Colony Ink Drawings From 2017 and 2018

macys bridge on south colony creek, ink on paper, 11x14in, 2017
macys bridge on south colony creek, ink on paper, 11x14in, 2017

These ink sketches were made over the summers of 2017 and 2018 at our family’s cabin near Westcliffe Colorado. These were all constructed basically the same way. I walked around until I saw something I liked. Then I would do a quick pencil sketch or even better just an ink sketch, work in some basic shapes and note some details, snap a picture (to jog memory later) and just about the time I got tired of sitting (or standing) in one place I would take the drawings to the studio.

Summer of 2017 was dry, Summer of 2018 was even drier, the wild flowers, grasses and weeds took on an aggressive, desperate exuberance. The clouds were iridescent in the afternoons and the cloudless mornings presented a sky that rang with a persistent clarity that took your breath away. If you’ve been to the Wet Mountain Valley you know what I mean.

My choice of subjects was probably not what you would expect in a picturesque Rocky Mountain valley. In fact most are pretty pedestrian. The things that caught my attention that summer were the hay fields stretching to the horizon, distant barns, curious cows, rain coming in, fence row perspectives, clouds like galleons loading up and scooting out over the plains, sun through the trees and the complex path of a creek.

I was making pictures, not creating mementos of dramatic landscape. I don’t like the mawkish sentimentality of rustic western scenes or to be patronized with photo realism (often painted from photos) unless it is a photo. If you want landscape drama you can come to Westcliffe and look around for yourself.

I used pencil and ink (dip pen and Sailor fountain pen with “Sailor Black Ink” and Staedtler pigment liner) on a 9x12in. LEUCHTTURM drawing pad or 12×16½in. smooth Holbein watercolor paper.

I made a book with 30 reproductions that you can get on Amazon Here: https://tinyurl.com/7zemz7bf

These are eleven of 50 or so that I’ve made as an ongoing project.

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How We Made Anabasis

What if we start constructing an image based solely on a GM grid with no

selene-horse-phidias
selene-horse-phidias from the “Elgin Marbles”

predetermined outcome or image. That is a picture that is a picture of itself not of something else. To further isolate this from gestural and arbitrary mark making it was necessary to confine the lines and shapes to vertexes on the GM grid. All the containers and lines had to have their boundaries drawn along major and minor vertices, for arcs the center had to land on a vertex and the start and end of the arc had to be coincident with other vertices.  You may be able to see some of the qualities that method causes in the drawing (Figure 2). As the grid was being completed it became apparent that an image of the head of the Selene Horse similar to the one by Phidias from the Elgin Marbles (also constructed on a GM grid) (Figure 1).

Anabasis drawing progress
Anabasis drawing progress

This was not an intentional occurrence but we allowed it to dominate because having a

secondary image just show up like that fit with the original intent of the piece to not have a predetermined image to represent.  The color shapes were picked out based on random selection of containers in lighter or darker lines, that is, pencil lines that were gradually bolded by however many times they had to be drawn over to complete the grid.

The title ANABASIS refers to the famous story by Xenophon of the Ten Thousand fighting their way back to Greece after their failed attempt at plunder in a Persian civil

the anabasis
Novacolor and gold leaf on prepared Arches 400 paper, 38x60in

war (401 BCE). The term anabasis means going up or out and back.  This painting is kind of a parable of that expedition—the difference is the order of intention.  Even though the piece was started without intention and had a possibility of chaos, democratic order prevailed.

exalted objects: solitary and terrible

Riffing on Roland Barthes:

The object in view assumes an exalted place:  modern painting is a painting of the object. In it, Nature becomes a fragmented space, made of objects solitary and terrible because the links between them are only potential. Nobody chooses them for a privileged meaning, or a particular use, or some service; nobody imposes a hierarchy on them, nobody reduces them to the manifestation of a mental behavior, or of an intention, of some evidence of tenderness,

white fountain: image
white fountain, acrylic, pencil, ink on paper, 42×29.75in

 

“these were worked and worked again so they would look spontaneous”

