I haven’t been able to get into the studio recently because of my academic responsibilities. Any time I’m not in the studio, I make a conscious effort to be either looking at and analyzing related imagery, or to be brainstorming other possibilities in approaching my work.
One approach that I’ve used in the past as a means of covering a vast range of options is to work in one method and then complete work is the opposite of that initial approach. This experimentation doesn’t always garner the best results, but it certainly does provide me with a means of comparison and contrast within any given body of work that is usually revealing in some manner. If anything, the contrast gives me the opportunity to appreciate aspects of my technique that may have previously gone unnoticed. Simultaneously, often times the opposite approach can bleed its way into the original work, giving it more range and depth due to the variation of visual options.
I was thinking yesterday that the way to implement this approach in my current project would be to create some highly detailed and refined ink drawings. The most recent ink drawings I’ve been working on have largely focused on the spontaneity and efficiency of the brush work, making for an extremely quick technique. I’m curious to see how the imagery would change if I create a drawing process for myself that is very slow and dependent upon small marks and layering. The issue of control over the medium would definitely shift dramatically; when I work more spontaneously I relinquish a significant amount, if not all control over the medium whereas with a slower pacing you really do have the ability to dictate the behavior of every mark.
I’ve been spending more time looking at Chinese brush painting as well, specifically by the artists Han Mo and Ch’i Pai-Shih. What’s astounding to me when I look at these brush paintings is not only the extraordinary brushwork. There are moments in the brush paintings where you can see the artist dictating every square millimeter of the painting, and then other moments where the flow of the ink completely takes over that control. Probably what is most amazing to me is also the abstract quality of these paintings, which I hadn’t anticipated until I had taken a significant amount of time and attention to really look at them. Although many of the Chinese brush paintings are permeated by specific imagery from nature, the most interesting works to me are the ones that become more abstract and are more about the rhythm of the brush stroke, rather than the subject matter.