sins Committed, Sins Remitted. 

Sins Committed, Sins Remitted. Those little designs between the words are crosses of persecution.
Albrecht Durer starts things off the right way.
As I was going through this book to get some images to show all my fans out there, I realized this book was filled with collages. I don't know if that means I really liked some of my old prints or if it means I was exceptionally lazy. Probably both.

Actually what I think happened is that I used a strange kind of laid paper that was two-sided – blue on one side and buff on the other. It wasn't really conducive to drawing as much as it made a great surface for collage. It's funny how materials can go a long way in dictating imagery.

This man is a liar and he has begun to believe his lies.

The drunken minotaur
I have written about minotaurs before, so there's no need to rehash all of that here. But it seemed like a good idea to draw a savage minotaur with a martini and a dainty cigarette. The alligator on the left was the beginnings of a design that I was commissioned to do.

Yeahhhrrrrrrrgghhhhh! :-)
 These guys sing for joy. They exult in their excellence as they are the mighty brachiosaurus and the cunning ceratosaurus!

Oroboros, Jormungandr and a very small tribute to Doug TenNapel
Pig and Alligator
Here's more stuff from that alligator commission. The client wasn't sure exactly what he wanted, so I tried my best to give him full-throttle coolness. There's a hog skull and an alligator skull and crossbones here.
Bird and Skull

The North Museum in Lancaster, PA had a great collection of stuffed birds on its bottom floor. I spent a lot of hours down there looking at those birds, but this is the only drawing I ever made of any of them. The skull is from an old woodcut that I recycled.

This is a small and colorful book. I like it very much. It took about a year to finish. I took some time off before my next, unorthodox book. The one that I will write about next time...

Monday, March 23, 2015


Babies are hard. Even harder than I remembered. More later.

Monday, March 16, 2015

How Owls Got to be That Way

I did a couple of drawings on commission the other day. My friend has written a few stories for the Rafiki Foundation. His stories are meant to be used in a Logic curriculum. But I think my drawings don't have to be. His stories tell of how hyenas became nuts, why owls sleep in the day, and a couple other things. They're a lot of fun!

This is a direct "quotation" of Francisco Goya's Capricho "What a Golden Beak!" (Below)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Romans part V

This is the end. Not of the book of Romans, but of my drawing. I ended it in chapter 11 whereas the actual book has 16 chapters. What's the matter Clark, did you get lazy? Did you run out of paper for your scrawling? I didn't get lazy, but I did run out of paper! But that's not why I stopped in chapter 11.  I'll tell you why in a minute.

First, let's deal briefly with what's going on. My official, super MFA Advisory Inquisitorial Committee asked me several times what I was trying to do with this drawing. That was a difficult question for me because I really wasn't sure. They asked if I was trying to proselytize. I settled on the idea that in addition to everyone else who looks at the work, the artist is also part of the audience. So I put myself in there listening to the campus preacher... who is also me. the idea is that I am "preaching" to myself. That I need conversion as much as anyone.

Campus preaching!
(And here's a bonus for those of you who attended the University of Florida, the building in the background is Turlington Hall. For clarity's sake I opted not to put in the gigantic rock that looks like a monstrous baked potato – I regret this now. Anywho, Turlington Hall is a sort of crossroads on UF's campus and a lot of the campus preachers would harangue the crowds there. Or at least they did 10 to 15 years ago. I have no idea if they still do.)

That weird snake-y vine is a stand-in for the olive tree that St. Paul actually talks about. I took artistic license here and grafted branches onto a vine instead of the olive tree since I needed a visual element to link to the very last section of the drawing.

This last part is where I thought there was a nice symmetry with the beginning of the drawing. If the opening of Romans begins with a warning to everyone, then chapter 11 issues a warning to those in the Church. So I decided to end it here, where the end was a refined restatement of the beginning.

Here I am, talking to myself.
There are also a series of 8 hand-colored etchings that go with this drawing (my MFA is in printmaking after all), but I don't have scans of them. They take elements of the drawing and "explain" them by quoting specific passages of Romans.

This is my MFA thesis in a nutshell. I have opted not to try to explain everything, partially because I have shifted views slightly here and there and also because there are exceedingly few things in the world more tedious than reading the decoder key to artwork. This is a picture meant to be looked at, not read about.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Family resemblances part II

Here's the part where I tell you of my woes. Many thousands of you will have missed my post on Monday. Because there wasn't one. I will just chalk it up to the fact that I have a newborn along with five other kids and a lovely wife who need my attention. If keeping a blog could be construed as a rather selfish thing to do – especially one that is almost completely about my own artwork – then writing one while life is swirling at hurricane speed most certainly is.

