New Header Image. Something a bit simpler.

Yes, you noticed. I changed the picture at the top of the page. I liked the old one, but it’s more a collection of image fragments than anything, and I thought I’d like to put a picture at the top, however goofy, so it looks like a real person lives here. If the old one was a hodgepodge, you’re now treated to a different kind of excess. I was playing with Photoshop all day yesterday, making surfaces rise, fall, and rumple. On the whole, it’s not what I’d intended, and it will change in days to come, but how about let’s just put it up for now. Stuck up on the refrigerator until the next version emerges. The frantic reality of life as a daddy has me working digitally much more than I’m making prints & drawings lately, so perhaps it’s more honest to have a summary image that reflects the tools I’m actually using right now. Inky printmaking hands again someday soon, but for now, this. If you’re a big fan of the old header, here you go: (see below). Click on it to see it full-sized, and you can pretend it never left. The Joe Hill of  blog headers.

A collage of fragments from Eric Waldemar's prints and ink drawings.

The Pelican, the Alembic, and the Concealing Wall

Alchemist's pelican and alembic, scrawled on a rough wall. Mystery is not there merely to be solved, though the world would be simpler if it were. The alchemist’s pelican and alembic, the crucible and the centrifuge, each have their counterparts in the mechanics of our own conceptual and emotional back rooms. If we could just simply look, listen, and know what it is that we confront or behold, we could putter along with some confidence. As it stands, even the obvious turns out to have plenty of slack in it, and once common sense has lost its credibility, well, we just do the best we can with our guesses, and try to adjust quickly when we’ve judged the whole thing wrong, though we may have seemed to know the way at the time.

With Enough Masks and Tails, I Am All Animals

Gestural ink drawing with elephant & animal-like forms, by Eric WaldemarAll animals indeed. Hmmph. Alright Mr. Shape-changer, how about those dishes? OK, but I’ll be back, and not for the first time.

What is this thing? The minimum standard: is the paper improved by being marked? I think so, yes, I’m sure of it, but I can’t really say why. This kind of nonsense is indefensible, but is no less valuable for all that. The work matters, however modest, and whatever it takes to persuade oneself step in again and again is fine, makes sense, enough.

I’m drawn to the elephant in the image, but elephants are currently a big topic in my life, and it may just be that I’m seeing them everywhere. Oonagh and I spotted one recently under my parents’ couch (a pink one) By ruling out other possibilities, we had previously figured out that the elephant we keep hearing at home resides in the oven. It keeps waking me up. Pffffft!

InkPainter for iPhone: The Appeal of “Simulated” Ink & Brush Drawing

abstract inky scrawl made with InkPainter, an iPhone drawing appHaving sniped in a recent post about the way that Photoshop opens graphic possibilities, but impairs decisive intention and clarity of mind, I thought I’d now play devil’s advocate to myself, looking at how even low-tech “digital painting” has substantial rewards. It’s true that there’s no substitute for ink and a brush, but in the right context, an enjoyable fake can be just the thing.

I spend a fair bit of time with tools like Photoshop and Corel Painter, but in recent days, I’m more excited about painting on my iphone with a tool that’s not all that far from a toy. Read more

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.

Dip the brush in ink, and begin.

A face looking over shoulder? Semi-abstract brush & watercolor drawing by Eric Waldemar.Oonagh’s been getting into watercolors, and her sure, if wild, touch with the brush is an inspiration. Outrageous splashes, streaks, and smears are immediately named: kitty, choo-choo, tracks, bear. She, at two, is doing what I aspire to, though I’m a little less quick to pin a name on things.

During her nap, my momentary break, I finally got some colors and water out for myself, for the first time in a while, and just messed around. I laid some paper on the pull-out breadboard and scattered a few colors and palettes around the kitchen counter, amidst crumbs and crusts. Could have wiped up first, sure, but daddies learn that time is always short.

Secret Tunnels Under Denver & Boulder

Gestural Eric Waldemar ink drawing. Child with huge shoes & hat.

This clumsy little scrawl fell out of my brush a long time ago, about 15 years before I actually had an actual little girl shuffling around the house in my big boots, sporting huge hats and dragging bulging carpetbags full of toys.


Father and Daughter, faces against a storm drain in an alley.Today the two of us spent about a half hour crouched next to an iron storm grate in a nearby alley, listening to dropped pebbles hit the bottom of the big tunnel beneath. We then chased the echoes down the tunnel with howls, hoots, and caw-caws, mouths pressed against the metal. Cities are full of secret holes. The grate was loose, and not that heavy. Maybe I’ll have to investigate one of these days, perhaps without Oonagh. There’s no ladder – anyone have a strong rope?

Then there was that time Tucker Gurney and I were creeping around the steam tunnels under the CU Boulder campus. Caught, held by the wrist while authorities were called, and then we suddenly twisted away and ran for it, chased by approaching police on foot and in cars. We rounded a corner fast and dove under a leaf pile. Did not twitch, breathe, or move a muscle as police searchlights probed the pile at length. Some of the officers on hand thought we were in there, but none was willing to suffer the indignity of stepping over and actually kicking the pile. They debated whether we were under the pile for several minutes, yards away, before moving on and giving up. Circa 1985.

The Living Carry the Dead

Pen and ink by Eric WaldemarContinuing to pull one image after another from the archive, looking back at threads and continuities, and at how much has changed.

None of us have come through this all alone, and as we celebrate the present and the future, we also animate the carcass of the past. I am grateful to particular individuals that lived hundreds of years ago (Breughel, Hakuin, Rembrandt…), mentors like Stan & Harry, and friends still living, some of whom I haven’t seen in 30 years. And some who didn’t make it through. Carrying what I’ve got of you, too, Tucker.