Unfinished Idea

As longtime readers of the Fanciful Lobster know, a great deal of the projects I begin never get finished, usually due to a lack of time, dwindling interest, or both. Most of these incomplete works never progress very far, but today I'll talk about an idea that actually lasted for several months before it finally petered out.

It had started with a group of sketches of sycamore seeds and colored yarn. Readers may remember that I did a small drypoint based on one of these drawings, but what you may not know is that I had originally done over fifteen drawings. I'd gotten really interested in the subject, and the ways in which I could create completely new compositions by rearranging a few simple objects.

For these unrealized works I focused on the first twelve drawings I had done, which were more self-contained than the later studies. I began exploring the mathematical properties of the compositions by simplifying the seeds to their basic geometric shapes and reorganizing the original sketches into more formalized pyramids, circles, rectangles, and other forms.

I then took the four original seeds, and broke them down into four basic geometric shapes: a triangle, a rhombus, etc. These shapes then became a form of shorthand for the different seeds, allowing me to quickly reference them.

From there, I began exploring the sense of movement and motion within the seeds. Looking closely at the sycamore seeds, I noticed that the seeds were composed of different sections that contained seeds arranged in mathematical patterns. To represent the movement of these patterns, I broke down these different sections of the seeds into blocks of lines, with each line representing a row of seeds.

Then I started experimenting with different media. Given the mathematical turn my studies had taken, I had begun thinking about Platonic forms, and decided to represent an idealized version of the seeds. At the same time, however, I wanted to capture the constant flux of the universe, so I decided to work on marbled paper, as the inherent movement entailed in the process captured the sense of motion I sought. Taking my geometric frameworks from earlier then, I started by drawing a golden rectangle within which I would fit the composition. I colored it in with a light gray wash to help it stand out, but kept it translucent so that the marbled paper would remain visible. Once it was dry I took one of my geometric frameworks and mapped it out onto the marbled paper with metallic pens. I then started recreating my original sketches onto the mapwork, using foil from a previous project.

I finished the study by going in with ink wash to heighten the contrast between the foil and ground.

I liked the experiment well enough, but I wanted to work in the drawn version of the seeds, specifically the ones I had broken down into patterns of movement. I took another piece of marbled paper and started again.

I started by mapping a golden rectangle into the marbled paper. From there I picked a new sketch to recreate, and drew out the geometric framework I'd drawn for it earlier.

I went in with a pencil and drew out the outline for the original sketch. I included the yarn this time as well.

Then I took some white paint and filled in the shape of the seeds. This time I had abandoned the geometric shorthand I had devised for them and distilled them into perfect circles.

Once they had been painted in, I went in with a gold pen and drew the wavy lines. Finally, I went in with paint and added color to the yarn.

And that was where this project ended.

I'm not entirely sure why I lost steam on this, as I had been working on it in one form or another for several months and was starting to go somewhere with it. As is the case with many things, there was more than one reason.

Partly I suspect it was because I couldn't decided which medium I wanted to use for the final iteration, and given the conceptual nature of the study, I felt it was really important to choose the right material to further express these ideas. I'd thought about using metalpoint, but I didn't want to spend the amount of money required for gold point, which is probably what I would have used because the overall study was a meditation on the Golden Mean. I'd also considered etching and aquatint, but didn't have access to the acid I needed at the time.

Mainly though, I wasn't sure what I wanted the final version to be. In these studies, I was clearly working on devising a mathematical ideal of the sketches I had devised. The whole project was numbers-based. There were twelve sketches, with four seeds (four being a multiple of twelve), and so forth, and each sketch was reworked within a a framework of varying geometric shapes, all built around the Golden Mean. It was some of the most analytical work I'd done, and represented a very different mode of working for me.

Yet I also liked the simplicity of the original sketches, and their concrete basis in seen reality. Part of me felt that the pieces were getting too analytical, and that I was losing sight of the original visual pleasure of the seeds and yarn that had attracted me in the first place. It was a conflict of interests I couldn't resolve, so in the end I did one small drypoint and abandoned the project altogether.

For now, at least.