Category Archives: Drawing

Wrestling In Between

Bride_Panorama1_forweb
Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

I just finished this drawing today. The figure on the left mounted in some sort of carriage came first and easily. From there I created additional sections and kept them related to one another. The whole thing took about 12-15 hours over two months.

It occurred to me that film is a color and in the case of black and white film that color is mostly black. So I have black from Sumi ink, from Micron ink, from other pens and from film. I used Jelly Roll white to draw on the film and invert the black on white application used in the rest of the drawing.

A repeat of strong parallel lines undergirds the whole and provides a sense of background and depth.The reds counteracts that depth, bringing what is red forward even when it is receding, wrestling with and flattening the planes of space. Also, the reds throughout and repeated patterns unify the contrasts of which there are many: black and white, curved and straight, patterned and organic, human or animal, order and chaos.

This sense of straddling the boundaries between distinctions, of depth and flatness, of human and pattern, fluid and static is a push and pull, a deft hold. It reminds me of Dr. Dolittle’s pushmi-pullyu, a gazelle/unicorn cross with one head at each end of its body.

This in between state is a doorway, a liminal space. Liminal spaces are the time and space hallways in between the no longer and the not yet. As an example, the Israelites were in between no longer being slaves in Egypt and not yet being conquerors of Canaan for 40 years.

It is this very middle ground that I am navigating. In April, after eleven years working for the same company, my role was moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to North Carolina. That path was not the trajectory for my life and I found myself with the amazing gift of the time and necessity to explore the space in between the no longer and the not yet.

In our own Egypts, the message marking the juncture is usually fairly clear. Someone or something is no longer there. If we define ourselves by the thing that has come to an end, we have a gap, a hole to fill, a new part of our selves to construct. Every one of these destructions is an opportunity to turn to the One who made us and to chose a new foundation.

But the hard work of in between is uncomfortable for most of us. We want to be here or there but not in between. The most common refrain is, “Are we there yet?” Disappointment mounts when expectations about the speed of travel to the destination isn’t as fast as our expectations.

Donald Judd wrote,”The idea of a rectangle exists only as an idea, which is easy for rectangles and difficult for most ideas.”*

We need to hold on to and cherish the idea of the in between space in part because it means there was an end and we believe there will be a beginning. And because in that space we can do some work on our self definition and foundations that isn’t conducive to the condition of having arrived.

That in between space is where we can fight for a blessing like Jacob fought the angel of the Lord for a blessing. He received a blessing, and a limp. What would it be like not to have your value defined by your role/income/spouse/education/children/location? That’s worth fighting for. Even if it gives you a limp for a lifetime.

*Some Aspects of Color in General and Red and Black in Particular, Donald Judd, Mohawk Maker Quarterly, Issue 14, Lead and Serve p 84, reprinted from Artforum, Summer 1994, 70-78, 110-113.)

Making Peace

Some interesting things have been going on in my life lately and how I feel about them has been a struggle. I decided to start drawing again. I didn’t intend to work through things through drawing but it became obvious that I am. In each drawing I’m creating and reconciling differences. There’s enough tension to create interest and there’s enough harmony to create some sort of visual balance. While I started in a place that’s pretty on the nose, in each drawing what I was working on evolved. I’d like to share that with you.

02_Hartnett-Henderson_Jennifer_Cluster
Cluster by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

In the first drawing above, I used only one shape, a triangle, and did everything else to create differentness. I varied the color, size, pattern, orientation and context of each triangle. In the next piece (below), I moved toward a landscape with a wall disrupting it. None of this was conscious at the time. I followed the question of what happens if I do this? and this? and this?

01_Hartnett-Henderson_Jennifer_Tension
Tension by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

Throughout the work I actively engaged the question, “How can I make each piece work together as a whole and keep each piece vibrant?”

Tidy_Panorama1_Edited for blog
Tidy by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

Inked shapes lend a physicality to just glimpsed internal questions about the contrasting edges in life.

Flowy Zen Combined Flat for blog
Flowy by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

By the fifth drawing, I used haphazard shapes contrasted with pattern to create characters and a sense of a world environment.

StoryWorld_Merged_for_blog
Storyworld by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2018

While working on this series, I stumbled upon this verse: “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” Proverbs 20:24 While I’m trying to work out how on my own, and control of one’s path is such a value in our culture, God is saying, that’s not the story of your life. Have faith, trust me. I will arrange the pieces of your life into a beautiful whole.

Original work: Sumi ink and Micron pen on 11″ x 14″ Strathmore Bristol paper.

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In case you’re curious about how this work relates to other similar work, pattern drawing is not new. It has a long history. Just think of Chinese dish patterns and Muslim geometric patterns on architecture. Fast forward through centuries and more recent developments include Neopoprealism and Zentangles.

Russian-born artist Nadia Russ coined Neo-Pop Realism in 2003 for the patterns she started drawing in 1989. Russ’s method requires that the pattern drawings be done from a subconscious state of mind.

Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas trademarked a similar method of pattern drawing as Zentangle in 2003. Zentangles are limited to certain patterns drawn on 3.5” rectangles in order to enter a meditative state. I took a Zentangle class a few years ago and have kept coming back to the practice. My most ambitious project to date is a 4’ x 6’ canvas of zentangles drawn with a Sharpie. This series also deviates from the rules of both movements in size, method and source of patterns.

Modern day illustrator Stefan Bucher pioneered the method that I used of creating organic shapes from Sumi ink on a toothbrush and compressed air in his series Daily Monster.