June 12, 2013

Erasing Famous Names

When I was a traveling artist, I sketched everywhere - even while waiting at bus stops and train stations. Sometimes while as a passenger, I sketched other passengers en route to their destinations. The drawing above originated from a bus stop in Italy where I saw an old woman and a young man waiting on a bench. The woman watched me open mouthed as I sketched her as the man rested with his eyes closed, unaware of being studied.

I didn’t think much of this sketch as a work of art nor even as fodder for a future painting. In fact I used the sketch later to make notes all over the back and, unfortunately, on the front as well. The reason for this scribbling was that I was taking notes from a PBS show I was watching about the one hundred most influential people throughout history. I wanted to make notes of them all and even started playing a game with PBS by jotting down who I thought were the most influential people in history to see how many dovetailed with the PBS picks. I felt vindicated when our picks matched. I jotted these names down on the backs of drawings until I ran out of space, then scribbled them on the fronts of drawings.

Some time later, when it first occurred to me to revise and restore my travel collections of sketches, the ones with the scribbled names proved a challenge. On some of these I incorporated the famous names I had scrawled all over the drawings into the revised compositions - like the one of the boy at right. I was obliged to do this in part because the drawings were in pencil but the names were written in non-erasable ink. In the drawing of the young boy I thought that the contrast of the subject’s youth with the wise old names made for a certain intriguing art work, one not necessarily distracting from the other. Yesterday, I thought I could do the same thing with the drawing of the old woman but the names, as well as their position on the page just didn’t suit. Using extra black number 8B pencils I opted for a rather different solution. The extra ebony black pencil sufficiently obscured the ink names under a blanket of dark patterns. I manipulated these patterned shapes into things that looked like a collection of purses. Other shapes looked like gift-wrapped breads or maybe just mystery shapes. Names were hidden, but if one looks closely such notables as the inventors of the birth control pill and photography can be vaguely discerned.

The pattern in the woman’s dress is largely invented, but not her pearl necklace. The stained glass window and the window with the plant are also inventions, as is the man’s knapsack. There are no famous personages to be found in this knapsack - just decorative embellishment.

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