Pen and Ink and Dysconnected

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A one-liner head (Speedball Black, Hunt #101, on 20lb cartridge)

Almost all of the images in ‘Dysconnected: Isolated By Our Mobile Devices’, are rendered in pen and ink. This ‘lo-tech’ way of making an image in 2016 may, to some, seem tedious and archaic, and perhaps it is. But it does arguably have its advantages. There is the tactile experience of the scratching and running of the nib against the paper. You get to observe and attempt to manipulate the dozens of subtle variations in the way the nib gives up the ink, and the way in which the ink interacts with the nature of the paper. The necessary rhythm of the dip-draw, dip-draw, requires the artist to reflect on and respect the limits of the physical world. Time is a necessary part of the process. You can’t shade large swatches with a single button push, and then reverse the process with another button push, as you can when you’re using an electronic graphic tablet (wonderful, magical devices). So you have to give more thought to the plan. When mistakes occur, you have to destroy the drawing or incorporate the result. The latter is always my preferred option, and not uncommonly results in the most enjoyable outcomes. When one makes mistakes on a tablet, of course, one simply hits ‘undo’. When you finish a pen and ink drawing you have an object in your hands. An artifact, a trace of where you’ve spent time and thought. If you use a thicker ink, like Speedball Super Black India Ink, you can run your fingers over the surface of the dry drawing and feel the contours of the ink actually standing up off the paper. Each line is an object.

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Lo-tech lovers can be accused of fetishism, and there may be some truth in that observation. The idea of being part of a procession reaching back hundreds of years, of feeling links to scribes and parchment and illuminated manuscripts, is, after all, complete mental fantasy and romance. But, one would counter, there is still something valid that can be gained from the details, and satisfaction from the minutiae. When I read the great Richard Thompson, waxing lyrically about the Hunt #101 and Leonardt EF Principal nibs, I enjoy the presence in this world of one who has carefully observed the universe, at the granular level.

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Lo-lo-tech: a pen constructed from a plastic drinking straw, a wooden chopstick, an elastic band, and a Hunt #101 nib.

Of course, the whole idea of talking about the beauty of lo-tech pen and ink, and then using devices like scanners and computers and the internet to share the drawings, is rich with irony. More so given that the drawings in ‘Dysconnected’ critique the very devices on which they up to now have been viewed. And the added irony that, were it not for the daily rhythm that is begged by blogging, the series of drawings (which were posted daily for 4 months in early 2016) would likely not have propagated at such speed. All of this back and forth is delicious. To bring it all back to concrete objects, the drawings will now be available back on paper again, with the publication of the book late this month.

‘Dysconnected: Isolated By Our Mobile Devices’, a collection of over 75 illustrations with brief passages of interwoven quotes and text, all encouraging us to reflect on the way our phones and tablets have affected our behaviour, will soon be available on amazon.ca and amazon.com

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Devotion (from the ‘Dysconnected’ series)

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