Digital Tools for the Timid, Ink for the Brave

Black ink and brush, 3 drawings in one by Eric Waldemar

When an ink-filled brush touches paper, it might or might not lead to something thrilling, but there’s no turning back. One pauses, settles the mind, limbers the fingers, and then the process begins. It can go wrong, and a lot of the time it does. That first mark redefines the situation on the paper, and the next mark responds to the first, in a process that combines intention and intuition at every moment. Too long a pause, or too controlling an intention, and the poor thing dies on the page. Begin again. In any case, the moment comes when one has to either touch the brush to paper or put it away. In an instant, it comes to life, or the paper is spoiled.

I can sum up the main difference between physical media like ink drawing and digital tools like Photoshop in one word: “Undo.” (In other words, Ctrl/Cmd-Z”.) With black ink, there is no undo, no trying it 10 ways and then deciding which one works best. One has to actually take a chance, and act with the possibility of failing.

As for the image: “Less Than Three, 3, More Than Three.” Someone has to finally tell the truth about what the number three  really is, what it means, and it’s not going to be me. I merely mean to draw attention to the question. Oh, come on.  Really. It’s a trace of a passing moment with brush in hand, spinning out some little chain of rhythm and un-named form. Nothing more, but I like it enough that I’ve kept it around for a long time. The title is silly, comes later, and mostly serves to amuse me (and act as a mnemonic device – oh, yes, that drawing.)

Let’s not get carried away with mystifying the process of art-making, but on the other hand, let’s not forget that when it works, it’s like something fell out of the sky. An inky brush touching paper defines commitment and captures spirit in the moment. If every gesture can be undone with a click, a magic process becomes a merely graphic one. Sometimes. Take this rant with a grain of salt, from someone who uses a wide range of tools, physical and digital.

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