Name Drawing: Sophia - Pen and Ink: 10.1" x 5.2" Completed 4.20.2010

Now that I've finished the massive Life #3 drawing, I wanted to begin to start making smaller triptychs - and I thought it would be interesting to start with a Name drawing.  Much like the Life drawings the drawing is really about a single word and the details that make up what that word means - it's just that with the Name drawings (this is my first) the drawing is more about an individual person, not a collective whole. 

You can see that the drawings are mounted with a slight rhombus shape to them: that's because each individual piece of paper has that slight shape to it: they're not perfectly square.  Also as with Life #3, the drawings were joined during the drawing process and cut apart after the drawing was done.  Here's what the drawing looked like before being cut and mounted:

The Greek text that runs across the top of the drawing is I Corinthians 13:12:
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."

The Greek text running across the lower center of the drawing is Romans 8:26:
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

The Hebrew text in the top right is Job 12:13:
"With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding."

The Hebrew text in the bottom right is Proverbs 9:10:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight."

Life #3 - Pen and Ink: 66" x 30" - Completed April 6th, 2010

Life #3 - Explanation of Work

For what became a very complex project which was well over a solid year in the making, the statement of the drawing is very simple:

There is a royalty to Life: yet the path of Life to redemption contains an intricate web of pain, suffering, and experience. 

The color blue in the drawing is meant to represent Royalty, Beauty, and Goodness and serves very much in the 'silver lining' sense as there's not much of it in the drawing. Other than surrounding the large letters of "Life" that make up the center of the drawing the only other blue is the blue writing that surrounds the very last sentence of the drawing - a passage from Revelation 22: "And they shall see his Face..."  To read across the drawing in blue the message is simply: "Life - and they shall see his Face." In this sense the red and all other details in the drawing are meant to fade into the background of this over-arching yet very simple message.

The red symbolizes the ever-present oppositions in our lives that sprinkle pain and hurt on us every day: even the very best of days. As much as we may not like it, a large part of lived experience is negative - hardships, fears, anxieties, depressions, angst, hatred, etc. Life must engage all of these things directly, but it cannot become so ensnared in them that Life itself is lost: our lives must rise above and work through those hurts and pains by the power of Jesus Christ working through the Holy Spirit to bring us into communion with the Father.

The black in the drawing is the neutral color: some positive things are written in black and some negative.  The white is generally neutral as well, partaking in both positive and negative themes of the drawing

There are six sections of scripture in the drawing: two from the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament, Tanakh) and four from the New Testament.  I will list the scripture reference, followed by the location in the drawing in parentheses, and then the verse(s) themselves (all in English) below the reference (these will be listed in the order that I put them in the drawing). 

Numbers 6:24-26 (Hebrew text at the top left of Drawing #2):
"The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."

Matthew 6:25-34 (English text in black surrounding the cube on the far left lower part of the drawing)
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Ezekiel 37:5 (Large Hebrew Text beginning in the far upper right part of drawing #3)
"Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live."

John 11:25 (English text in black surrounding the cube on the far right lower part of the drawing)
"Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…" (the same verse is repeated several times to even out this cube with the cube on the left side of the drawing)

Revelation 22:1-3 (Greek text next to the large tree on the left of drawing #3)
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him."

Revelation 22:4a (English text at the very bottom right of drawing #3, surrounded in blue text)
"And they shall see his Face…"

At the foreground of the drawing is the large word "Life" but the real intricacy of the drawing is in the surrounding details.  I will list here some of the detail elements of the drawing as well as specific locations that are drawn.  It would be impossible to cover everything, but I will give a good sampling.

The largest single element in the drawing other than the word Life is the corridor that compositionally makes up most of the middle drawing.  The tunnel that this is drawn after is a tunnel that links what used to be the Bear Stearn's building on Madison Ave in Manhattan to Grand Central Terminal (often incorrectly called Grand Central Station).  I found the tunnel itself to be visually interesting, but the reason that the location was important to me is because when my wife and I first got together she was working at Bear and I was working at Li-Lac Chocolates which has a location at Grand Central.  In this sense the tunnel serves more as a bit of nostalgia for me for when we first got together and when I first moved to New York - a period in my life that be a defining time for me for the rest of my life. 

At the center (or really end) of the corridor is the Hebrew word YHWH which is the personal name for God in the Hebrew Bible.  My statement here makes every attempt to be as clear as possible - being with God is the center, focus, and goal of the drawing.  YHWH is also repeated within the cubes on either side of the drawing: I meant for this to be a unifying element of the three drawings as well as giving nod to the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The cube in drawing #1 (on the left) was drawn to represent my cubicle at work and how ever there I want to try and serve God in every way possible (which I often fail at).  The cube on drawing number #3 (on the right) is there simply as a unifying element for the drawing.   

