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.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Romans Drawing part III

You've read about it, you've been scintillated by it, now it's time to continue on your journey into my MFA thesis drawing. So far, we've made it into several chapters of Romans and we have left off with Abraham being shown a vision of pregnant Sarah and a sky full of stars.

Not zombies.
We must progress! This part looks a little funny. St. Paul never once mentions zombies (or walkers or biters or lurkers or roamers or geeks or zeke). You'll have to keep in mind that this was waayyyy, waayyyy back in 2001/2002. No one had ever heard of The Walking Dead and the televised zombie apocalypse was still several years in the future. I realize it may not be possible to see this drawing and not think of zombies, but, I promise, that never once entered my mind as I was working. No, these living skeletons are based on the idea of being "dead in trespasses and sin" as it says in Ephesians. I coupled this imagery with St. Paul's use of the term "the old man" and "the body of this death" as he talks of his pre-Christian life (for more of my drawings on this, see here). My idea was simple, the skeletons clutch fruit (remember Adam and Eve at the beginning of the drawing) and then release it as they encounter the lambs. They also begin to come alive. That's why some of them are growing flesh.

Interestingly (to me, anyway) I occur as a model throughout this drawing. I am clean shaven in the beginning and slowly grow a beard by the end of the picture. As I said, it was about two months in the making. So look for the guy with stubble and then a beard and you'll see me!

This line of skele-people continues along the background for a long time. It's meant to correspond to St. Paul's very descriptive account of sin in ch. 7. The folks up front are Hagar, Ishmael, Abraham, Isaac and Sarah. This is to show how the covenant progressed and through whom it did not progress.

We're about half way through the drawing at this point. Stay with me! We'll get to the end together!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Another Fish! But Not For The Reason You Think!


Several weeks ago, my wife and I had a small contest among some of our local friends and family (non-local friends and family, don't be upset!). In a move that is completely unlike us, we sent out the initials for our soon-to-be-born daughter. We had dozens of guesses for little EHC's name but only one of them was correct. The prize was a linocut of an American shad specially made for this contest. What made it great was that the winner's name is Schad and they love fish!

We also gave a print for weirdest/lamest/never-name-my-kid-that guesses. The winner here was, among many guesses Escalator Holodeck Clark. 

If you're curious, little Eva was born on Thursday afternoon. I would have put this up sooner, but, you know, new baby and all.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Concerning Religious Affections

Continuing my megalomaniacal obsession with my old drawing books, I will now talk about Concerning Religious Affections. I was fresh off my book Natural History and I had something to prove... to myself anyway. Because, as I have said, college is a time of intense self-interest and I'm not sure anyone else noticed what I was up to!

I dug out a couple of old woodcuts and etchings that I had done years before that were almost successful. That's the thing with me; I don't throw anything out. Well, anywho, I took those etchings, folded them down into signatures and then I made covers out of the very colorful woodcuts. To say I was excited about starting this book is an understatement. I started it off with a red velvet inside cover for Pete's sake! I glued in a couple of real fish! Heavens to Betsy! Heavens to Murgatroid, I even gave it a title page. Sheesh.

This is drawn on top of an old etching. 

Drawing on etching. And as a matter of curiosity, the splatter is from a very minor cut that I got on my finger. I can't say why I thought it was a good idea to put it in the picture. So... 15 year old blood stains, I guess!
It was my plan to make this book a through and through work of art. It would be like no book before. That was the plan anyway. And after a lot of work, it turned out good and I really like it. But. BUT. I was spending way, way, way too much time working on this book! It has drawings, watercolors, collages, you like pop-up? it has pop-up! And more. It has real fish and even a real honey bee in there somewhere. There's even a 1,000 Yen note that I collaged on in this book. Nothing was safe from the insatiable maw of this book.

There's a painting on the left and a collage with woodcut on the right.

I said that I really like this book. But. By the time I was finished with this book (which was sooner than I expected, because if I recall correctly – and who are you to say that I don't, huh? – it was originally four times longer, but I rebound it as a much shorter book)... As I was saying, by the time I was finished with this book, I was sick to death of looking at it. I wanted it gone.

I had begun work on my thesis project and had less and less time to work on an all-consuming drawing book habit. In fact, my next drawing book will reflect my new priorities (stay tuned). I soon found out I was selected for the UF gallery award and was asked to submit three pieces for the director to chose from to add to the permanent collection of UF's gallery. I submitted a suite of prints, a large drawing, and my book! The award was $500. Of course, that seemed like a lot to me (although it didn't even begin to come close to touching the time I had spent on that book). He chose the drawing and I kept the prints and my book. WHEW! I realized pretty soon what a bullet I dodged there.

Whew! Bullet Dodged! And yes, this is where my profile picture comes from.
So far as the contents of the book go, I think the title says a lot. Concerning Religious Affections is taken from Jonathan Edwards' book, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections where he deals with all kinds of stuff you don't want to read about here! But my own religious affections are on full display here. Allegories abound! Cryptic Scriptural allusions and metaphysical metaphors are to be had in heaping handfuls! So take a look at a few of the pages and see what you think.

A strange metaphor known only to me. Probably.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Romans Drawing

This is the second part of where I talk about my thesis drawing from college. If you will recall, it was an allegory of the the New Testament book of Romans. I'll be brief here because many books have been written about Romans and I don't want to add another one. Besides, drawings are not books!