This series developed over the past over two years. That was a time when I crossed the 65 year old threshold and wanted to revisit things I’ve been working on over the past 20 years or so. It’s not exactly a greatest hits compilation as this is all new work, but it pulls forward themes from several series that stay important to me always—abstract meditative beauty anchored by sacred geometry.

black fountain: image
black fountain, acrylic, pencil, ink on paper, 42×29.75in

Very directly acknowledging how the basis for much of my work was as an object for meditation, the WHITE FOUNTAIN, BLACK FOUNTAIN, and THESE ARE THE YEARS IVE SPENT, started this series and reached back to the “Fountain” paintings series from the late 90s. I was encouraged by a memory of Lynda Benglis at CalARTS to less critical self-expression (so these were worked and worked again so they would look spontaneous).

these are the years I've spent: image
these are the years I’ve spent, oil, gouache, gold leaf on paper 42x30in

From that “look of spontaneity” on the first three paintings, I started to work back into a sacred geometry that would include a look at what ties these images together. The PINK and GREEN FOUNTAINS demonstrate the set up that underlies all pieces in this series, the symmetry and the connections between objects in a direct manner with nothing hidden.

pink fountain
pink fountain, novacolor, oil, gouache, gold leaf, pencil, ink on paper, 42×29.75in
green fountain: image
green fountain, novacolor, oil, gold leaf, pencil, ink on paper, 42×29.75in

 

“my effort was more about that subtle balance of objects in our manifest world–a leaf, a patch of ground, an arrangement of buildings or the run of a meadow—”

The next several pieces were conceived as reactions to the ones that came before and as preludes to the ones that came after. In SHOTGUN SHAKTIPAT and GOING DOWN SMOKING I was diving a little deeper into the iconography of the Tantric painters. The purposes of my images are not too dissimilar from the Tantrics. But rather than painting scale and purpose proscribed by ritual and tradition, my effort was more about that subtle balance of objects in our manifest world–a leaf, a patch of ground, an arrangement of buildings or the run of a meadow—that I arrange in a way that may invoke a remembered practice.

shotgun shaktipat
shotgun shaktipat, novacolor, pencil, ink on paper, 42×29.75in
going down smoking
going down smoking, novacolor, pencil, silver leaf, gold leaf, ink on paper, 42×29.75in

My paintings provide an aura of calm not through an illustration of some imagined higher state, but create the object or combination of objects that could, on naked exposure, return that sort of experience.

SO LONG ED is homage to the great Ed Moses on the occasion of his multiple retrospective shows a year ago, recognizing his effortless facility. Ed can turn some simple stripes, a grid, and seemingly random marks into not only wonderful paintings but a jumping off point for endless variation.

so long ed: image
so long ed, novacolor, pencil, ink on paper, 42×29.75in

ONCE FOR BLOOD and ONCE FOR LOVE are straight appropriations of tantric painting objects that I arranged, like the originals dependent on the placement of opposites including of color, shape size, surface, edge, proximity, in a way that would invoke a memory or a contemplative experience. ARK was a natural continuation of the combination of objects I used in ONCE FOR LOVE, with the sacred geometry coming more to the forefront.

once for blood: image
once for blood, oil, novacolor, pencil on arches 400, 30x42in
once for love: image
once for love, acrylic, oil, gold leaf, pencil, ink on paper, 42×29.75in

Combining the Sri Yantra, which has become common in western imagery, together with the golden mean, made compelling and solid objects. See this Yantra in the layout of ARK and all the rest of the works in this series, especially the next three, with varying degrees of surface visibility.

ark: image
ark, novacolor, pencil, ink on paper, 42×29.75in

“Each object contains its opposite and is opposite and separate from all the other objects”

An intention developed to effect extravagance with the creation of these objects, to connect them to a net of objects all of equal regard, and further connect across the expanse of the picture with none left outside. Each object contains its opposite and is opposite and separate from all the other objects, yet becomes part of Indra’s Net. In ONCE FOR SPORT objects attached to Indra’s Net rotate around a silver Sri Yantra anchored in a space and divided by a golden mean.

it's so easy to slip; image
its so easy to slip ,novacolor, pencil, ink on paper, 42×29.75in
gone are the days (when we used to decide where we should go we just ride): image
gone are the days (when we used to decide where we should go we just ride) novacolor, pencil, ink on paper, 42x30in

I closed out this series with SO EASY TO SLIP, titled of course from Topanga’s iconic “Little Feat” Kibbee/George song. Painted in response and as a warning (mostly for me), that nothing will slip off the page.  Even though the Sri Yantra is centered almost half off the page it is still anchored by the golden mean and every object in the picture is anchored to every other through color, shape, size, line and angle.

