“Walt Whitman, 1854” is based on a daguerreotype portrait that was probably used to model the face of Whitman for the iconic, illustrated frontispiece of Leaves of Grass in 1855. It’s my favorite photograph of Whitman because it does not conform to the grandpa Walt archetype. My rendering of this daguerreotype tells the story of the terror of working with india ink, as well as its pleasures. Terror: the undiluted shadow on the side of his nose; I doubted if I should continue after that error. Pleasure: the pointed shape on the cheek, a spontaneous, and unplanned arc of ink that I could not make so well if I had planned it beforehand. For me, working with ink is about letting it do what it wants, to not force it. The pleasure of this kind of work is some unpredictability. “Walt Whitman, 1860s” is based on a Matthew Brady photograph that was probably taken in 1862 or 1863. I generally struggle with capturing a likeness of the bearded Whitman but beard textures and shadows are fun to explore with ink.
I did this series for an art class I am taking with Jay Bailey. The prompt was to represent everyday beauty. I was interested in being as gestural as possible, to simplify forms and shapes, including my likeness. The whimsy of the “keep on trucking” spaceman is purely coincidental (I have a t-shirt with that image on it). I made 8 posters total but these three were the ones that seemed the most realized and balanced.
India ink, straight outta the bottle on a brush is pretty exciting. I used to find it terrifying because of how unforgiving of error it is but I’ve come to love it. As with wet media, you cannot control it completely and what appears upon application radically transforms the underdrawing. You don’t really know what you’re going to get even when you’re happy with your underdrawing (or unhappy with it). For a year now I’ve been using cheap rolls of construction paper to make my posters. It somehow seems right, it works.
You can click on the link the first one here: “Faces of the West.” I began this sketchbook before COVID and had a very difficult time finishing it. But I did, finally. My goal was to capture something quickly and dramatically about iconic frontier characters. I was pretty intentional about having my sketches be sketches, and not elaborate drawings with a finished feel.
You can link to the second one here: “Just another Covid sketchbook.” I think this one speaks for itself. I had a lot of ideas when I made this sketchbook, as you can see.
This is a detail from a 2’7” x 1’11” poster of the poet Claude McKay (1889-1948). In this year of Covid, I’ve thought a lot about McKay’s poem “After the Winter,” which ends like this: “And we will seek the quiet hill/Where towers the cotton tree,/ And leaps the laughing crystal rill,/ And works the droning bee./And we will build a cottage there/Beside an open glade,/With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,/And ferns that never fade.” This is my first time working in poster format, once again with water soluble graphite activated by both brush and spray bottle.