A few weeks back I was asked if I wanted to submit a piece for an art show about basketball. I have been making software screens at work for a few months now and took this as an opportunity to shift gears a bit and switch from digital to analog making. I started with an idea for a piece that was about playground ball. I was thinking about trying to stay away from how basketball is usually illustrated (superhero comic book), and would instead try to make something more painterly. I had my kids take some pictures of me that I used as source material:
The working title was “Bros before Pros” (heh). I wanted to use watercolors and draw into it a bit. As I broke out the paints and started getting things down, I realized something: I’m not a very good watercolor painter. I haven’t been painting much over the last few years and for me to think that it was going to magically come back to me was pretty optimistic. So change of plans:
While making this scratchboard, I started thinking that this was getting a bit too close to the comicbook aesthetic that I was trying to avoid, and a picture of Damian Lillard is just a picture of Damian Lillard, how could I make it more interesting? Since Dame is the man, I figured I might try to represent him as the savior of Portland basketball.
This sketch had a lot of potential, but I wasn’t really sure how I was going to pull it together. I decided to visit the art store would help me figure it out. I picked up a water soluble pencil, which I’ve never used before and decided to try making something with that. I was thinking a lot about Clyde Drexler as a possible subject, but didn’t want to portray him in the same way. I made this little study to play with the new materials and see what they could do.
I really like the water pencil. The way it created washes was interesting and loose. I wasn’t happy with my rendering of Clyde Drexler though, so I thought maybe I’d combine the ideas of religious painting and basketball with a picture of Rasheed Wallace as Saint Sebastian. The picture came together really easily and I though maybe this was it.
I even went so far as to send a picture of this to Jeremy the one who asked me to be in the show as my final piece. I thought it was going to be fine. That week I attended the Flatstock event that was happening in the convention center as part of SXSW. I walked by the booth of Gary Houston and saw him sitting in a lawn chair drinking a beer and noodling away on a scratchboard. I stopped and talked to him, found out that he was from Portland and that the clay scratchboards are made just down the road in Buda, Texas. Gary shared his thoughts on them and I could see such a difference in the quality of what he was doing vs. the paper scratchboards that I was used to making. I was intrigued. Then during a clean up of the house, the evening before I was planing on shipping my drawing to Jeremy for the show, I accidentally (or fortuitously?) sprayed the Wallace drawing with spray cleaner and it was ruined! I kind of got a little sweaty when it happened. After deciding that there was no saving it, I decided to make another version of the drawing. I got a good start, and almost immediately saw that it was going to be a better picture than the first. It was late and I felt that I would somehow be able to wrap it up and get in the mail in the next day or two.
Man, it’s really coming along. I looked back at the first Wallace and thought “How could I have been ok with that one?” This was going to be so much better. As I was falling asleep I started thinking about the scratchboard. I needed to buy a frame for the piece, so the next day when I visited the art store I saw the scratchboards and decided to pick one up. I thought I’d give a shot at making the newly started drawing on the scratchboard and as soon as I made a few marks I was sold. I pushed the piece out and got it off a bit late, but still with plenty of time for the show. The final piece is the result of all these explorations and it couldn’t have happened without them. Sometimes getting to the right destination requires a slightly longer trip. The show opens on first Thursday at the ESA Gallery at 915 NW 19th in Portland. If you are in town, come down and check it out. There are a ton of really great artists showing.