“a detail may come back as a pathway to access another order”

One of the things you will determine from looking at these paintings is that the details are important. The proximity of one object to another, a fleck of paint, a seemingly random line, the interaction of color over small or large distances; details make up the objects that stay with your gaze. During a time of contemplation, a detail may come back as a pathway to access another order. That determines, in part at least, what I am doing with these paintings.

Bill Jehle, January 1, 2018

I put together a book with these 14 images and little description that you can buy here: https://www.blurb.com/b/9006295-objects-solitary-and-terrible

here is a slider of some of these images:

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AutoCAD VAJRAS

tantric chakra chart
TANTRIC CHAKRA CHART

I made a pile of both drawings and paintings based on an abstract conception of human chakra system.

vajra drawing jpeg
ORIGINAL VAJRA DRAWINGS

I won’t go into what that is-if you don’t know give it a quick google. My drawings (I called them CANDLES) looked kind of like this on the right:

I have 30 more or less of these remaining in inventory. You can see a dozen or so elsewhere on my site. And also several versions of what I was calling the FOUNTAIN paintings.  (These also are available on my site) After making these versions for a couple of years I started to think of a way to enhance these in a format that would give me a three dimensional version and bring them closer to what I was contemplating as an illustration of the concept of INDRA’S NET. And to illustrate that “The Gods (artists) are extravagant with their creations.” The Chakra paintings and drawings, because they are extravagant, seemed like a good place to start.

I removed color and shape information from some of the drawings and paintings then opened them in AutoCAD. I added back shape and volume to each component and spun them around a central core. To me they needed to have the effect of looking like a single node on the net.  I made a *gif to show a little piece of these:

AutoCAD VAJRA no. 2 gif
AutoCAD VAJRA no. 2

As you may be able to tell from this little gif (be patient its a big file or right click and “open image in new tab”) that we are zooming into a 3D AutoCad rendering of one of my drawings. The black shapes on the flat plane are what the original drawing looks like before I puff it out to 3 dimensions. The original file has hundreds of layers and because it’s in AutoCAD of infinite size. If you have the free AutoCAD viewer on your box or at least ACAD2012 you can see this and rotate and zoom through it in real time. leave me a comment and I’ll send you a link to the original file.

Suite of Six Etchings at El Morro Editions

Suite of six etchings at El Morro Editions

image printerMaster printer Leslie Sutcliffe

In 2012 I was fortunate to have Master Printer Leslie Sutcliffe Cohn invite me to contribute to her 20/20 Project at El Moro Editions.

The 20/20 Project, begun in 2011, will include an etching by each of El Moro’s visiting artists until the year 2020. These prints will be produced in an edition of 40. Twenty suites of prints will be distributed to the participating artists; some of the suites will become part of the permanent collections of various institutions and the remainder will be available to the public. It is our hope that the 20/20 Project will foster a dialogue between the participating artists as well as an enhanced interest in and understanding of etching processes and their place in the digital age.

image etching pressEl Morro Editions Press

Here is a link to the Facebook for El Moro Editions: https://www.facebook.com/El-Moro-Editions-214966545344434/

The relationship between the printer and the artist is -essentially- a collaboration. Leslie is an amazing artist herself, teaches art history and printmaking at Cuesta College and is able to figure out what her artists are trying to do.  I started with a small zinc plate, 5-1/2 by 8-7/8in. We thought we should print on a grey paper like I used on my ink drawings. Leslie found a beautiful light grey Stonehenge and tore it to size.