So this is my version of a clip show. All of these are from Family Resemblances just like last week. As I said, I really love that book and want to show you a fair bit of it! (Not all of it, not by a looooong shot!) We have lots of woodcuts, collages, maker and watercolor work.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Family Resemblances part I

After finishing my last drawing book, Interplanetary Ambassador,  I knew I had made a mistake in the way I was thinking about the art of a drawing book. If you'll remember, I said I finished that book in about 8 months. Well, this new book will take 4 years to finish. It's called Family Resemblances because everything in it sort of looks like it belongs; nothing is quite the same as everything else, but it isn't separate either. You know? Anyway, I got the name from Ludwig Wittgenstein which you can read about here if you want to. It's not that I was reading Wittgenstein so much as I think I was listening to a lecture about him. Or something like that. The name stuck in my brain and it seemed to work well for this book.

We got some natural history action here. Birds will fly into windows and I will try not to let them go to waste.

I say this book took four years to make. That's because I had gotten my MFA, moved away for "work" and had a baby (my wife actually had the baby; but I was there!). All of a sudden I found that life was not so amenable to me spending untold hours toiling away in my drawing books. It's a big book, no doubt, but not that big, for Pete's sake. I was just unsettled and not able to work on my artwork. It happens.

Oh, yeah! Collage! The bull skull on the right was one of the greatest Christmas gifts I have ever gotten.

I went back, more or less, to the every-page-is-a-work-of-art model that I had gotten into before. That's okay I guess because I really love this book! There are plenty of pages that I still like very much. In fact, there are so many that I will split this post into two. But isn't that self indulgent? I suppose so, and thank you for asking. Certainly you are concerned – especially in this season of Lent – that I am too focused on myself. Well, the thing is, this is my blog where I write about my own work. So I guess it's okay.

Minotaurs and Monsters – a Clark classic.
This one had a lot of impact on later artwork for me. It's genesis (pun!) goes all the way back to Natural History and will continue into a few linocuts that I made as illustrations for the book The Beginning: A Second Look at the First Sin published by Square Halo Books.

Here's another one that grew legs and made its way into a larger painting which you can read about here.
Next time I'll write more about what some of these images are about.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Romans part IV

So here we are, roughly 2/3 of the way through this drawing. We're following Abraham's line on through Rebecca to the twins, Esau and Jacob. At the time, my wife was pregnant with our first child and I had babies on the brain (this seems to be a theme with our family, almost 13 years later and we just had another little one!). So I was at pains to draw umbilical cords, women in agony and... water jars. It seemed to fit with all the boil some water, get some newspapers and clean sheets advice I had always heard on TV. And it also was a nice way of not-too-subtlely referencing the Romans 9 vessels of wrath and vessels of honor.

So what about the ram on the altar? It was a nice counterpoint to the lamb on the altar that we saw earlier. It also serves as a visual for Isaac between Abraham and Jacob. The Hebrew inscription says "The LORD will provide". Or at least that is what I was told!

The procession of people in various stages of temptation are slowly making their way to the foreground and will be resolved in the next part of the drawing.The very strange skeleton man on the right will have to wait until next Monday!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Interplanetary Ambassador

Oh man. Boy howdy. Remember how I said I almost sold my drawing book, Concerning Religious Affections, for a lousy 500 bucks?! Remember that I said I was sick to death of looking at a complicated, all-consuming drawing book? Well, I set out to rectify that with this new book.

While I was tired of the fancy art-piece book, I still wanted to keep a drawing book of some kind. I was enamored of bookbinding by this point and wanted to try a new technique. The coptic stitch I was using was good, but I wanted something more book-like. So I went with a case bound book. (This is the only time I have done this. It's pretty much coptic all the way for me now unless I find something to surpass its beautiful lay-open-flat quality.)

Well, there I was with a new book, a healthy disdain for the whole drawing book enterprise and a very time-consuming thesis project. (The thesis project that I am writing about on Mondays, that is.) I made this book very small with the idea that it wouldn't eat up all of my creative energies. At this, I was a raging success!
Behold the crappy depths to which my drawing book sank!

This book is called Interplanetary Ambassador after a random mailer I received that was soliciting members for some dopey science club. Anyway, this book can be broken into two halves, more or less. The first part is where I was working on my thesis project. This is the part where you can find all kinds of notes, loose sketches, bad drawings, a general malaise of perfunctoriness. Then I finished the thesis project and found that I wanted to make good work in this book. That's when things started to pick up and the second half of the book was made. It has drawings, prints, collages and more.

A mostly unused idea for my thesis.
A slightly more used idea for my thesis.
Of course, I may be an unreliable narrator here. There are some gems in this book where I used it to work out some of my thesis ideas. Mostly ideas that I did not use, but still... In all this book is a mixed bag. It has some really good ideas and a few drawings that I'm still proud of, but it also has a lot of... clutter. I spent about 8 months on this book, which makes it the most quickly completed of my books by far.

Here are a couple of those gems:

Predator and prey...

More collage!

Probably my favorite image in the book.