THE DESCENT OF LIGHT - HOW IT WAS CREATED

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Even before this work was begun, I knew I wanted to create a drawing with ink on paper and also how large it was going to be. It was not clear though whether I would finish it in black and white, or whether I would add watercolour or, eventually, digital colour to it.
Still, there are some fixed elements in my process:

The first thing I do is draw the rectangle I want the work to grow in. I do this with the same pen I will be drawing with. No plan has been made, and in this case I haven't got the slightest idea what is going to come, but whatever it may be, it is welcome. So I begin by drawing lines. This is a very intense phase because I may not consciously interfere with what is happening. In fact, I may not be really conscious about what happens because the moment I would recognise something or 'see' something in what is done, I might begin to suggest it, or remember it, and the flow would be disturbed. Still, I have to be consciously inside the drawing process. As you can observe in the detail I a do not draw uninterrupted lines like one would with, say, a pencil. All lines are stippled or are made up of short lines. (see ill 1: enlarged detail)
The reason is a technical one: when I begin the shading, an uninterrupted line would be a hard contour line. To break it, I would be forced to go to absolute black. I will very probably go to absolute black, but this must happen near the end, when and where I have decided for it. But this may not be forced upon me from the very first start. I prefer to begin with as soft outlines as possible and later on , by making some sharper, add local clarity. Rounder shapes should get more blurred outlines, sharper angles need sharper ones. This makes the result more realistic, whatever the subject, by giving the impression two eyes are used instead of one.

This first-lines phase can take several days. It depends on the natural rhythm of the process that manifests itself so as it were through me. In this work, I use only pen. When, with some other work, I need more recognisable shapes like, say, a human being, a face,... anything more recognisable...I do tend to start with a sketching and pencil lines. But for as far as the energy patterns are concerned, pen is sufficient. Whilst drawing the lines, the desire rises in me to start 'drawing', to be a more active part in what is happening. Usually I do not completely fill the surface with lines and leave certain areas open. This is not in the first place because I grow too impatient but because it adds to the tension. On the lower side of this specific work, you can observe a larger part that is left untouched untill the very end phase. It will be left it in this state untill the work has become more visible to me, untill I have an idea about lights and darks and the general balance of the result. Untill the, so as to say, crystalisation process has progressed much further.

Whilst detailing and shading, I first have to choose where the light comes from and add shadow to every shape with respecting the direction of the light. It also becomes clear to me that this will normally stay in black and white. How do I know? Well, there are two main indications:

1/ when I want to add colour, watercolour, I may not go to zones of greys as dark as I do here, because the dark grey would/will interfere too much with the colour and deaden it, and
2/ when I want to colour, it is better to leave more structure and not go as deep into refining the gradient as I do here.

Of course there is always another option, and that is to use really subdued colours that make use of the already present darks. You can also observe that I do not 'knit'. 'Knitting' in drawing-speak means beginning in, say, the top left corner and finishing at the bottom right. The crystallisation process happens a bit everywhere, which happens in finding the right balance between lights and dark, and also between the fineness of local shapes and texture. In every local detail, the global work must be kept in mind, not as how it must become, but how it can possibly evolve.

I like to consider myself a kind of visual composer - like, say, Scelsi, Ligeti, Eliane Radigue. It begins with a theme, then a second one pops up, a third one and so on, and some of these themes grow together an start to form what ultimately becomes a complex work. If we really look at Nature, or the Cosmos, it is at the same time so large and contains so many infinite details we can never ever fully encompass it. And yet, at the same time we seem to contain it all because we always interpret. Like the great Flemish Mystic Hadewych wrote, translated of course: " all things are too narrow for me: I am so wide."
To go deeper into the comparison with music, most pen drawings can be compared to harpsichord music in that there is little or no variation in the linework - loudness of the instrument. I try to use pen more like a piano and use softer transitions. Not by lines that are less dark than others, or that are thicker or thinner, but by the way shapes are built up by intricate but chaotic networks of fine lines.

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The way it looks at this stage is chaotic and unfocused. To me, this is normal and I am used to it. Now I can begin guiding the attention and work on the aesthetic aspect. This is done by concentrating the light. As it is not possible to make anything brighter than the off-white of the paper, I have to darken where I don't want to focus on. I call this 'putting out the lights'

After that previous phase, the work had to rest a while because I needed a more distant view of it before I could continue. How long this rest takes is not fixed. The moment comes I look at it and feel the desire to continue because I see this local grey or that detail that I want to improve. Once this last step has been taken, I tend not to wait and bring it to my site. The reason is that once it is publicly visible, I can also see it as an onlooker and find some last details I could change. The result of this can be seen in the next image. Is this the final phase? Not necessarily. I can always have a sudden flash that something can be done to enhance the harmony or the quality.

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Thing is that, when I looked at it after a few weeks, I found something was missing, and inspiration suggested watercolour. So this is the final result. I also changed the title to 'The Spring'.

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