“Joel” Large Scale Pen and Ink Drawing in White and Black Ink on Tinted Paper
REALLY love this one! I was tempted to title it “this is not Joe’s face” after Magritte’s famous not-a-pipe.
In 1991 I was in Japan with a group of US, Canadian, and European karate guys led by Tsutomu Ohshima. Ohshima Sensei organized a fabulous and exhausting tour which included visits to Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto — we met and watched demonstrations by elderly masters of kyudo, judo, kendo, were wined and dined in traditional Japanese fashion, and ended in Tokyo where we participated in the 60th anniversary of the karate club at Mr. Ohshima’s alma mater, Waseda University.
One evening we dined at a wonderful sukiyaki restaurant where groups of four or five of us sat around low tables with hot braziers. I must have appeared to be the senior in our group, because our very young waitress singled me out to receive instructions for preparation of our meal.
My Japanese is limited to counting, karate words, printmaking words, “please, thank you, excuse me, where is the …”, etc.
Wakarimas-ka? (do you understand?).
Wakarimas (I understand).
Wakarimas-sen (I do not understand).
The movie, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” had premiered a year or two earlier and the youthful fad of that time was to append a sarcastic “NOT” to the end of statements — like — Don’t worry, I love you… NOT! So this waitress, pointing with hashi (chop sticks) to each different meat and vegetable and to the metal pot of boiling broth in front of us gave long and detailed explanation of each step. A full minute or more of monologue and I didn’t understand a single word of what she’d said, but I listened intently and, at the end, she asked, “Wakarimas-ka”? Now THAT was something I understood and, Bill and Ted style, I made my first effective joke in Japanese. YES, I replied with enthusiasm — “HAI! Wakarimas… SEN!” And our pretty young waitress in her beautiful traditional kimono fell over on the floor laughing, tears streaming down her cheeks, her hand fluttering in front of her teeth and another waitress, ancient and wrinkled scooted over, scolded her, shooed her away and looked after us for the rest of the evening with boring decorum. Sigh.
So I’m reminding you that, although this LOOKS a bit like an oddly colored photographic portrait of a talking head, it is NOT. It is ‘merely’ a collection of completely abstract lines and squiggles drawn in ink on tinted paper using many ink-pens and NOWHERE is there a face, a shirt, an eye, a button, a tooth, anything plaid, etc. ONLY ink on paper! But organized in such a way that, in spite of the completely non-representational nature of the marks, their whiteness and blackness, the unexpected pinkness of the paper — our eyes and minds effortlessly re-integrate all this into “Joel” – if you knew Joel, you’d recognize him. It’s the same with all portraits, paintings, sculpture where there’s some meaning encoded — although there is NOTHING human-like in the ink, paint, marble, etc — our minds are expert at associating our visual experience with things we ‘know’ and in a weird way we think we are seeing, in this instance, a person. Just sayin… This is Joel… NOT!
The white ink on this rose tinted paper POPS. I prepared the large sheet by painting it with several washes of quinacridone red pigment plus a bit of carbon black pigment mixed into water. I drew the brightest 2/3 of the image with white ink squiggles and the darkest 2/3 of the image with black ink squiggles. So 1/3 of the image is white line over rose tinted paper, 1/3 of the image is black line over rose tinted paper, and 1/3 of the image is white over black over rose tinted paper.
My model, Joel Goldman, is an attorney turned novelist. We’ve known one another since childhood. He’s a great guy – clever, articulate, sarcastic, interesting. You can see all that and more in the portrait, I hope. He likes the drawing. The other night, we had dinner with his sister, Susan Tivol, who, it seemed to me from her reaction to seeing an iPhone image of Joel, didn’t much care for it. I think it was the particular image, catching Joel in mid-something she (subtly) objected to — and this is a shame, really, because she has a GREAT face and I’ve been trying to convince HER to model for me. Maybe SOME day… Meanwhile, if you’re interested in Joel’s books, have a look at these:
Technically, this is another drawing in light and dark on mid-value ground. I continue to follow some giant footsteps including:
I spent several months working on the image and calculating all the miles of ink squiggles – this one was a huge challenge for me and I made a number of experiments in advance of my final push to complete “Joel” (see previous articles). The actual execution of the drawing took only about 230 hours. Here are some photos of the work in progress…