Construction 45 is not my first sculpture that uses pencil marks other than those made to help me make cuts. But it is the first sculpture where the pencil marks (drawing) are incorporated into and are integral part of the composition.
I've had the idea of drawing on basswood some time ago. At the time, I did not know how to incorporate the drawing into the overall composition of the sculpture so I did not pursue this technique. It seemed too much like novelty and not like a serious art technique/medium with expressive potential. But I did try to draw some doodles on basswood and found that the wood soaks up the ink making crisp, clear lines difficult, if not impossible, to make. And the black ink overwhelms the actual form of the wood.
Pencil offers more range and more subtlety. I used a mechanical pencil with a "HB" lead in this sculpture. The drawing here is heavy handed for the most part. I wanted to test the limits of pencil drawing on basswood. I also wanted to see how the dark tone on the basswood planes would effect the form.
The advantages of using a mechanical pencil (and of using pencil in general) is that I can make crisp, clean, thin lines with it and at the same time I can create subtle tone gradations. The gradations can be created with smooth tone or with cross-hatching. Cross-hatching adds texture to the sculpture.
The disadvantage of using the pencil is that the HB lead does not create blacks but dark grays. Also, when dark tone of heavy layer of pencil is made, it shines. Graphite has gloss that I would rather not have. I wonder how chalk or conté crayon or pastels would work on basswood? I'll have to experiment.
As far as being support for drawing, basswood is visually exceptional. It has a light, tan color that is paper like. The grain of the wood is also light and unobtrusive. If anything it adds interest and texture and can inspire the artist's imagination (Zen-like). If basswood was paper it would be a very beautiful art paper highly desired by artists.
But basswood is not paper, it is wood. While wood panels have been used for drawing on and for painting on in the past, their surface was prepared with special coatings. This is something I do not want to do. I want to use the wood in its raw state because I want the wood to come through the drawing. Once the wood is coated, its surface no longer resembles wood. It becomes a generic surface.
So the essential question is why draw on basswood at all?
Because the technique has expressive potential not only for non-objective abstractions but also, and even more so, for figurative abstractions. I think that this initial experiment shows that combining three dimensional "constructed" sculpture with two dimensional drawing can result in some unique and beautiful art.
And the technique brings up an interesting question. Is this sculpture or three dimensional drawing? From the beginning of the Construction Series, I thought of the technique of creating sculpture using basswood sticks and plates as essentially drawing with sticks and plates. The three dimensional form that results from that drawing is the result of the materials that I use to draw with having physical, three dimensional bodies (unlike lines on a paper which do not). Thus the sculptures in the Construction Series are three dimensional drawings made, like all drawings are made, from individual independent pieces (lines). But at the same time they are, undoubtedly, sculpture.
The duality, or dichotomy, that is created between sculpture and drawing is a rich subject. The two can complement each other or they can conflict. The drawing can echo the forms and lines of the wood pieces. The drawing can be used to add texture and color to the sculpture. Or the drawing can offer independent shapes and forms. The resulting art piece becomes bilingual, speaking two different languages, expressing two different points of view.
Construction 45, Destructing the Picture Plane is available on www.SaatchiArt.com/Konokopia .