Sunday, May 18, 2014


The drawing has been transferred to the panel by putting charcoal on the back of the to-size (30" x 20") copy and tracing it with a soft pencil. The resultant charcoal lines are very faint, so fixing them is a must. 

Now comes inking the linework with a mixture of ivory black and burnt umber in diluted resinous medium. This will determine how well fine-tuned the picture will be. Every stroke must be as right as I can make it. This is the part where I always fall down because, and it is a mystery that holds me post-bound, whenever I ink a line in any medium I lose my concentration mid-stroke. Frequently my eyes become unfocused and I watch, blearily detached, the nib or brush moving to the end of the line. 

Does anyone else have this problem? It's definitely a handicap, something I have to fight to control, which screws up the delicate balance of thought and instinct and impedes the natural flow of work. Inking is unpleasant for me because in no other aspect of my life is the outer edge of my basic competence so sharply seen. Yes, I've plenty of opportunity then for rueful speculation on nature's terrifying little ways. 

Oddly enough the most effective way for me to combat this is to devote a small part of my mind to listening to something soothing  and engaging, such as an attractive human voice saying something I cannot really understand. I don't want to follow a story, I just want to hear a voice I like saying things that will intrigue me if I focus on them at random for a few moments.

For years my favorite was Nancy Reagan reading MY TURN. Then Jim Ottaviani sent me some of Richard Feynman's lectures on tape and I've spent God only knows how many hundreds of hours listening to these. For a while GOD IS NOT GREAT read by Christopher Hitchens himself was a favorite, but I soon found that work done to this recording almost always came out badly.

I couldn't figure out why that was. I thoroughly enjoyed the fragments of the book I absorbed, especially when he went after a target I wanted to see bloodied. What was there in this reading that was having such an adverse effect on my work?

Finally I identified the problem: Hitchens was only pretending to be honest and objective, and the discordance between his pretense and his purpose was curdling the atmosphere around my drawing board.

 Sadder but wiser,

Uncle Jim

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