The Alpha and the Omega on the far right of drawing #3 references Revelation 1:8 and 22:13 where Jesus refers to himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  Also on the far right side just under the alpha and omega is the Hebrew word 'elohim which is the general word for 'God' or 'Divine Being' in Hebrew and then right below that is just a single yod - referring to Matthew 18 when Jesus says that not one yod ('jot' AV) will disappear from the Law until all is accomplished.

There are also many "drawings within the drawings" that don't serve so much as symbols as they are simply locational drawings or drawings of important items.  Many of these drawings within the drawing center on buildings and structures that are a part of lower Manhattan, specifically the World Trade Center and World Financial Center areas as this was the area that I worked in during the time that I was working on the drawing.  There were so many different things going on in the areas - specifically the rebuilding of the World Trade Center - that when I'd get home I'd often want to draw what I'd seen during the day: both from views out of the World Financial Center and things that I'd see on my walk to and from work. 

Drawings (and partial drawings) within the drawing include: a scene from besides the Thames River in London (bottom of Drawing #1), a view from our brownstone at the time of the drawing in Brooklyn (top of Drawing #3), the Barclay-Vesey Building, the brownstone we lived in at the time of the drawing, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State building (twice), the new Goldman-Sachs building, and St. Paul's Chapel.

The hand in the bottom middle of Drawing #2 is supposed to be a gesture of desperation or of someone grappling with something, but nothing specific is in mind.  The phrase 'Everything Burns' is partially obscured by the hand.  The words written along the left side of Drawing #2 in large text are Fear, Passion, and Sorrow.

The smallest text (of which there is more than anything else in this drawing) I simply call 'filler text' - the tiny, mostly illegible writing that 'fills in' much of the drawing.  I love text-based drawing and don't mean to say 'filler text' in a negative sense: in most cases it's my favorite part of the drawing.  The filler texts are made up of personal thoughts, personal fears, personal struggles, repetitive sequences of words, song lyrics (often from whatever I was listening to as I worked on the drawing), personal desires, personal dreams, and rants.  None of these texts are really meant to be read - in fact reading it all would be impossible because I put letters where 'filler' is needed, not in sequences of sentences and/or words.  Very little of the drawing is meant to be read: the very first part of the first drawing was what I wrote in the far upper left corner: "It's not meant to be read..."  In this way the filler text composes the real fabric of life experience: the consistent background that's often ignored in the big picture of life.

Life #3 - Thoughts

Although the triptych Life #3 is technically the third in my series of "Life" drawings, it really stands quite a bit apart from the other two. Life #1, as seen at the very bottom of the Life Series started as nothing more than a doodle and eventually turned into a basically a religious commentary. Certainly real elements of my own life were involved in the drawing, but as the drawing went on my personal thoughts and experiences became less and less important and I didn't feel much personal connection to the drawing even though I liked the end result.

Life #2 (second entry from the bottom) was never finished, although it had much more of a personal basis than did Life #1. Much of the 'fill text' (small text in-between the pictorial elements of the drawing that is really not meant to be read) is simply my personal journal that I was required to do for my Spiritual and Personal Formation class at Bethel Seminary - since we didn't have to hand it in I mixed it right into the drawing. Despite the fact that I did some personal investment in the drawing I lost interest in it and it's still sitting in storage back in Wisconsin - I have no plans to finish it.

[More content to be added soon]

Life #3 - Explanation of Process

Right from the beginning Life #3 was different - although it started as a mistake.  I was actually planning on doing a diptych but accidentally bought three sheets of paper when I thought I was buying two.  Upon realizing my mistake I immediately decided that I liked the idea of triptych better anyway due to it's obvious symbolism of the Trinity and went with it: now I can't imagine what the drawing would have been like if it was only a diptych and am frightfully happy that I grabbed one more sheet than originally planned.

The drawing medium for Life #3 is pen and ink on watercolor paper.  The primary brand of pen that I use for these drawings is Speedball and other closely related brands of pen nib which are all interchangeable.  These are all metal pen nibs that need to be dipped in ink: there is no reservoir tube inside of the pen - every time a given nib runs out of ink it must be re-dipped in to the ink bottle.  This sounds like more of a pain than it really becomes: in fact the need to continually dip the pens in ink gives far more control than regular pens because you can more easily dictate how heavy you want the ink to come out on the paper.  Of course having such free ink on the nibs can also make for easy messes too: if I have a lot of ink on the nip and bump my elbow addicentally it can send a splashing gob of ink down onto the paper in a place that I don't want it: this happened dozens of times over the year plus that I was working on the drawing. 

