November 2, 2011

Details? Yes, please.

I've realized that I am a big fan of ink. If humans never came up with the idea of ink, I don't know where we would be. Probably still dragging chalk over slabs of slate. Not to say that chalk is primitive or less worthy or anything negative, but I think there is something valuable about crisp, bold lines and intricate details that tend to be lost with the fuzziness of charcoal, chalk, and pencil drawings. If Michelangelo or Davinci or one of those more modern hyper-realism painters were to see some of my drawings, they probably would not like them at all. Their work emphasizes and mirrors the very subtle color changes, color blending, color combinations and soft contours we see in reality. For example, when looking into the horizon, there is no solid line separating Earth from sky. Michelangelo might say that within representational art, there shouldn't be. Bold black lines disrupt the natural fluidity of color we are used to, but I think there is beauty in that disruption.

When I was younger, I completely disagreed with myself. Lines were those limiting boundaries in coloring books that made everything look like a cartoon and that challenged penmanship control - we all remember struggling to stay in the lines. I remember a specific incident where I deliberately went out of my way as to avoid black lines.

I was probably between five to seven years old. I was visiting Puerto Vallarta, Mexico with my mom on a vacation, back when we used to travel the world more often. Sitting on a stool perched behind a small table set-up was a young Mexican women with some ceramic bisque ware mini sculptures. She made a small profit (or maybe it was free) from having a workshop stationed besides the hotel pool for children to paint little ceramic animals to take home. Being a cat fiend, I naturally decided I was going to paint one of the cat sculptures. I remember sitting at the table and carefully painting the legs brown, the tummy white, the nose and ears pink. I wanted it to look like a real cat. I wanted it to look like Meow, my first cat, more specifically. The lady explained to us in broken English that we could go swim in the pool while we waited for our peices to dry. She also mentioned that while we were swimming, she would add "details." She held up an example. A vibrantly colored ceramic fish with bold black swirls throughout and bold black outlines separating its segments of color. This made me nervous. I thought my cat was perfect the way it was. I didn't want any added "details." Before I left it to dry, I remember telling this lady as clearly and politely as I could, "No. Details. Please."

When I came back from swimming with the other kids, I found that the lady had half-listened. She didn't add any swirls or fancy bold designs, but she did outline the different colors with black paint. Bold, black curvilinearities separated the white tummy from the brown legs and the pink nose from the brown face. I must have been satisfied with the result because even after the cat had shattered into pieces while being tousled in my suitcase throughout the whole flight home, I still asked my mom (in tears) to help me glue it back together. I still have the mended sculpture on top of my desk at home today, over 10 years later, with a couple of missing pieces. Even though the black lines made the cat look less like Meow's mirror image, they still gave the cat a crisp, liveliness that was absent before.

I didn't think much of the "details" at the time. But I think those "details" may have ignited some delayed, stylistic inspiration in me. If I were to approach the Mexican lady's table set-up today, I would probably say, "Yes, details please." I didn't start experimenting with pen and ink until middle school, when I was asked to illustrate a few of the poems featured in my 8th grade's class compilation of poetry. When they told me none of the illustrations would be xeroxed in color, I resorted to a bold, linear style because I knew it would look just as good in black and white. Last summer, I also started experimented more with ink. My mom gave me a set of pigment liners and I did a few drawings at home.  I also brought the pens to Thailand with me, where I did a series of mini drawings from snapshots I took through out my days volunteering with the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project. If interested, you can see those drawings here.

I actually haven't gotten around to drawing much this school year. I guess I've been pretty occupied with other things, but here are some pen and ink drawings I've done semi-recently, over this past Summer.


A smiling infant rhinoceros 

Grandma Lynn befriending Parisian pigeons with a friend

An African village women in Dshang, Cameroon

A grown Dchange chickidee

African woman with child

Little me, befriending alpacas 

Jennifer and Watson


  1. Love your drawings and the new banner! Can't wait to see more from you =)

  2. These are amazing! You are super talented :)


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