kbenedict49 January 13, 2016

One of the hardest questions for me to answer is why do I create my large drawings, the God’s Glory Clouds/mandalas? Part of the difficulty is I have made them in some form ever since I can remember. It was always more of a necessary compulsion rather then a conscious effort. Whenever I had an idle moment, I would find myself sketching the beginnings of one on the corner of a page or on a scrap piece of paper.

It was a little over ten years ago when I started making the drawings in their current large form. At first they were always black and white and I found myself constantly frustrated with my inability to make them without imperfection. Always there was something not quite right, something was always slightly asymmetrical or a pattern wasn’t followed through perfectly on all four corners. The imperfections drove me crazy and I hated the drawings I was making. They just weren’t good enough, and since each one takes 3 – 6 months to make, I felt I was wasting my time and my life.

This went on for years.

At some point something changed. I realized that the imperfections that I previously had hated gave my drawings a life, a vibrancy, a vitality that they wouldn’t have had if the imperfections were not there. “Perfect” versions of my drawings, instead of being perfect, would have been dead, like a hollow clone of a person. Physically perfect but lacking a soul.

Instead of forcing my drawings to be something, I started creating them by having conversations with them. I started seeing them more as meditative pieces then full realized art forms. They are done when they are done, some progress quickly, others are incredibly tedious labors of love.

There are no preconceived ideas of what the end result will be though some general rules might be imposed such as it will be only a black and white drawing or only have two colors and only be a certain size. Also, each and everyone starts in the middle and slowly unfolds outward like a flower. My drawings had become my conversation with God and with the divine, they have become manifestations of my soul from a particular place and time.

Historically, every drawing is done on a piece of Arches printmaking paper and created with a pen. Each mark is intentional and permanent. There are no redoes. Each drawing is generally around 2 – 3 feet.

With my latest piece, Mellow Yellow, I have introduced a new step of the process. Once the original pen and ink drawing was done, I scanned the drawing into my computer making it a 4 x 4 foot drawing. I then spent the next month and a half every day painstaking redrawing every line with a Wacom tablet in Photoshop.

Now there are generally a couple questions I am immediately asked when I talk about this new step in my process, one, why Photoshop and not Illustrator? And, won’t the computer kill those imperfections that you just said give the drawing it’s soul?

The answer to both the questions is linked together. I started using Illustrator, but it didn’t have the feel I was looking for. It’s hard to tell when the picture is small, but at actual size, the lines were just too cold, the shapes just too precise. Photoshop allowed me to use tools unique to Photoshop, such as the clone stamp tool, to clean things up but still keep some important hand drawn qualities from the pen and ink drawing. Also since the entire drawing was recreated using strokes made with a Wacom tablet, the Photoshopped drawing ended up feeling more hand drawn then the original drawing were I used some stencils to create some of the larger forms.

The irony was the photoshopped version took longer and looked more hand drawn then the original pen and ink drawing. The nature of both parts of the process, the pen and ink and the Photoshopping, lend themselves to a meditative state and consciousness that help me improve the drawing I am creating.