Friday, February 17, 2012

Balancing Values in Black & White Line Art

In the seven months since beginning my Low Residency MFA in Illustration at Hartford, the biggest personal change I've witnessed beyond multiplied creative output is a new found sense of focus and confidence in my individual style. In the 6 years from undergraduate work til now, a number of techniques, media, and approaches took hold of me. In that experimentation, I lost a sense of confident direction in my work... and my output suffered as well. Whether it was the final decision to take responsibility for my growth through graduate work, or simply being surrounded by massively talented classmates, almost instantly in the first days on campus I could see with a new clarity which piece best represented me as an artist. 

'Survival of the Biggest' had been an experiment in process, using technical pen on blank white clayboard as opposed to scratching into pre-inked black scratchboard (something I went back and forth about multiple times over the years). Claybord's unique flexibility for sculpting values in ink combined with additional compositional prep work on my part brought the piece to a certain level of style and finish that I continue to be proud of today.  I decided that between my enjoyment of that process and satisfaction with the final product, this was the vein I would continue down for the foreseeable future. 

Since that moment seven months ago, I have held true to the process and started building a new portfolio of work that feels genuinely 'Albright,' for all intents and purposes. Now I've come to a point where I feel a comfortable enough distance from the pieces that I can evaluate the body of work as a whole, and am more able to improve upon the formula in small but significant ways. For example, using what I'd call thumbnail evaluation some images are more effective than others when viewed from a distance or reduced to a small preview on screen.  Viewing an image at this greatly reduced size helps you ignore the subtleties for a moment and instead judge the overall composition, clarity, and impact.  

Using quick thumbnail evaluation, I've recognized that my drawings with larger areas of heavy blacks are more immediately effective and easier for the eyes to process than drawings with even contrast through the entire piece.  Case in point, both 'Sabre Skull Valley' and 'Pterodactdinner' (above) are rather tonally even throughout.  Intending to provide the viewers dense jungle of information to explore, all areas of the picture plane are handled with equal contrast and no large areas of heavy black aside from 'Pterodactdinner's frame. But in comparison with 'Lava' or 'Post-Apocrowlyptic' (below), both of which contain large areas of black to counter evenly balanced hatch work, I'm finding the two latter examples are more successful and give the eyes both a resting place and an easier point of entry.  And by that virtue, they both perhaps appear more 'finished.'

Long story short, moving forward I intend to pay closer attention to having areas of heavy black as a resting point for the eyes.  I also suspect this will lead me to make more complete use of the claybord medium in the sense that these black areas will require that I use my scratch tool for white detailing, rather than building up values with the pen and using the scraper tool for corrections alone.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more!

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