Thursday, May 22, 2014

Pen of the Month - Part 2

Shortly after my last post, new pens arrived at work. I quickly rounded up two test sheets (small pieces of paper where customers try out pens). The new pens consist of at least eight different color ballpoint pens. The ink appears more saturated than the pens from last month and these new results were striking. Given my attraction to color and mark making, I began to wonder about the meaning of these seemingly random drawings. Although they did not start out with much of a plan, they did begin to take a direction. The lose structure mixed with a sense of chance seemed to me linked to a strain art that follows modernist exploits (material exploration and directness trumping most other objectives). This kind of approach often has a richness and vitality.

Even now Mark Rothko's big blocks of color, Pollock's drips, Frankenthaler's stains, or de Kooning's brush seem liberating. However these artists seem unique and forever locked in time. In today's data driven world, where digital screens offer glimpses at every scribble (including my own), and schools prepare gallery ready artists, I often wonder if this kind of direction is enough hinge one's artistic identity? Are the variables too minimal? Is it heroic to cast aside illustrative qualities in favor of pure expression of form or is that expression merely more marks made by a mortal hand? Surely there is a place for all kinds of art because it grasps for our best instincts, desires, and hopes. However, how much is too much? If the loop of productivity returns to the same places how many times do we watch?. There is no question that art of great merit is being made, but in my more cynical moments I wonder how will we recognize it? Will it be great, great scribble, or just more scribble? Lets hope for the best.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pen of the Month

Currently, I am working in an office supply store. Each month a brand of pen is featured at the register and are sold individually. This is a good way to observe pen testing habits. Under less scrutiny, in other parts of the store, test drawings at times include anatomical studies and the kind of writing reserved for bathroom stalls. People behave much differently when they feel they are being watched. At the register customers are mostly determining if the pen works well. My hunch is that writing and highlighting are effective uses for these pens. Other uses exhibit marginal quality (e.g. lack of: permanence, line variety, etc.), whereas for drawing, decoration, and other activities art supplies would likely be a better solution. I did my own testing to gain a better understanding.

Among other scribbles, my trials included drawing a face on one of the scratch papers. Hoping customers would "improve" my drawing, I waited for others to add content. However, a curious thing happened, people no longer wanted to use that test sheet and would skip to the next page. My thought is that either people are uncomfortable with the idea of defiling a human/animal form (particularly when they might get caught), or they often want their mark to be both unique and anonymous. Generally, drawing in public seems to dramatically change habits. I wonder how knowledge of this inhibition would yet further change one's drawing sensibility?