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plant system development

April 19, 2009 at 5:32 am

This is the promised “I love drawing part 2” update: showing the bottom part of the poster, and the drawing of the plants! (hey, it’s a Plant Sale poster: you gotta have plants on it.) These transparencies are all ready now, I’m just waiting for an information double-check before I shoot the screens… so this is a voyage into the recent past.

sneak preview:
plant drawing

Here’s a hard-to-see picture of the first idea I drew: plants are coming out of a pot and climbing up around the letters… okay.

plants development 1

Now, here is a better idea (which is pretty much the original idea I had for the poster in the first place):

plants development 2

The next photo was taken some time later; I missed taking a picture of the intermediate stage when I was beginning the sketches of the plants…

plants development 3

I had vaguely promised myself not to bring any perspective drawing into the process for this poster, but I decided to use perspective after all, and it ended up making things easier and probably faster. There are two different sets of vanishing points here, which lie on the same horizon line — allowing the houses to exist in a coherent space, but not have to be lined up to each other in a right-angled grid. (The white paper attached at the right & left of the drawing above creates ‘wings’ that extend outward as far as they need to go to fit the vanishing points.) To keep things easy & simple, though, I based the vanishing-point locations off of my initial sketch houses, instead of making an “accurate” perspective system and then re-drawing the houses to fit it, as I did for the Farmers’ Markets poster. It ended up being pretty fast and loose. Following in the footsteps of Piranesi! (more-or-less)

I initially intended to use a bunch of drawings of pea plants that I made in 2004 as the basis for this poster. However, I looked for them… and looked for them… and didn’t find them. (The act of looking was productive, though: I ended up cleaning out my whole flat file and organizing all my old transparencies and preliminary artwork!) It being end-of-March/early-April all the pea plants in existence in my area were still in their small round dried wrinkly form, so I used the ever-helpful Internet for (many, many) photo references. This meant that I was inventing an amalgam/generic plant… but I still wanted it to make sense, and be recognizable as a pea plant, and have an internal logic that governed its “growth” and structure.

After I had drawn the bottom of the poster (in the photo above) I had the “pea plant system” pretty much down, and just kept going for it, guided by practice, compositional demands, and mysterious echoes of sense memory that somehow came back to me from when I made all those pea-plant drawings five years ago. At first, I felt that the peas weren’t dense enough, they weren’t as tangled as the plants in some of the photos I was looking at… then as I kept drawing, following each stem to its ‘logical’ extension, they got extremely interwoven, often to the point of my extreme confusion & puzzlement. Which was brain-fusing on occasion, but also pretty great.

Here’s a sequence of the drawing in progress:

plants grow #1

plants grow #2

plants grow #3

plants grow #4

Below is the whole poster at about this stage: notice the many unfinished plant stems remaining in the center.

[On the right, you can see the two pencils I’m drawing with: an ‘H’ lead (in a staedtler architect’s lead-holder, keeping a sharp point on it) for the rough drawings, then going over lines when they are finalized with an ‘HB’ lead in a pentel mechanical pencil, for a line that is a little darker & more definitive. The blue colored pencil that I am using to keep myself un-confused is also present!]

mid-plant drawing stage

Okay, make some more tea, don’t stop, keep drawing! (about now is the moment when I start to wonder: “how did I get myself into this mess??!?”)

loose ends…

some loose ends…

…mostly tied up.

tied up

some details:

plants detail #1

plants detail #2 - pretty much done!

Next step: inking the transparencies!

a couple of studio organizational updates:

The two-desk system in effective action. I cleaned off the huge pile that had accumulated on the left-hand ‘business’ desk three days before Tax Day. Perfect timing… YES!!!

two desks of glory
[left-hand desk: taxes. right-hand desk: drawing for poster. under right-hand desk: laundry!]

Upstairs: these giant flat-file shelves were an amazing gift from Meg Turner‘s parents. [Amps, iced-tea containers, and noise-making metal grids all belong to Scott.]

flat file boxes

… and in the flat-file shelves: 60+ brown paper folders of different sizes, containing all the old transparencies & process work for almost every poster I’ve ever made!

foldered transparencies

I know, kraft paper is so not archival — but it’s really, really good to have these put away safe instead of in messy drawers where they were just getting slowly destroyed. The real archiving can wait until the far-off day when I have a huge roll of glassine and an Intern!


  1. awesome tendrils, will I be able to get one, I’d like one for my studio!! Great to see your space finally coming together like this, wish I could say the same for mine, but most of the insulation is up and the lights work, who needs walls anyway!!

    Comment by deb — May 5, 2009 @ 8:22 pm
  2. yeah! I was definitely thinking of your paisleys, and of surreal wallpapers, as I was drawing this stuff… what is really crazy about this poster — which I didn’t realize till I was in the middle of printing the final color — is that, when two prints are lined up next to each other, almost all the pea tendrils that go off the edge actually connect, in a smooth curve, to tendrils on the other edge of the poster! (does that make sense? I will take a picture) so, it almost is like wallpaper already…

    and yeah, insulation — that is what our ceiling, roof, and walls all lack… we are renting so there’s no chance for, or rationale behind, trying to insulate at this point… but we definitely feel it in the winter. yikes!

    Comment by jean — May 6, 2009 @ 2:07 am

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