Category Archives: New Projects

Contour line ritual

I started several drawing projects during last month’s residency Artists @ Work. While most of these drawings involved charcoal, I had one daily ritual that required clean hands.

Every morning I began the work day with a blind contour line drawing. Using a fine point marker on square sheets of paper, I drew what I saw in front of me with a continuous line, moving around and across the surfaces of objects, architectural structures, and people.


-list from illustrator Tim Dose

What makes these drawings quirky (some would say ugly) is the “blind” part of this process. Here are the rules: Do not look at your paper, only at the objects you’re drawing. Start at the edge of the paper and move slowly along observed contours, with your hand and eyes working in tandem. Do not stop or lift the pen until you run off the edge of the paper.

My goal was to create a 2-D representation of the 3-D space and a record of our residency, by beginning and ending at the same point. Instead, I started with the piano in the southeastern corner of the building and ended with Hester at the computer, in the northeastern corner. I spent too much time hung up on the ceiling.

I’m now in the process of connecting the 19 sheets in an accordion format. Using a sewing machine with white thread, I’m having fun linking the pages together with sewn/drawn shapes that describe what I can remember of the space – windows, podiums, a ladder, etc.

Friends and fellow resident artists Gale and Julia joined me for a group blind sketch: 

Mike Bergen's drawing of Carol


Animated drawing

Artists @ Work week 2 and 3:

I switched my focus the last two weeks of the residency from “crowd drawings”  to an animation project, based on the process used by South African artist William Kentridge. I’m animating a song lyric, 4 minutes in length, and this 19 second sequence is about half of the second stanza. It’s like a “rough draft” that allowed me to experiment with the process.

Draw mountain valley, “click”…

I layered multiple drawings and erasures on the same sheet of paper, usually making incremental changes that I photographed at each stage. After 6 days, I had 103 images viewed at 3 frames/second for the train sequence.

Draw gray smudge, "click"...

Enlarge gray smudge, "click"

Use eraser to make white rocks fly from smudge, "click"

It may be fortuitous coincidence, synchronicity, or divine intervention, but the public component of this residency turned my little project into a truly collaborative work. These guys wandered into the Arts Center and shared their knowledge: artist Bill Shumway, animator Matthew Coffin,  film editor Paul Ahrens, and Chris Gray, single-gauge railroad aficionado.

Josh Ritter my Muse

Here’s the thread: Josh Ritter tunes were my background sound while in the drawing studio this spring and summer (Hello Starling, The Animal Years), with a little Tom Jones and Yo-Yo Ma for variety.  In June, I chose Josh’s Bone of Song as the text for a workshop assignment to create a 32 page illustrated machette, at PNCA’s “Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books”, in Portland. Like many of his songs, it’s a poetic narrative lyric, full of visual metaphors…and it made my job easier to focus on illustration and skip the writing part for now (only a 4 day class).

Preliminary thumbnail sketches for the book dummy (machette). I imagined a boy, about 10 years old, as the narrator. But you can’t have a boy wandering through the Palouse fields and woods without some kind of companion, a dog perhaps?

While at PNCA, I found out Josh was coming to Portland in July for a book reading at Powells –he just released his first novel Bright’s Passage.  Soooo Greg (my other muse) and I took off for Portland yesterday, early enough to grab two front row seats at Josh’s reading. The energy in the standing room only crowd rose when a Powell’s dude placed a glass of water and a guitar at the speaker’s podium. 

Josh interspersed the readings with 3 songs and I will sound like a goofy fan if I gush on, but it was AWESOME!  Do not miss him if you get the chance to see him in any venue: bookstore, concert hall, poetry group. Got my autographed copy of the book and I’ll read it when we get back to Idaho in a few weeks …at the cabin, up the St. Joe, with a bottle of Guinness draught.

My Summer Residency

Untitled drawing, in progress

Black Thumb Art Studio will be operating out of The Arts Center in July for a month long residency called Artists @ Work.  I’ll join three other artists in turning the main gallery space into an open studio where we will pursue our individual work and interact with the public.

I’m working on a series of drawings that investigates group dynamics and the subject/object dichotomy with drawings based on overheard conversations. There are two public components to this work, and I’m soliciting your help:

Sketchbook gesture for drawing above

Photo references – I’m looking for a variety of bodies to use as references for the drawings. Come by the Center and I’ll shoot your pic.

Eavesdropping – what odd, funny, crazy … bit of conversation have you overheard, unintentionally of course?

Artists @ Work • The Arts Center • 700 SW Madison Ave • Corvallis, OR • 12-5 Tue-Sat • 541-754-1551