Saturday, June 30, 2012

fingerprints among the mountains and streams

Today was a perfect day to stay indoors and work on some art, with the 100 degree temps and unbearable humidity. Thankfully, last night's storm didn't take our power, though we nearly lost it a couple of times. I feel like we're the lucky few, but I don't want to speak too soon since the NOVA region is supposed to experience part two tonight. Enough on the weather already though, 'cause no matter what, I had plans on finally tackling this piece, based on Fan Kuan's "Travelers Among Mountains and Streams", my favorite work of art, period.  This very ancient scroll has inspired me to try out a smaller drawing done with a calligraphy pen several years ago, as well as do another version with a black Sharpee on a skateboard deck. This however was an altogether new approach, as I was supposed to turn a 6 x 2.5 foot piece of kraft paper into a piece of art for an upcoming group exhibit. I'm a firm believer in going with an initial idea and not second-guessing it, and as soon as I saw the paper, I thought of "Travelers..." immediately, and how I might interpret it once again. I never get tired of looking at Fan Kuan's original from about ten centuries ago, and upon studying it today, during the making of my version, I'm once more in awe and completely humbled.  I originally was going to use a print I own but could not find it, so I settled for some images from the internet. Unfortunately, I discovered that the majority of the images featuring this piece online, are all missing roughly five inches of the drawing, at the bottom of the scroll! I was glad I discovered this, or what I find as some crucial visual information would be missing from my own version.

Since the work I based this off of has always had some personal significance to me, I decided to use my own thumb and finger prints, and I thought it would be kind of interesting to document the work in progress. The ink was a permanent type my wife recommended called Stazon, which you can find at your local arts and crafts store usually, somewhere near the scrap-booking section. It became apparent to me pretty quickly into the making of this piece that I'd in no way, shape or form achieve the infinite intricacies and fine details of the original with this fingerprinting technique, which was in many ways a good thing, freeing me up to take a more unique, almost impressionistic approach to the drawing. 

Working on the floor of my studio room, I used a six-foot-long table as a base, legs folded under, which worked out nicely for this piece. I decided to begin from the bottom and work my way up, also working back and forth on both the left and right sides, towards the middle, while working my way up. On many occasions I'd go back, after stepping away for a few minutes, and fill in or extend and improve some parts. My aim was to work as intuitive as possible and not over-think things or worry too much about accuracy.  Still, I had to be very careful with placing things, or I could have thrown the entire piece completely off, and that would not have been good in the least bit.

I've been wanting to work on this piece for a long time now - for at least a month, and anticipated how long it would take, what approach to take and how it would turn out. I woke up about 7:30 this morning and took my time getting some breakfast for me and the wife and running some simple errands. By about 10:30AM, I got into the studio, got some music cued up and went at it. With roughly an hour's worth of break time in between, I finished the piece, to my pleasant surprise by 5:40PM.  So, six hours wasn't too bad, and while I worked carefully, I also worked quickly. I even managed to get the actual "travelers" in there too, which was pretty difficult, using only fingerprints. Again, looking at it, it's not an exact, completely accurate replica of Fan Kuan's piece, but I'm very pleased with the end results. Actually, for a pretty amazing, precise replica of "Travelers...", check out artist Chen Chun-Hao's stunning version, constructed from 750,000 nails! 

So, it was really nice to get to work on this, as well as complete the piece in one sitting. My back is in pain as are my fingers, but it doesn't compare to the satisfaction of finishing and actually liking the work, and I'm looking forward to seeing it on display at the exhibit, seeing it from far away and being able to walk towards and away from it. I also look forward to getting some much better photos of it as well. The piece will be on view soon at a local group show, which I'll blog about in the very near future, so stay tuned!