Recently a friend suggested that I consider working on some of my illustrations in photoshop for the ease of trying out different solutions to a problem. I saw her point, but I prefer the point of a pencil, or the flow of a pen.
When I am illustrating or painting I start with an idea in my head. But once I start working on it other things kick in – my hand and the materials with which I am working. A line drawn with a pencil is different than line drawn with a brush. A line drawn with my hand is different than a line drawn in my head. Although a computer can recreate the looks of various media, I want the physical experience of interacting with real materials. I want to eat paper and drink ink.
Ink leads to scratches and blots, like this gongozzler by Ben Shahn.
Ink leads to elegant script and crosshatching as in this drawing by Saul Steinberg.
…or to elegant script and scratchy lines as in this Pennsylvania Fraktur for a Sam Book (psalm book) from 1809.
Ink is tempting, as in this drawing by John Coates.
A pencil will take you to an entirely different place.
Saul Steinberg‘s pencil still life feels intimate, yet airy.
Garth Williams illustration has warmth, weight and softness.
James Edward Deeds ( 1908 – 1987) was an inmate of State Hospital #3 in Nevada, Missouri. He was also known as the Electric Pencil. He left behind an amazing trove of subtle and haunting pencil drawings.
I want to make art, but I don’t want to be the total master of the material. I want to see where the brush or pen or pencil will take me.
P.S. Here is a pencil poem by Todd Boss which I first saw on Julie Larios’s blog, the Drift Record.