This is a farily complete sampling of all the nibs that I used for the drawing, from the smallest to the largest.  The quarter is simply for size comparison (I do a pretty horrible job of cleaning my pen nibs: I need to work on that).

Early on the drawing this was the nib that I used the most by far, particularly for the filler text. 

I discovered this nib at Pearl Paint on Canal St. in Manhattan and it quickly became the nib that I used the most: replacing the previous nib which after a while I found to be too unstable.  I felt much more in control with this one, and it felt stronger in general.  I also find this nib to be difficult to find, so after I finished Life #3 I went and bought 18 more of them (fortunately they're also really cheap - only $.29 each).

This is a 1/4 inch ink brush, and one of my favorite nibs (although I probably used it the least overall).  This is good for thick, heavy lines: for example, the outline of the text tree in drawing #2 and #3 and the heavy radiating lines on the left side of the tunnel that dominates drawing #2.  I would also use this to get blobs of ink on the drawing in key spots, and then I would pick the the drawing and while holding it verticle to the table I'd hit the drawing down to make the ink run down and across the paper.

Flat nibs work the best for creating flowing lines because of the change in thickness as the pen's direction is changed around the paper: a lot of my simple pattern work was done with flat nibs of various sizes (this was the largest):  the gold-coloured top of the nib creates a reservoir for the ink.  The flat nibs also work best for the Hebrew text. 

This round-headed tip (the part that's bent up is round) work perfectly for rounded text - this is the nib that I used for the Greek text in drawing #3.

Very little of this drawing was planned: almost none of it in fact as exemeplified by it's very beginning by the buying of three sheets of paper instead of two and just going with it.  I only knew two things when I started the drawing: 1. It would have the word 'Life' in large letters across the middle, and 2. It would have lots of text and other drawings within that large word to make the the whole of the drawing.  From there on out I drew and wrote about whatever was interesting to me on that particular day and time that I was working on it.  From time to time I'd take notes and place the around the drawing to remind myself of elements that I'd like to include, and still other details and sub-drawings were the results of total mistakes like dropped blops of ink which I would then need to cover up somehow.  There are parts of the drawing that I absolutely hate, and there are other parts of the drawing that I can't stop staring at.

I think that the most noticable thing about the drawing as a whole is that the further right you go (it was created from left to right) the darker and heavier the drawing gets: the filler text is drawn much more densely, and there is a lot more heavier line work.  Other than the word 'Life' itself, the first truly heavy lines were the top-most radiating lines coming out of the center of drawing #2 on top.  It's funny looking back because when I fist drew those heavy lines - particularly the one on the right - I felt like it was too out of line with the rest of the drawing: now I think they're perfect.

My favorite part about doing this kind of drawing is the repetative patterns: making the repeated line patterns that dominate quite a number of spots on the drawing was very therapeutic.  Also, as odd as this may sound I really enjoy holding the pens themselves - I feel like in a way I'm stepping back into a different time where things were more elegant and computers hadn't even dawned on the horizon.  There were four main types of pen holder that I used while working on the drawing.  I started by primarily using the black pen holder on the far right (see photo) and then the small brown holder on the left for the smallest of details.  As the drawing progressed more I used an older version of the black holder second from the left (which had cork near the nib) but that eventually wore out and I threw it away.  Getting in to the third drawing I went back to mostly using the far holder: it's much more solid.  Then with only a couple weeks left I switched entirely over to the blue holder.  It has the same strength and shape as the black on, but the blue material has a sort of velvet texture to it which made it much more comfortable than the hard overly-smooth plastic.  If I could create my own pen holder I'd probably like it to be made out of some sort of metal and a lot heavier.

The main physical limitation in drawing with these materials is that especially with the small text and texture, my hands really took a beating: both from joint pain and pain from the pressure of the pens being squeezed between my fingers which would often hurt for days after a multi-hour drawing session.  But in contrast to photography where I often feel too removed from the subject matter and the process (I sorely miss working with film in a darkroom), when I work with the pens and inks I feel like a genuine part of the work.  Taking a photo is a much quicker process and so I think that my personal satisfaction with my photography is often left lacking these days.  To step back and look at a single piece who's process has lasted well over a year gives me a much deeper sense of accomplishment in trying to say something with my artwork.     

Life Drawing #3 - Macro and Detail Shots

It's hard to really show the scale of the drawing with just a regular photo so I've included this one below.  I'm just shy of 6' tall: my feet are flat on the floor in this photo, but I had to really crane my neck to look over the top of the drawing.

Detail and Macro Shots:

I was able to get this hyper-fine slice of depth-of-field in the next three photos by using a Canon 17-40mm f4L ultrawide lens with the camera set on the drawing.