Peek Inside the Studio: Question for You

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!




10 thoughts on “Peek Inside the Studio: Question for You

  1. I like the all yellow sketches since it evokes the feeling of particulate matter/pollution. The idea of making the sketches into a mixed media piece by incorporating actual masks or their material also popped up. The masks could be enhanced with the yellow to give a materiality to the particulate matter.


    1. I know what you are saying but I worry about being too hokey or gimmicky. If I had a paper beater, I could make paper from the masks. I don’t think my little blender would be strong enough to tear the surgical masks into little pieces. They are quite tough.


    2. I think I have to push it even more though. Or do two or three groupings of them. Are you volunteering to be a model, Arthur? 😉


  2. Could you shred the masks with a shredder first? After that if you are feeling strong you could do as Iwano Ichibei does and bang the crap out of them with a cricket bat until they break down enough to go in the blender. Could make some interesting moulded paper reliefs of your head?!
    I did immediately like the portrait with the abstract flower painting next to it but maybe you are right it is too pretty for what you are trying to say.


    1. Masks are soft fibers. In the past when I have tried shredding soft, fibrous paper like this, they get clogged in the shredder and the machine jams. In Kyushu I shred everything! It all makes compost. If we could get a metal garbage can and the motor and blades from a lawn mower or small boat…


    2. For a 3D mask, why not just go to Pola and get a facial. Those shops often have the paper masks drying outside. 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s