Some people don’t want to see how art is made. They want to believe and preserve the magic, and I love that. But there are others that want to know everything about how it’s done. I’m one of these because I just love to see how an artist creates, their thought process, how they rebound from mistakes or make changes. I love the process. But I completely understand what it means to preserve the magic and let the art be what it is.
In college I was an international politics major and in one of my classes we had to read a book on policy making and journalism. In it, the author described policy making to be like a sausage factory. You don’t want to see how it’s made (ever), only the finished result. But for those of you want to see the process even if it takes away from the enjoyment of the final result (I feel ya), here’s a look into my sausage factory of art: My entire process of the Awakening Collection, from inspiration to the final spray and signing.
Awakening: The Art Process
It always begins with inspiration, and inspiration leads to vision. Sometimes the vision doesn’t show up until the collection or piece is fully underway, evolving slowly as the piece or project evolves. Sometimes the vision comes with the inspiration like a jolt. These are hard to hold on to because it has to be addressed right away or they leave as quickly as they came. Other times vision comes through an ideation process where I create thumbnails and sketches to work the vision out.
For the Awakenings Collection, the inspiration appeared but the vision for the entire collection slowly grew and bloomed much like the early spring flowers depicted in the collection.
I had left over blue paper from a project that never panned out. I also had white charcoal pencils that came with the other charcoal pencils I bought. I wanted to use the leftover paper and just decided to start drawing with the charcoal on it. The first several florals and drawings were blah but I was experimenting and exploring.
Also, at that time, the daffodils, lenten roses and camellias were blooming in my yard. I captured photos of them and used them as the beginnings of some new drawings. I’d rather use my own photos every time because it fells more authentic to me.
During this time, I felt the winter blues along with some frustrations I had with screen printing issues. The art projects I attempted weren’t turning out as I envisioned.
But much like those early spring flowers giving new life to the landscape, the newly drawn daffodils and camellias in white charcoal felt like new life infused into my art. It was an awakening. And I had a rush of inspiration for this collection.
So, I began gathering photos on my walks and in my garden of the new blooms. Daily I worked on drawing them. As I drew and gathered, ideas formed and those were written into my studio notebook and it is here where the ideas became a vision.
I took most of the photos with my phone and didn’t fuss with processing the images. I purely wanted them for structure and light values. I did bring each photo into Snapseed, cropped it and converted it to black and white so I could see the light values and contrast better. I exported these and used them to create the composition for each drawing.
First I do a shape sketch, lightly drawing to work out the composition and the shapes of the flowers. I also begin blocking in some of the values and assigning a number to remind myself. I don’t create all the values at this point but later on use the drawing to influence where it’s going.
After most of it is blocked in, I begin shading in the values. I get the bulk of the values done then go back and begin blending. By this point, I’m no longer using the photo as a reference and am instead using the drawing itself and my imagination to guide me. As I’m blending, often I’ll reshade and erase, changing and correcting. I use various size blending stumps, a kneaded eraser, and a more precise Tombow eraser.
Once I have the values I like, I go back and add details and more contrast by erasing and adding heavy marks of charcoal for a bright white (sometimes I use a conte crayon for this).
When the piece is how I like, I sign it, and use a finishing spray on it to lock the charcoal to the paper. I’ve found sometimes the spray dulls the image so I’ll go back and add in places that need it. The piece is then almost ready to rest in it’s forever home.
Before though, I scan each piece of art into my computer then each piece gets a piece of newsprint placed on top and it’s stored in a box.
I then catalogue the art on both a paper inventory and an inventory I keep in Trello. I also create a certificate of authenticity for each piece that is sent with it to it’s new home.
After someone purchases a piece I mount it to a mat with an archival and removable tape then place it into a sealable plastic bag that also gets wrapped then placed into a box with cushioning to protect the art as much as possible. For this collection, the pieces were smaller allowing me to ship each in a box. For larger pieces they get rolled, then wrapped in tissue and put into a plastic sleeve and tube with cushioning at each end for protection.
I couldn’t quite stop at those early spring flowers and went on to create a couple more that I am releasing today! Magnolia and Close Inspection were two late art pieces that I decided to release. Magnolia was one of the last ones I created and as I did so, it was apparent to me that the collection was coming to a close. Then another day I had the urge to try a deep detail from on of the roses my daughter received in her ballet recital. Close inspection then became the last of these drawings.