October 7, 2019

From Seed To Fruition - My Aerial Images of Large Scale Drawings Chosen for Western Massachusetts Visual Arts Biennial


Opening reception: In conjunction with Arts Night Out, Friday, October 11th, 5:00 - 8:00PM, at Forbes Library’s Hosmer Gallery, 20 West St., Northampton MA

Exhibition jurors: Donna Gates, Gallery Director and Curator, Salmon Falls Gallery; Jameson Johnson, Founder and Editor in chief, The Boston Art Review; Robert Wiesenburger, the Associate Curator of Contemporary Projects for The Clark Art Institute.

Friend and artist Keris Salmon recently introduced me via email to an artist friend of hers, Anna Hepler. When Hepler and I met (we both live in Greenfield), I learned that she often originates a certain idea/form and then manifests the same idea/form in a variety of media, such as clay, wood and block printing. Her multiple renderings of a single idea in a various ways planted a seed in my creative vision. 

Drawing with Dew

I sometimes do Zentangle drawing, an art form that blends drawing and meditation. By drawing repeated, structured patterns, abstract beauty emerges. Normally, with Zentangle, I use a pen and pencil, drawing on 3.5 inch squares of paper. Inspired by Hepler’s multifaceted approach, I wondered what it would be like to make a computer generated 3D print of a Zentangle pattern and then block print it, or draw on a scale so large that the image would only be fully visible from the sky.

Rick's Paradox - Straight Lines Create Curves - Zentangle Drawing (Not in the exhibition)
My personal artistic vision is one of open-minded exploration. While I love to go back in time, such as drawing with ink made from crushed berries, I also warmly embrace the use of contemporary digital tools. The fruition of my project combined elemental mark making using my feet with using a drone for aerial imaging of the large-scale artworks.

Drawing with Sand


One time I drew by shuffling my feet through dewy grass on the field behind Four Corners School in Greenfield, Mass. Another time, at the Green River Swimming and Recreation Area, I made lines in the sand with a single foot. At Walden Pond in Concord Mass., my drawing straddled the shoreline, with some lines continuing from the sandy beach under the pond’s surface. In each location, upon completing the drawing, I sent my drone aloft to photograph the work from on high.

Drawing with Sand and Water (Not in the exhibition)




My project bore so many fruits: ephemeral artwork that lasted mere hours before evaporating or being walked on; cardiovascular benefits as I worked up a sweat by walking/drawing; a mindfulness practice of literally taking it one step at a time, and a necessity to focus on the process, as I could not even see the product without flying a drone into the sky!

Thank you Anna Hepler for planting the seed.

It takes a village...  Big thanks also to former students Jason Kan and Zach Bednarczyk who have taught me everything I know about piloting drones for aerial imaging.  Thanks also to Jason for emboldening me to push the limits when editing images in Lightroom.  I would be remiss to not mention Cheryl Cianci, who I met at a gallery in Hartford. Her enthusiasm about the Zentangle drawing method led me to become a Certified Zentangle Teacher.

Professor John Nordell teaches courses in the Visual and Digital Arts Program at American International College in Springfield, Mass. He blogs about the creative process at CreateLookEnjoy.com  Instagram: @john.nordell

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