On Little Buddha we used only hard ground and a little bit of drypoint and burnishing. I worked in a way that is similar to my small ink drawings (that you can read about elsewhere on this site).  Etching generally allows finer detail then drawing, gives a third dimension in the line and the plate gives a beautiful tone to the paper. After we got Little Buddha to BAT (“bon à tirer” or “good to print” in French).

littlebuddha-workingLittle Buddha in transition

image little buddhaLittle Buddha, etching, plate: 5-1/2 by 8-7/8in. sheet: 11-1/2 by 15in, gray Stonehenge, ed: 40+2

Little Buddha is included in El Moro Editions 20/20 Project:

image toolsTools

I was fortunate to have Leslie help me with a few of my own pieces.We decided on hard ground, drypoint, sugar lift and aquatint on to keep it simple for me.

Left and right are reversed when you print and black and white are reversed when you draw. But unlike a drawing the line has a beautiful soft texture and a dimension in the Z plane. If you love etching you know what I mean, the line makes a microscopic shadow that begs to be examined up close.

Leslie was very patient and let me start jamming on them. She inked and wiped each plate more than a dozen times before we were happy with the result and always had great suggestions on how to make interesting stuff happen and how to minimize unpleasant surprises

image workingArt is like work

Horse Bites Dog (HBD): we worked on three of these plates on my first visit. HBD was the first that we called it quits on. “Is it done? we asked,” Done enough! HBD, like the next two pieces, is titled by what emerged; the Guernica horse, distant clouds, view of Mount Fuji, crabs, cats and birds. by intention and accident in the production. As things appear we tried to help them along or mourn them when they get submerged, hopefully superseded by items that were more evocative. When you are working fast sometimes you have to work past your perception. Not worry about seeing it at the point so much but work in a way that allows accidents and intention to coexist.

IMAGE HORES BITES DOGHorse Bites Dog, plate: 11×14-3/4, sheet: 15×19-3/4in, etching on Stonehenge, ed: 10+2

Shetland Pony: strange animals, spaceships, medieval armor, giant beetles, a gryphon, distant mountains, floating clouds, dancing goats, sunset through the trees.

IMAGE SHETLAND PONYShetland Pony, plate: 11×14-3/4, sheet: 15×19-3/4in, etching on Stonehenge, ed: 10+2

 

Running Moon Man: Robots and clowns, nebulae, dragons, and moon creatures.

IMAGE MOON MANRunning Moon Man, plate: 11×14-3/4, sheet: 15×19-3/4in, etching on Stonehenge, ed: 10+2

 

A Great Fleet of Galleons Bound Our Way: Apologies to Richard Wilbur, the towering whipped cream in this could almost be mistaken for galleons under sail, or maybe a little dutch girl talking to a frog while the “galleons” break up some brutalist architecture.

image of etching tossing hayA Great Fleet of Galleons Bound Our Way, plate: 11×14-3/4, sheet: 15×19-3/4in, etching on Stonehenge, ed: 10+2

 

Across a Moiled Expanse of Tossing Hay:  More apologies to Wilbur but once I put in the moiled hay it just seemed to make sense.

IMAGE, TOSSING HAYAcross a Moiled Expanse of Tossing Hay, plate: 11×14-3/4, sheet: 15×19-3/4in, etching on Stonehenge, ed: 10+2

 

REPEATING PAST MISTAKES

UNTITLED from 1976
UNTITLED 1976, Novacolor on paper

I revived this painting from 1976. I pulled it out of the drawer where it’s been laying for almost 40yrs. I always liked the piece and thought I would come back to it sometime and flesh out the issues it raised. It had some elements of that cool detachment that was popular in some abstract painting at the time as well as some geometric elements from Al Held, Frank Stella and the wonderful Don Sorenson, I knew there was a whole series here but I was working thru these images so fast at the time that I didn’t have a chance to sort of flesh it out. What I mean is I didn’t have time to do any clear cutting in that section of forest because I had to move on up the mountain.

