Recursive is an experiment in single line contour drawing using my old frenemy, the ballpoint pen. This project is simply put, a real-time exploration of a new technique using this old tool through my usual passion for portraits. Some pieces are intentional, others are found through the act of drawing. None are for sale until the project's completion so as to keep the profit motive out of this particular playground as a further experiment in the spirit of The 52 Weeks Project.
The 52 Weeks Project presents:
The very first actual go for this new technique, or no one in particular. I was originally trying to return to the wildly squggly line drawing sketch and eventual final barbed wire approach used for the Paul Schreader film, FIRST REFORMED, and thouhgt it could be an interesting avenue to return to the ballpoint pen not since used since the day of Sudden Gravity in the early 1990's
This is the experiemnt where the two major rules were established for the series. Each piece had to be in ballpoint pen, and using a single contiguous line, that if stopped or interrupted signalled the completion of the drawing. No exceptions.
Like Bruce before, this first portrait of the legendary Toshiro Mifune will not be the last, but represents the firsy earnest push to see what indicative values can be had with the ballpoint. These pens have a unique quality of using such a firm ink, and scratch-like delivery of it, that they can sketch much like a graphite pencil can, butwithout every losing it's regulated tip and line width. Not there yet, but getting there. I'm still getting the feel of the materials.
I don't shelter a boston Terrier myself... but this was really a first strike at the notion of negative space as a value against the lifework. Going to try and feather through a few ideas and portraits to afford the opportunity to explore the light and dark of this method more.
A portrait of Peter Cushing as a furtherance of the idea of fiddling with value and what to leave and what to keep.
I've drawn Hendrix before for another 52 Weeks Project series, TUNES, so this was familiar ground to start taking the lessons of the gesture and change of lifework, pressure on paper and intensity to a more and more simplified level. Each one is a build upon the lessons learned from the other, and hitting that magic sweet spot that I'm hoping to come close to in the JC Cole tradition, grows simultaneously nearer and further away.
Another Bruce Lee portrait to palette cleanse from the previous fellow, and return to the experiment of using a storm of swirls to pull an image from, and develop and capture that classic smirking dominance sneer he was so expert at.
A companion piece to the previous portrait, this one to pull back on a full form shot and gather his gesture, and cock-assuredness
Growing up in Texas meant Willie Nelson was like our year round Santa Claus. In the old Buick on the radio, the living room hi-fi, , or Hee-haw or Austin City Limits on the weekends... Let it be known that Uncle WIllie lives and abides forever in this man's heart.
Hard to know which era of Willie to hit, for my own idea of him is 1970'-80's WIllie Nelson, but the man he is today seemed to capture the sum total of his his imminent badassery. Time of the Preacher indeed.
A return to a theme with a second portrait of the epic Toshiro Mifune, and looking to explore the same sort of swirl of lines to find a space and depth within them.
I'm finding the process of these scribble drawings to be similar to painting: a period of being utterly lost and looking to surrender to its failure only to then start to see it all come together at the end.
In an attempt to see how far overdrawing can go, I wanted to make a drawing that starts to play with the deep dark shadows and of course, given the season it had to be a nod to a personal love of mine: old spirit photography- in particular the ectoplasm images. I used an entire brand new pen up on this one.
A companion piece of sorts to accompany the previous one as a continuing of the theme of old fashioned Spirit Photography. It was common, (as most were hoaxes), to use the slow shutter speed and film of the time to allow for wispy ghostly ethereal interactions with light and shadow, and for this project it seemed a perfect tone to test further the deeper dark the ballpoint can achieve.
After a pair of deeply hyper scribbled pieces now a hard turn back towards a more hyper minimal approach here. There's still about 50% more lifework here than I think need be, but the journey continues, and with none other than the ferociously masterful jazz icon Nina Simone as subject for this wild experiment.
Taking a slower approach to one more concept oriented as a trial here in attempt to see if the unforgiving immediacy of the single line command can work in such a form. This one was inspired by the lovely and gorgeously quiet ghost story, IAM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE by Osgood Perkins, featuring a stunning performance by Ruth Wilson.
In this approach the goal was to try, much like the broad round circles, to stick to a particular method consistently through the portrait to see if it worked. It's an approach that doesn't;t always shake out especially depending on the physical features/character of the subject... but with Nick Cave, it seemed to match his seismic presence and suit just fine
A beard that screams for squiggles, this was one I intended to do earlier but found it was an important enough portrait I preferred to wait until I had a better grip on the medium and the confidence to leave out and not draw as much as draw.