I spent about two months on this piece working about 40 hours a week. (As a lengthy aside, when will I ever have time like that again? Probably never. I was told in high school that it doesn't get any easier than this. I thought the people saying that were nuts; then I got to college and realized they were right. But then I was told by my professors that I would never have the kind of time I had at that point to work on my artwork. I thought they were nuts. Then I had children... I've never had it as easy as I did in college! College is a weird place that tempts one to become very, very selfish. Nowhere on earth is a person so encouraged to follow his own, stupid little whims as he is in college. It's like a seedbed of narcissistic solipsists. I'll stop here since I seem to be veering down some strange road that will dead end in a rant.)

As I was saying, I spent about 40 hours a week for two months on this drawing. The medium is charcoal with ink on a roll of Rives BFK paper. I used myself as a model, my wife, various students, folks from my imagination, characters from art history.

The portion of Romans covered in these sections of the drawing is chapters 1-4. St. Paul talks a lot about universal condemnation, grace, and a covenant through Abraham.

Look for Tio Paquete as I lifted him straight from Goya. Also, there is more robbery of Goya here!

This is a anthropomorphized lamb, am I right?
The action moves along from Adam and Eve way in the background and snakes its way up to the foreground through Moses and along to Abraham as he has a vision of his offspring. The falling fireballs are a convention that I took from Albrecht Durer and his Apocalypse woodcuts. I won't say much more than that. Read it here. Or read it at your house, you have a bible at home, right?

Thursday, February 5, 2015


I am feeling what an old student of mine called "nostaglia". This is because, of course, I JUST FINISHED MY DRAWING BOOK, Dreams and Visions! I have been working on this slowly since October of 2013. The key word here is slowly. All of my drawing books take some time to finish, but, increasingly, they are taking longer and longer.

With my new drawing book, I want to try something... old. Natural History was my first hand bound book and I finished it up something like 14 or 15 years ago. It has a ton of pages, but I was flying through them. I think it was because I hadn't really conceived of my drawing books as actual "artwork" at the time. It was somewhere towards the middle of that book that I realized I was making good drawings and that this could be more than a "sketchbook", it could be an Artist's Book. (If that doesn't sound asinine and pretentious, then I don't know the meaning of the words.) Whatever terminology you want to apply to the book, the fact is, I started poring over my books – sometimes taking years to finish one. I don't want to do that with this new book. But I say that with every new book I start and... well, stuff happens.

So, on to the nostalgia part of this post. I want to give something of a brief overview of my books. I have no idea if that is of any interest to you, but it is to me, and since I am doing all the writing here, I'll just indulge myself. Probably one or two of you will remember that I have already written about my drawing books in the past. That's true, but I want to deal with each of the books in a little more individual detail.

Natural History is not the first book of drawings that I made, but it is my first hand bound book. About half way through I started to think of it as a body of related drawings. Not that that changed what I was doing, it just helped me to have a way of thinking about the book as I was making it.

This is the first image in the book. An introduction.

There is a lot of collage in this book along with a fair amount of animal parts. There are a couple of praying mantis legs in there if you take a good look!

Monsters and anatomy. I'm sure this is a surprise to you.

Bugs, bones and printmaking and even a little bit of pro to-gyotaku before I knew what that was! The tiny little fish is real. It's been there for about 15 years, so I'm not too worried about it decomposing.

Fish, printmaking, and the internal anatomy of humilobites. At least I'm consistent. 

Again with the collage!
I have always understood my interest in the natural world. So that was a given for me as I started making this book. But I have always had an interest in the para-natural world as well. (I just made that word up, feel free to use it in your everyday life, but make sure you point people back to me. I'm getting in touch with the proper authorities to trademark it as I type this.) So the old category of "natural history" fit well for me. Way back in the olden days, back when things like cabinets of curiosities were in vogue, plants, animals, shells, oddities, "monsters", creepy pickled fruits. Anything that caught the eye was a go and it all fell under the same quasi-category. And that's where I found the work in this book.

Monday, February 2, 2015

An Oldie. A Very, Very Oldie

In recent weeks I have had a couple of requests to dig up an old drawing. It's a drawing I did about 13 years ago for my MFA thesis project. The title of this behemoth is Romans: An Allegory of the Gospel According to Paul. It is, as you may have guessed, an allegory. Of Romans.

To say that this is a large piece that is difficult to get photographed and on this blog doesn't give you the full feeling for the situation. This drawing is 42" tall by something like 36' long. You'll notice that I wrote a ' and not a " behind that number 36. That means feet. So the drawing is 42 inches tall by 36 feet long. This is like that scene in Spinal Tap where the guys want a giant model of Stonehenge on stage but they get a tiny little model instead. Whoever came up with the plans used " instead of ' when they made their drawings. Funny stuff, watch it and be amused.

There are a great many things that I would do differently if I were to make this drawing again today. For starters, I would retitle it to read something like Romans: The Gospel According to St. Paul. Not much of a difference you say? Maybe not, but I have grown to dislike allegories and I certainly am not on a first name basis with St. Paul. If anyone was a saint, he was. And if you're uncomfortable calling him Saint, maybe you could at least call him Mr. Paul?

As a sort of teaser for what's to come, here's the postcard that I sent out for the show.
It's B&W not because I was a cheapskate, but because the original is B&W! I
mean, I AM a cheapskate, but that's not what was going on here.

Over the next few weeks on Mondays, I'll write more about this piece and what it means and what it has meant for me. So that means you still have the normal, random results of my wandering pencil to look forward to on Thursdays, so don't panic! Stay with me here!