UNTITLED 1976 is on rhoplex soaked Arches 88 I taped the lines off and sealed the tape with a cad yellow; so that shows along the edges of the black lines in a couple of places. The little rectangles have the a tiny black edge that’s almost more subliminal than visible. They’re painted with  nacreous white (transparent white mixed with powdered mica) in multiple layers and  you can just barely  see a little of the color glowing thru but not enough to make out exactly what color it is.

repeating past mistakes 1
JUST ONE WORD “PLASTICS”, Novacolor and Gold Leaf on Paper

As we see JUST ONE WORD “PLASTICS” is not quite as “cool” as UNTITLED 1976 but retains the same color scheme. The grid tape was sealed with a viscous, transparent mix of reds and yellow earth tones so there is a lot of optical action as our cortex tries to rationalize the flecks of color bouncing around behind the black grid. The flying rectangles have a calligraphic donut around them that makes them both separate and stick to the grid. Like the first one from 78 I put down some base color on the rectangles and started over them with some nacreous white and slivers of gold leaf. The gold was laid down as I added layers of white to make a nice foggy effect that might help us imagine we’re looking into a little floating world. The gold leaf glows in oblique light so when we walk by we get some nice flashes of light and a subtle indication of multiple colors embedded in the rectangles.

 

rpm 2
MEASURE ONCE, Novacolor, Oil and Gold Leaf on Paper

 

This one… MEASURE ONCE shows us how to go just a little bit at a time – I added some random color a little bit of blue sky with clouds (because I was looking at some Maynard Dixons) and as you can see I let the color do the talking on top of this little grid. Fake wood grain, clouds, cool pinks, hot pinks, browns, prussian blue. Like in the first one – I work the “seal color” for the tape so we get a little glimpse around the edges. I like that this gives a more solid feel and helps it look like a slab of color instead of thin film of paint.

 

keep digging
KEEP DIGGING, Novacolor, Oil and Coloraid Paper on specially prepared Paper

KEEP DIGGING is another step closer (or farther) to perfection, I don’t know which. I started this with a slap to the face via a little tiny grid of black lines with a tiny bit of color peeking out here and there. I un-taped it and slapped  another grid on top. This one had a some red, yellow and green gradients smeared into it and a definite outline like some kind of racing stripe gone crazy.  Like in JUST ONE WORD “PLASTICS”  I taped off the floating rectangles, that were previously set at strategic vertexes of the golden mean grid, and threw down some meaty, colored calligraphy. On top of that some nacreous white embedded with bits of Coloraid paper cut into what I thought were evocative shapes that seem to cut into and through the thick, oscuro of the nacreous white.

repeating-pm-5
I’LL MAKE IT UP TO YOU, Novacolor, Oil, Pencil on Paper

 

As you can see the grid in I’LL MAKE IT UP TO YOU starts and ends at the edge, nothing lives outside this. The “grid” lines narrow to a point at the edge and the larger windows are completely contained within. This ending at the edge also makes the surface appear to pillow nicely. These little  windows as well as the calligraphic shapes, sit within and/or line up to major vertices on the foundational grid. Working on this scale precision is important. The edges are precise to help with the illusion of cutting through or floating miles above.  I was thinking of Ed Moses’s crackle paintings when I made the delicate little crackle elements (thanks Ed.) I love fake wood grain and stripes too.

TRUSTY RANGE ROVER, Novacolor and gold leaf on paper, 14in by 22.5in

MY TRUSTY RANGE ROVER Like the gift that keeps on giving

“RANGE ROVER” lulls you into thinking it’s going to be easy from now on and there won’t be any more problems but lo there seems to be puddles of chocolate, mint and strawberry left behind. Don’t worry there’s blue sky up ahead if it can just get us there.

the safety is on jpeg
THE SAFETY IS ON, Novacolor, oil and pencil on paper, 14x22in

THE SAFETY IS ON Could mean a really bad mistake was about to happen or that I was using the ‘safety” of “RED” and “PLASTICS” to give a shout to my old professor Jack Whitten by dragging some colors across the screen with a squeegee. I can see sky and clouds and a chaotic but peaceful landscape with elements flying in formation. It makes me wonder are the thick stratified color bands on top or are we looking through windows in the grill. Again they are magnetically attracted to the grill and though seeming to be disembodied are actually inescapable.

