My recent sketchbook entries are stream-of-consciousness pieces that allude to my Antarctic collections and recollections. I’m less interested in literal depictions than capturing the essence of these objects and experiences. I’ve found that a less med-
itated approach often yields more interesting and energetic compositions — in and
outside of the sketchbook.
The subject of this ‘sister image’ to yesterday’s post is whaling.
The first Antarctic whaling station was established in 1904 at South Georgia island. By the mid-20th century, several of the eight whale species that populate Antarctic waters had been hunted to the edge of extinction. They’re now gradually recovering thanks to international regulation of commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean, though their numbers aren’t nearly that of a hundred years ago.
At the other end of the world by contrast, whale hunting has been central to the Inupiat people’s subsistence for over a millennium. I’m currently marveling over thewhalehunt.org, a unique photo-documentary of an Inupiat whale hunt in Barrow, Alaska. Its extraordinary approach to storytelling and brilliant interface was created by Jonathan Harris, with stunning photography by Andrew Moore. Not to be missed.
I create my sketchbook entries improvisationally, drawing on Antarctic impressions
and recollections as I go along. By this process I’m building a visual vocabulary with
which to create the Long View Project’s sculptural pieces.
This particular composition codifies Antarctic tools, venesta shelving, and maps. My principal medium is cut paper, often reclaimed from old mail, packaging and scraps.
Today’s sketchbook page imagines some of the large number of undiscovered species that Antarctica is home to. Scientists are hoping to reveal some of the mysteries of evolution through these future underwater discoveries, and I never tire of visually speculating on the nature and appearance of these life forms. It’s a theme I’ll be returning to often throughout my project.
In this sketch a silhouetted figure lurks by the letterpress in the Nimrod hut’s cluttered interior. I’m playing shape off line to create illusions of space and fragmenting elements to suggest dimensionality. With these stylistic motifs I also intend to draw analogies between Cubism and the heroic age of polar exploration, both of which developed simultaneously, created sensations in their day, and used found material to facilitate their exploits.
I’ll be drawing on Shackleton’s and Scott’s huts for key content and composition cues. I’m particularly focused on Shackleton’s repurposed venesta cases in keeping with the project’s recycling theme. The wood cases found second lives as shelves, book cases, box storage, work surfaces, and partitioning. Not to mention book covers, which led me here in the first place. Expect such shapes and elements in my upcoming sketches and in the final wood assemblages too.
I’ve gotten word that the material I collected and shipped from Antarctica is at Port Hueneme on its way to San Francisco, so it won’t be long before it arrives. I’ll introduce the items as I unpack them, and will document their eventual incorporation into the artwork.
In the meanwhile, I’m formulating ideas for my compositions in a sketchbook I started recently. I’ll post pages here throughout the project to show their role in the process. The entries will be out of page order (that’s how I work on them) and in various stages of progress. The book will serve as a means of exploring shapes, colors, textures, and line; a place to work out the technical aspects of construction; a lab for spontaneous experimentation, for trying out found objects for size, and for re-working sketches and concepts to perfection… or to ruin. It’s a testing ground.