I am working on a group of drawings about pollution in the air, specifically fine particulate matter (known as PM 2.5 in Asia) resulting from pollution. Pollution from factories and vehicle exhaust mixes with the dust that blows in from the Gobi desert in China. With millions of people still burning coal in China, who knows what is getting a free ride on that sand! Living and working near a chemical factory that could have been the scene for a sci-fi film lowered my resistance, and now I often wear a surgical mask to reduce exposure. I will not die without it, but the mask does reduce symptoms such as fatigue and headaches. This gave me the idea to a series of portraits of people wearing the masks. I would like to get some of my friends to pose and draw them, enough of them to almost cover a wall. Perhaps 5 x 5 for 25 or perhaps a rectangle of whatever number I can come up with?
The problem is that I am not sure what style to use. Only one self-portrait by itself can look a little hokey or self-indulgent. I am hoping that a group en masse will have greater impact.
One choice would be to go small and simple. This is pen on handmade paper made from recycled milk cartons and artist proofs of prints. (The black ink creates the grey tone of the paper.) The sheets of paper vary in size, are irregular in shape, and are about 5 or 6 square inches. The paper is heavily textured.
I could also do rough sketches in warm, brown and gold tones. I could do works on paper that are larger than the oversized postcards of recycled paper but smaller than my wooden panels. Or I could do this on a wooden square panel.
All-yellow sketches on paper are also an option. I kind of like focusing on the yellow aspect since the desert dust is called “kousa” or “yellow dust” in Japanese.
Or I could do yellow portraits on wooden panels that are 57 cm on each side. I was also thinking of adding a yellow shadowy head in the back and perhaps create a circular vignette as if viewed through a microscope lens.
Another option is a more colourful portrait surrounded by the same spores and circles that are in some of my abstract drawings. My main concern with this one is that it might be “too pretty” or too much like an illustration.
Imagine an entire wall of these drawings. Is multi-colour better than just yellow? Or should I do black-and-white on the wooden panels? Or a row of the smaller sketches on gray, textured paper? Or two walls of the same people with different colours? Should I write P on one mask, M on the next, 2 on a third, and .5 on the last in a group of 4? I could draw the portraits on the surgical masks, but isn’t that a bit too gimmicky?
Please let me know what you think. And, yes, I really do want to hear various opinions. In the end, I will decide by myself but it is nice to have a few sounding boards out there. Help!