PUT IT ALL ON RED Much like “PLASTICS” on a seemingly simple grill that you will see dictates, by magnetic attraction, where the ‘floating” windows will be located. Trying to paint absolute red is also a fool’s mission and a mistake that bears repeating. I enjoy looking at f

put it all on red jpeg
PUT IT ALL ON RED, novacolor and oil on paper

ake woodgrain, sky and clouds, gold leaf, cadmium red medium and deep ultramarine blue.

 

 

Constance Mallinson on the Meditation Drawings

meditation drawing 61
MEDITATION DRAWING 61

The graphic works of Bill Jehle have many art historical antecedents from the hybrid creatures of Hieronymous Bosch to Surrealism’s automatic writing and stream of consciousness imagery, German Expressionist caricatures, the ink drawings of Picasso, Jackson Pollock’s swirling cosmic seas, and more recently, the head comics of the psychedelic age. As with most contemporary art, the preoccupation is not on formal innovation and rule breaking but on a synthesis of such traditions and influences with personal experience and current events. Rather than a resignation from the task of the “shock of the new”, this embrace of often conflicting approaches and narratives, allows for an unprecedented freedom of expression and a hybridity with unlimited combinations. That sense of ever multiplying possibility, metamorphosis, and infinite connections characterizes Jehle’s constantly morphing and connecting shapes.  Owing perhaps to what one critic recently described as our “and/also” culture as opposed to an “either/or” culture , his is a world where boundaries are no longer secure and the basic rational structures and binary relationships relied on since the Enlightenment are undermined by a delirious mélange of visuals with no discernible order or hierarchies. Hewing to recent descriptions of “visual culture” in which fine art, illustration, and popular culture have equal influence on visuality, here stylized cartoon characters, beautifully rendered animal/human/plant forms merge seamlessly with architectonic and natural landscape features. Body orifices and genitalia cavort with evocations of death’s heads, clowns, and catastrophic weather. Devilishly playful and willfully asymmetrical, united primarily by fine draughtsmanship, and the rich tonalities resulting from varied line, “textured” cross hatchings and pointillistic detailing, they are as much involved with the viewer’s absorption into a pleasurable visual experience as they are with metaphors for the mind or suggestions that the Internet Age might be ensnaring us in a Piranesian web of nightmarish associations.

MEDITATION DRAWING 56
MEDITATION DRAWING 56

At the heart of these drawings is a Baroque emphasis on disorder in which linear time and geometric planning are eschewed in favor of more natural arrangements. A kind of frothy, bubbly organicism replaces classical structure, leaving the viewer slightly unmoored and with a Goya-esque fear that nature might overwhelm reason. Deep space and proximity are confounded with near- three dimensional modeled form dissolving into expanses of white paper and darkened “holes” doubling as flat inkspots. That spatial ambiguity is crucial to understanding the real importance of Jehle’s practice: it allows that entropy and ruin lie very close to generation and renewal. The drawings remind us that with the dissolution of a blind commitment to progress as promised by Modernism comes the release of energy, creativity and imagination.  In lieu of the utopian, contemporary existence seeks incompletion, always the non-fixed, recombinant, and ecologically interconnected, not a soon to be completed project. Ideas spiral around, form new synapses and relationships so that we might meditate on such questions concerning, for example, the human impact on or place in our environment.  From an initial inspection the pictures resemble topographical maps, but instead of charting terrain for easy travel, they map how dreams, poetry and artistic observation are necessary to negotiate past, present and future.

                                                                            -Constance Mallinson

Here is a little slider for of a few of these drawings.

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Unter Eichen

weird face in an oak trunk Under Oaks is a series That came about from living in an oak forest here in Topanga. Our property is host to at least 80 imposing Coast Live Oaks (and they host us). The Chumash, I heard, called them “los dedos del diablo.” After living here awhile you begin to understand why Quercus agrifolia are indeed the fingers of the devil. They are unpredictable. Their trunks and branches meander in suggestive and monstrous ways. They seem to anchor the cold to the ground and in summer create doldrums that block the ocean breeze. They come crashing to the ground without notice and sprout apparently without discrimination.

