Solar Flare I and II

It’s a little difficult to talk about editing when talking about a work in progress that’s abstract. In writing, you might focus on grammar, flow and veracity, for example. But in abstract art, what do you focus on?

For Solar Flare, I think it’s not the intent but specific elements.

Solar Flare I Ink on paper, 18″ x 20″

I began this work in 2018 and then stepped away from it because I was overwhelmed by the idea of ruining it. Which is silly. It’s been so long I’ve changed in my role as audience. I no longer see the “problems” I’d seen as problems anymore but simply as a starting point.

I had been concerned about creating a “wallpaper effect,” and to this I can only argue that I’d approached it with the intent to use a specific element over and over. I just didn’t want it to look like I did. Maybe knowing this, I was self-conscious and couldn’t help but see the “wallpaper” effect.

Either way, I decided I could focus on what’s good about what I already have instead of running away from the final product before getting there.

To be honest, I do not actually like the “flower” element but I do like another element — an imperfect, wavy curve (for a lack of a better description).  

I liked it in 2018 and very easily picked it up again, unlike the flowers which felt very unnatural.

I did find myself drawing a looser version of the flower element (left) when completing Solar Flare 2, because having only the wavy curves made the drawing a little boring. So… it’s more complicated than liking or not liking the element(s). The idea works better with the two elements interacting with each other.

I ended up with two versions: I completed the original drawing just because I wanted to see it through, and this became Solar Flare I, while Solar Flare II is the completed “edited” version.

Solar Flare I does seem messy in places but it also seems more complete compared to Solar Flare II.

I also like the wavy curves in the lower right hand side of Solar Flare I more than in any other place of either version.

Solar Flare II Ink on paper, 18″ x 20″


Oasis Ink on paper 18″ x 24″

Oasis (above) is an exercise in line work. I began the idea in 2018 and wanted to extend the initial idea (left) to cover the entire 18″ x 24 surface.

For my previous drawing, I allowed the size of my hands to guide me in determining how to draw the lines. For this drawing, the curves of the line often required me to move my arm across the page, as opposed to keeping my arm stationary and pivoting from my wrist.

I had to keep in mind the relative shape of the line and not the physical experience of drawing the lines.

I allowed myself to put each new line down with pencil before going over it with pen, which made the lines scratchy once I’d erased the pencil.

I consciously did not clean up any of the lines until I’d put down enough lines to cover the entire surface, as I knew the process of “cleaning it up” would allow for many “mistakes” which would make me inclined to make some lines heavier than others and maybe add additional lines.

Or I counted on this, and would later welcome the mistakes. But before allowing the “mistakes,” I wanted to add lines based on how I wanted to compose the drawing.

Once I’d finished “cleaning it up” and adding lines based on “mistakes,” I added more lines to give more weight to the upper part of the composition… which required me to clean up more lines…

Sadly, I found myself making more and more of them equal in how heavy they are, making them maybe too uniform. There’s not as much focus as there was in the version before I began cleaning up the lines.

I might want to revisit this later but for now I’m going to take a break.

Loose Ends

Loose Ends Ink on paper, 12″ x 18″

Loose Ends (above) was an exercise in creating a “good” line and being brave. Or it began with a sketch I’d drawn in 2011 (left). I was with my parents who were visiting friends in San Francisco and I decided to spend some time by myself at a small diner and drew this on the back of one of their menus. I was just doodling.

But I liked the result so much I didn’t want to mess with it… until 2018, when I set out to extend it to something bigger, and that’s when it became an exercise in bravery. I only got as far as making a carbon copy of the original sketch onto water color paper (which I’d prepared with several washes of tea).

I believed I had to recall what the original intent was or some idea behind the line work before I could extend the idea further. I decided finally, in the last week, to not worry so much about going back in time and doing more of what I’d already done, but instead continue the lines in whatever way my hands wanted to.

I worked on it over the course of several days, section by section, starting with the lower right-hand corner (left). I decided not to use pencil because that would allow me to second guess myself… and I got a mess of lines. (I later covered these lines with heavier lines so they now feel like something in the background.) It occurred to me that the curve of the lines was influenced by the size of my hands and where they naturally wanted to bend the line. When it veered from a smooth or “good” line, I simply took the pen off the surface and resumed where it took a “wrong turn.”

The next day, I moved onto the upper middle section and tried to create some uniformity by allowing the lines to criss cross within these pod-like shapes. (Below) It got a little boring and formulaic, so I found myself extending some of these lines beyond the confines of the pods.

On the third day I moved to the upper right-hand corner (left) and may have stayed on it longer than I should have. It became again a mess of lines. It had occurred to me that this was an exercise in a third idea and that was “saving” the drawing from one “mistake” after another — or this was apart being brave by trying one line after another, knowing full well I was going to make many more mistakes.

Or maybe it undermines the exercise in being brave, as being able to save the drawing from these mistakes makes it not so easy to make a mistake I can’t recover from. (Why does it feel like I could apply this to life in general?) I eventually turned to making certain lines heavier than others so my eyes could have something to focus on.

I though i was done, but on the fourth day, I realized there still some empty spaces, so I lazily extended any loose ends, allowing again the size of my hands to determine where the lines would bend, until they found their way the edge of the paper. The upper left-hand corner is above and the lower left-hand corner is below, left, and the lower right-hand corner is below, right, after I’d gone over certain lines with heavier lines.

On the fourth day, I started to lose my nerve and began by allowing myself to use a pencil before committing new lines to pen. I eventually stopped worrying so much and started and ended the last few lines with a pen.