In a return to the oval portraiture of previous strikes, and the principle rule of expending a pen's entire ink load in a single continuous line drawing.
The White Wizard of comics storytelling and his magnificent attack eyebrows made this an easy subject and an essential one as well. Alan Moore is largely responsible for my becoming entranced by the medium and storytelling power of comics and is largely to blame for why I keep trying at it to this day. This one's for you, buddy.
While not directly related to the spark that burned through the native nations in our country, as we still lionize the match that helped light it, this drawing turned to the magnificent Baykali Ganamabarr and his deft and soulful portrayal of Billy in Jen Kent's perfect film THE NIGHTINGALE.
Unable to meet the challenge in capturing the inestimable power and visage of Kim Gordon in one single line drawing, today I was required through the thunderous force of her presence to create two. This one of Kim as a person and force of nature...
... and this one of Kim at her work, fused with the electrified thunder of her singing and base playing, in one single line.
Testing out a hyper regulated approach by using just small tightly wound circles to denote form and tonalities.... a method that seems to work great here for Frida but with mixed results elsewhere, at least for now.
A return to the more painterly approach today to honor the great lion of the House of Representatives, Elijah Cummings and his all to early passing on this day. I've been thinking of this particular technique in terms of painting largely because the slow build up of tonalities reminds me a lot of the thick to thin approach and layering when oil painting. Utterly different in almost all ways of course, but not as immediate as a method as the simpler line drawing...
Today's experiment was to see about approaching the same subject using two different technical approaches back to back to see if that particular form of artistic gymnastics was possible or viable... One attending to the stalwart majesty using the lions out in from of the NY Public Library in Manhattan and the other to approach the emotional energy of a lion doing what they do best.
A continuing of the importation of my other 52 Weeks project series, TUNES, with a single line portrait of the inestimable Prince, whom I had the tremendous fortune to work with on a music video some years back.
Largely at the request of my youngest who's a massive Tolkienhead, a simple line drawing of Ian McKellen's perfection as the character from the films. Definitely heading into the final few of this series before the big massive major finale piece I have planned.
A return of the curly beard trope which let's face it, is the best possible arena for these kinds of drawings. This one of the impossibly iconic Stanley Kubrick and begins our final week of the series before it's grand finale.
As we head into the final portraits of this series, I wanted to chase even further the idea of minimalism to denote form and character, and this piece today is an example of that desire... still not quite there yet, ostentatious as I tend to be, but getting closer and closer.
In these final pieces of the series I'm trying to see about pulling to all the various extremes of the technique, from the complicated swirling chaos of the squiggles to the minimalist single line effects as we see here today with a portrait of one of my personal heroes, Fred Rogers.
Keith Richards from the 70's in one single line of ballpoint. Nothing to see here... except Keith Richards and his righteous guitar magic.
Back from his days with the Stooges, the venerable rock wizard frontman crafted in one recursive line, 1970's style.
Beckett was one of those writers that bores into you and gets deep in the bones, and always surprises me when I reread him. A hard one to tackle because on the surface seems so dynamic and easy to capture in one of these drawings... and yet not so much to stick that landing.
A touchstone of my entire literary career, if not its very foundation. Ray Bradbury was my first author, and through his massive short stories anthology lit a fire for narrative story and books that burns still today.
A special second portrait today to honor David Lynch and his long overdue Oscar for all his work and art and beautiful madness.
Continuing with our congratulate tribute to David Lynch for his Oscar for his lifetime of work, I can think of no other squirrels squiggly character than Naido/Diane to send him off this afternoon.
In honor of one of my most influential storytellers and ongoing inspiration, Frank Herbert. Dune and its immediate sequels are a bedrock staple and the only books I have ever reread continuously throughout my life.
Today we wrap up our core series of portraits with a final nod to the great and troubled Sad Barrett, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd and wizard of their most experimental and inventively psychedelic period of their music. His own solo works that followed before his death remain some of the most important singer/songwriter works of his and all following generations. Go loud into the dark, Syd.
Our final piece, and the largest and most exhaustive of them all to date. This was an experiment in scale, and so much larger than all of the others and more tight and specifically worked through as a test to see if the single line drawing method would function fast this level.