Black trunks and branches and in the rain even blacker. The foliage looks gray at first, then green high up with little patches of blue sky, sometimes it’s hard to tell if they’re even alive. The branches twist and wander and arrange themselves into fantastic, alternately benevolent or wrathful figures, a horse, a weird frog, some kind of segmented insect, an arabesque…. The bark is rough and thick, scarred by long life and painful decisions. Every tree proclaims a hidden life of its own.

meandering branches in the oaks I work in the same way as the forest; preparing the paper, building the crystalline structure, inventing the black and golden body that twists and meanders over ley lines in the paper. Sometimes a geometric shape, a bed, a carpet, is found, aligned with a constellation. A place to get your heading. Then come the leaves and branches, those I grow like the leaves and branches of the Quercus agrifolia: both by chance and exploitation of opportunity. After each layer of Splattobscurro (which allows a cetain degree of chance) I exploit what chance has presented.
The process is additive, color on color. Because of the way this technique is applied the figures that result follow what appear to be predetermined pathways. Like the oaks themselves the paintings evoke sun and shade through branches that twist and wander and suggest the life that grows from an ancient golden core.


Brian McNeece on Leonidas

leo-ear

Leonidas, June 9, 2012

I don’t have an emotional response when I first see it. Like some people, because of the many pencil lines left from the drafting stage, I tend to think that it’s not finished. The painting is a profile view of the whole dog cut with pencil lines in very complex geometric shapes. The whole painting is about three by four feet with the mosaic scale at around one inch. This is my explanation for it: As you look at it, you can see multiple planes and a strange combination of perspective and flatness. Both the animal and its background look like they have either just been re-assembled from a prior explosion or are about to be exploded into a million pieces. Some hidden planes emerge as your eye rests on various parts, as in cubism, as if we can see the dog from more than one vantage point. The lower part of the background is green, yellow and blue, evoking a sense of a calm but lively exploded landscape, including a stream that has been taken apart and scattered in new, discrete locations in coves and canyons and hillsides made secret from one another. The upper part of the background is similarly cut into white and blue triangles and curved trapezoids bent through many sweeping radii, giving an impression of clouds and sky. The dog is pushed very forward, almost in our laps. The whole painting can be interpreted as either being very flat or full of depth, so full that the viewer might think the artist is trying to take us into the underlying geometry of the archetype or “form” of a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog. What I don’t really see in the dog, and wish I did, is its muscular power and weight. There’s a radiating center point just to the left of Leo’s jaw. For some reason, I wish I could feel a sense of foreground and dimension there to feel the power of this very powerful animal. But I don’t. Just behind the dog’s neck, the line of the back drops in a plane. That’s interesting, as is the heavier shading toward the hind legs along the back and in the front forelegs. For me, the denser variety of shading helps to give the dog a more satisfying sense of weight and presence.

The strongest parts of the dog are the eyes and the snout because the mosaic-like, geometrically divided theme is set aside here for a more curvilinear and boldly-blocked shading and sense of depth. However, the more I look at it, the more there is to see.

Overall, the work reveals an artist with an intense but calmly controlled interest in complex, deep, multilayered views of the world. This ambitious work is a dog-owner’s embrace of a beloved dog, combined with an honest search for its architectonic purity in a mysterious world that can be ordered through close examination.

