DRAWINGS AND WORKS ON PAPER:TEMPLATES
USING MASKS IN DRAWINGS
(May 30, 2010~ A short note on this post. In this post I refer to “masks”. By this I mean, not a mask in the sense of something for your face but as a method of using a shaped piece of paper or other material to block an area of a drawing, for example. Perhaps a better word would be “template”, as described in this definition: “a stencil, pattern or overlay used in graphic arts (drawing, painting, etc) and sewing to replicate letters, shapes or designs”. Using the “positive” or cutout shape rather than the open area left in cutting a stencil, pigment can be rubbed around the edges or the shape can be traced around its edges to repeat or create a shape. Some readers looking for information on the more usual topic of “masks” have found this post.)
Often the simplest ideas bear considerable potential. Using images cut from a magazine or other publication, for example, led to a long period of experimentation. Rather than use the cut-out image once to create a collage, I decided to use the shape as a mask with which I could create and manipulate positive and negative forms of the image in a series of works.
An early work which uses this method is a drawing of the American author Joseph Heller. His head of curly hair inspired me to use an image of him cut from a magazine as a mask. In this work, the mask was held in place as the pencil was used to butt up against the mask to indicate the background. Then color was added to the negative space when the mask was removed. I used this idea in a small series of drawings with a single figure, three, and six in a grid format.
TRIPLE PORTRAIT OF JOSEPH HELLER 1980 colored pencil on paper 4.25 x 7.25″ (Artist’s collection)
About this time I found an image of a reclining female figure which was quite interesting. From this I made a drawing rather than cutting out the image, mounting it to another sheet of paper for support and then cutting the mask from this. When, in 1984, I had completed the series of works from this idea, I mounted the cut-out drawing onto reflective mylar as seen below.
TORSO 1984 colored pencil on paper mounted to paper and reflective mylar 4.5 x 6″ (Artist’s collection)
Continuing the series, the drawing below was created on an old and wonderful wooden drafting table which had seen lots of use. Using colored pencils (usually Prismacolor), the vellum allowed the intricate scars and marks made over the years to appear on the surface. This is actually a version of the frottage , or rubbing technique but here this was accidental and unintentional but gave a beautiful, sensitive quality to the image.
ANGLE OF ASCENT 1983 colored pencil on vellum 17 x 24″ (Artist’s collection)
Another drawing using this mask is “Caryatid II”, a drawing on black board from the same series, inspired by Greek caryatids, the sculpted figures of women used as columns in Greek architecture.
CARYATID II 1983 colored pencil on board 12 x 14″ (Collection Carol Ervin)
Another in the series of Caryatids is this folded drawing on black paper (most likely from a roll of paper used in tombstone rubbing.) The mask of the figure was manipulated across the sheet in three separate sections, two of which are seen here. This drawing is called a rondo though it might more properly be referred to as a version of a “tondo”, from the Italian and Greek terms for paintings in a circular form.
CARYATID-TRIPLE RONDO 1984 colored pencil on black paper 15 x 37″ (Artist’s collection)
A closer look reveals the use of layering, overlapping, and the illusion of transparencies.
In this work the shape of the mask was used as a guide to delicately trace the the outline of the figure before completing the rest of the drawing.
Another use of the same mask in “Bathers” uses the shape to repeat the figure multiple times.
BATHERS c. 1983 colored pencil on paper 15 x 10″ (Artist’s collection)
Expanding the form of drawing was important and significant. As I mentioned in previous posts, drawing was rising in the heirarchy of importance as a finished work rather than a work supporting a painting, for example, as a study or sketch.
With a foundation of skills in drawing, the figure, in particular, as a springboard to more inventive ways of drawing, motifs were developed that would serve well into the future.
The use of masks in these works lent a quite “anonymous” appearance to the figures and portraits. They lose specific reference in favor of a symbolic one. Many of the drawings of the 1970’s and ’80’ reflected a great interest in dreams, in the “space between night and day”. Many of the drawings used white on black with this focus in mind.