This is a style of B&W drawing I return to again and again. Not only have I done at least 10 using the same approach recently, I used to use the same technique for charcoal drawings 25 years ago.
The procedure is super simple and direct, and it relies entirely on my imagination, memory, and extant drawing skills. It’s a little easier to explain in analogue terms, so here’s the charcoal technique. You cover your paper in a neutral gray. I used to do this by smearing a dark black charcoal stick onto a paper towel, and then wiping that over the paper. Then, I’d use that same stick and an eraser to make marks and smudges. I’d look at those, get ideas, and use both the stick and the eraser to draw darks and erase lights with. I wouldn’t have any preconceived idea, and wouldn’t consult an image or reference to work with. I just relied on what was already in my head, as if I was in a room with just me and the materials and nothing else.
Here’s a few examples from back in the day:
I did several of these recently in my “Tapping the Unconscious” series of 46 images so far, including these three:
It’s a satisfying way to work because there’s virtually no tedium. I’m not trying to illustrate a preconceived idea, but rather doing something like excavating an image. It’s a bit like a game, and there’s not that much work beyond discovering whatever image will emerge. Nothing needs necessarily to be refined or realized more than whatever is suggested. It’s an elaborate Rorschach game for artists.
If you zoom in you’ll discover it’s very loose. I mostly work zoomed out, which in analogue terms would be working at arm’s length. This woman’s head is just an impression:
The giant’s eyes are just criss-crossing and overlapping strokes:
And an odd thing about working this way is that if I don’t know how to draw something exactly, I’ll just keep looking and eventually I’ll get a clue or suggestion that works well enough. That’s also how the strange creatures came about in the darker portions.
And this reptile head just suddenly showed itself to me towards the end:
I could go in and articulate its eye more, for example, but when I do that and then zoom out I don’t usually like the result, even if it is more accurate. If I get into that level of control it loses its spontaneity and dream-like quality.
There’s also a large profile head intersecting with the woman’s body, if you can see it.
I can do these sorts of images in color, but it’s best if I start in color, because moving from B&W to color creates the tedium of colorizing something, rather than the whole process being one of gradual simultaneous discovery and realization. Here are a couple color ones from last year.
I could do a more concerted series where I develop this technique, go a bit more refined and elaborate, and see what happens. With the latest one I did try to take it a bit further. Here it is again.