-Brian Mcneece,  June 9, 2012

How we Made Leonidas:

What if we take the arbitrary nature out of drawing and painstakingly convert the chaotic line of nature to vectors coordinated to a fixed grid system? OK-this picture was built on a golden mean, 1.618 grid (GM). By resizing the original photograph and superimposing it on the grid, we could align the major features i.e.; heart, head and tail, throat chakras, etc. with the major vertices on the grid. Interestingly everything pretty much snapped into place. From there we built the “drawing” outline and reconstructed it so that every segment, made up of straight lines and arcs, aligned with at least two points on the GM. (For example curves had their center; radius and start/end align with points on the GM.) The resulting segmentation/tiling of the broader planes was a result of nothing more than the continuation of the outline construction to their respective vertices. If one were so inclined they could follow one of the vectors out into the “countryside” and see where it connected to a symbolic real world. What we did in effect is vectorize, by hand, a raster image, but not just vectorize, make sure those vectors were all really located with real points in the paper space. This construction method is a way to remove some of the arbitrary nature of drawing so we could determine exactly where a line, curve and container for color. should be located, where it should stop and start etc. Not based on our judgment, observation or skill at drawing but determined by direct drafting method. It puts the lie to ”the arabesque” by bringing truth to it.

Of course there is still decision Making and “design” decisions on a micro level in some passages but for the most part the rich and complex symmetry is a direct result of the method we set up to make this.

-Bill Jehle, September 20, 2012

Leonidas, King of Dogs

leonidas jpeg
Leonidas, Novacolor, pencil, gold leaf on Arches 400, 38x60in

Leonidas: Named after the great king of the Spartans elected to defend Greece from the combined armies of Xerxes at Thermopylae in 481BCE.

For you, inhabitants of wide-wayed Sparta,

Either your great and glorious city must be wasted by Persian men,

Or if not that, then the bound of Lacedaemon must mourn a dead king, from Heracles’ line.

The might of bulls or lions will not restrain him with opposing strength; for he has the might of Zeus.

I declare that he will not be restrained until he utterly tears apart one of these

-Oracle of Delphi

Leonidas’ (who’s brief passage was also a testament to love and loyalty to his companions and city) stand with his 4000-7000 (the 300) troops was the inspiration also for possibly the gayest painting ever made.

Léonidas_aux_Thermopyles_(Jacques-Louis_David)
Léonidas_aux_Thermopyles_(Jacques-Louis_David)

Blade Runner:  I’ve seen things you “people”(my quotes) wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. [pause] Time to die. -Ruger Hauer

 Rutger Hauer’s gentle evocation of the memories, experiences, and passions that drive the short lives of androids mirrors our own transitory connection to time, memory, understanding and what remains. This is even more so for  LEONIDAS a dog; a sentient non-human,  because his transit will be so brief, what he leaves so ethereal and what he takes with him, to “people”, unbelievable..

guercino jpeg
Aldrovandi Dog, Guercino, 1625, Norton Simon Foundation

A dog’s life is brief, his feelings, thoughts, if any, are hidden from us mortals.  According the Upanishads, horses (and possibly dogs) retain their memory of past lives. History for them may be an unbroken ribbon of tests of love and loyalty. Guercino nailed it for the love and loyalty in this portrait of a beloved hunting dog.

Like the sacrificial horse of the The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad; LEONIDAS allows us to contemplate the trail of experience, memory and loss as the universe contained in the horse (dog) is continuously dismantled and reassembled.

photo of leonidas dog
photo of leonidas dog

Leonidas is a painting about a dog, not of a dog. It was built on a golden mean (GM) (1.618) grid and using enlarged photographs all the lines were coordinated to major and minor vertexes on the grid. I could have used a raster to vector conversion program and had it printed full size but to align the outlines with the GM Grid would have been inaccurate at best. Doing the conversion by hand enabled the accurate placement of the endpoints of each line and the radius and endpoints of each arc. This enabled the outline to be more fully connected to the structure of the painting. Otherwise it would be merely laid on top of the grid destroying the, figuratively, figure ground relationship. All the lines and shapes in the painting were actual strokes and fills from actual construction of the outline.

leonidas dog
I’ve seen things you “people”(my quotes) wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. [pause] Time to die. Rutger Hauer’s gentle evocation of the memories, experiences, and passions that drive the short lives of androids mirrors our own transitory connection to time, memory, understanding and what remains. This is even more so for a LEONIDAS, a sentient non-human, because his transit will be so brief, what he leaves so ethereal and what he takes with him, to “people”, unbelievable..
leonidas' ear
detail of Leonidas’ ear