Thursday, July 30, 2015

Drawings That Impose Their Own Will and Offer Revelations

Today I went back to the thread from a few weeks ago of practicing drawing on a block with no preliminary sketch or drawing or transferred image.  First I used a rubber eraser block for a quick sketch of Jesse sleeping.  I decided to do simple contour line drawings/carvings with no chiaroscuro or texturing.  There are several tricky aspects:  first of all, this is really BLIND contour drawing because the printed image is the reverse of the carved (drawn) image.  Second, the carved channels in the rubber don't really show up very much, so it's not possible to gauge accuracy.  (I could paint the rubber surface with India ink or something first, but I am choosing to give up control here.)  I need to give up attachment to what comes easy for me: accuracy.

All the carvings beyond Jesse are of the little German ceramic doctor's diagnostic doll that I found in New Hampshire.  I was trying to pare down to the something essential in the figure that makes it compelling to me.  I let myself recarve lines that seemed wrong;  I experimented with varying the thickness of lines;  I used basic measuring and estimating and comparing of one part to the others-- dropping plumb lines, shooting lasers across, I let  mistakes stand.  By the fourth carving I felt like I was drawing.
 Then I switched to wood, which I enjoy using much more than rubber.  I carved the print on the right in a small (3 x 3") scrap of wood very quickly and enjoyed the feel of wood under my tool much more than the slightly bouncy feel of rubber.  And when I printed the woodcut, I saw right away the connection between these figures and a ceramic bead that I've had for a long time (5293).  The bead is an interpretation of the c 25,000 B.C.E. Venus of Willendorf from what is now Austria, a 4 1/8" statue that is considered to be a votive figure representing fertility.  Well, the doctor doll could almost be considered an anti-Venus of W. figure, since she lacks breasts and a big belly and more attention is paid to her face than to her body, which lacks all reference to fertility but looks more like a slightly pudgy child's body.   Woman as powerful creator and nourisher of life vs woman who can't nurture and whose face is valued more than her body.  Reading too much into it, probably, but the repeated carving and scratching, the dialogue with the block while searching for the essential in the doctor doll woman opened the way to this comparison. 


  1. no, i don't think you're reading too much into it. whether it was intentional on the part of either maker, these two women are antithetical and representative of their cultural origins.

  2. and you've really captured the differernce--