Saturday, March 13, 2010

Back to black and white!

After a long time with watercolour paper, I got myself some nice smooth Bristol paper, because I missed making black and white drawings! I love the feeling of a steel nib skating across the surface of this paper. And brush drawing is silkier when the paper is not so absorbant.
This drawing was inspired by some imagery in Les Chants de Maldoror, a proto-surrealist book by Compte de Lautreamont from the mid 19th century. It's about an evil anti-heroic, satanic figure who does these strange little battles with angels and God, sometimes defending prostitutes and sinners, sometimes victimizing the innocent. To me it's kind of metal, and kind of disgusting, and super HILARIOUS. There are surprisingly beautiful descriptions that show a fascination and respect for natural history. There's a passage where Maldoror has not moved for hundreds of years, and as a result, various fungi have grown on him, while little creatures and amphibians have started living in his body and taking it over.
But this drawing is not about Maldoror as a character. It's another ambiguous myth, an origin story about humanity. I like the idea of the human race, in all its banality, being the offspring of gods, of the personification of a swamp (with the mushrooms and reeds and toads) and of the night sky (perching on the earth and with constellation hair). I will probably always return to the theme of two abnormal parents creating a normal child, in some way.
For a long time I've intentionally avoided specific cultural references in my myth-illustrations (or tried as best I can), and I realised this is kind of pathetic and arrogant in a way. Who is the intended audience for my artwork? An audience that has never heard any story, does not have its own mythology. I'm pretending that the story I tell is the first story ever told, as if the audience is a newborn baby, a tribe of innocents. That's kind of funny to me.

And this is just supposed to be a sweet little cartoon drawing. I really like the way the faces are angled, and the way the man's legs bend around, although it bugs the hell out of me that I forgot to draw the woman's other leg and foot!
I really enjoy the challenge of using a sable brush with ink. As well as mentally preparing for every long stroke before I make it, I have to really be conscious of how the bristles are twisting around when I turn it around a corner. If I had the inclination, I would probably wax on about how spiritual and special this process is :p