Sketchbook: Black and White


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“Drawing is still basically the same as it has been since prehistoric times.  It brings together man and the world.  It lives through magic.” — Keith Haring

“Color weakens.” — Picasso

I love drawing, an act I find profoundly meditative, and most especially I love drawing with pen and ink.  There is a power you get with black and white that isn’t achievable through color.  Writer and photo historian Peter Bunnell said, “Full-color images lack the poignancy of monochrome. . . Black-and-white film inherently peels off interesting images from the world; it sees things we do not see, and thus insists on the existence of a phantom presence within reality, a world we cannot perceive.”  And In Praise of Shadows, a long essay about the aesthetics of the sublime in Japanese culture, Junichiro Tanizaki said “we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.”

By stripping away the color, the power of the pattern emerges.  The absolute contrasts are eloquent and bold.  Drawing with ink is closer to writing.  It contains the seeds of an ancient magic, as so profoundly depicted in Werner Herzog’s documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, in which Herzog leads the viewer into the depths of the mysterious Chauvet Cave in southern France.  Although these images, the oldest human ones yet discovered, are called “paintings,”  I read them as drawings, and when I draw I feel connected to these ancient humans.

To me, color is symphonic, and I think of these sketchbook drawings as more like piano pieces, frozen pieces of time.  Of course, sometimes a hint of color does seem warranted.  Though nowhere near as talented as these artists, my influences include Vincent Van Gogh’s drawings, the paintings of Maurice Utrillo, and the prints of Hokusai.


3 thoughts on “Sketchbook: Black and White

  1. PS: I just read and viewed these- “The Entire UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report in 19 Illustrated Haiku”
    A work of art that doubles as powerful talking points and a visual guide.
    Anna Fahey on December 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm – here:

  2. Annie, You give us such rich, fare! Both in your writing itself about drawing as well as in your lovely drawings themselves. The web links you give us to the artists who’ve most influenced you and your work could engage me for hours. What a rich life you live, pondering and making this art!
    By the way, I rarely buy DVD’s but I so appreciated Werner Herzo’s Documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, I bought it.
    Oh but how poignant it was to learn, in that film’s Features at the end of the documentary that a nuclear plant was located not far from this precious cave, if I’m not mistaken, now closed to the public.
    My heartfelt thanks, dear Annie,

  3. The serpentine is reminiscent of Beardsley. I myself have always admired the prints of Piranesi and Durer, and the drawings of Rembrandt, Degas, and Cezanne. Birches are themselves perfect drawings. I hope you continue in this vein.

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