This post looks at the original source drawings that served as inspiration for my Random Quadrupeds series. In my previous posts (Part 1, Part 2) about this series I wrote primarily about the process and the finished pieces. It was only in hindsight, while looking for a specific file for another purpose, that I remembered the origin story of the concept, as compared to the motivation for the series.
It’s now approximately eighteen months since I originally began this project, and some of the details are hazy because so much has happened since then. But at its essence, the origin is not a whole lot different from process I had normally used when conceiving of a new body of work.
- Flip through my sketchbooks (either physically or digitally) to look for patterns, inspiration, resonances, or anything that catches my eye. (Digression: in this case it was digital because most of my 80+ sketchbooks are in storage, several were damaged in a flood a few years ago. And much as I love the tactility of leafing through books, some are very smudgy, I can never avoid paper cuts, and sometimes I just want to quickly skim through thousands of thumbnails.)
- Shortlist a few ideas.
- Pick one idea to work with, and select the working drawings.
- Work up a rough piece or two and see if it holds my interest. If not, start over.
- Continue to make pieces from the items selected at step 3.
- Maybe work the theme into daily sketchbook drawings. This depends on interest, inspiration, and whether or not I have a regular sketchbook habit.
- Maybe make completely new pieces directly, without base drawings.
Steps 4-7 are not always a linear process.
As I mentioned in another post, for this new series I wanted something fun, cheerful, simple, and sustainable:
- Sustainable meant something that I could work on for at least a couple of weeks. Without getting bored or burning out.
- Simple meant that it wasn’t going to take a huge time commitment: up to a few hours a day, but usually an hour or less. I didn’t want something on the scale of Encounters or Transit and Transience, which sometimes took days to complete.
- Fun and cheerful because we were in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been some tough times in my personal life. I felt that my life was already “doomscrolly” enough, and I was creating my own timeline cleanse. This also relates a bit to my reasons for returning to art practice after a 9-year hiatus: ultimately I felt that I could make a more positive contribution to the world via my art than by writing yet another business case study that’d suffer bitrot in an executive’s digital storage.
I eventually fell in love with a handful of quirky creatures that I had drawn in 2004. They were silly and often made me laugh out loud, even after looking at the multiple times. I remember commenting to Lia (my wife): “these are really random”. And since they were all four-legged creatures, I just started calling them “random quadrupeds” and the name stuck. The drawings themselves were not my usual sketchbook drawings. We were living in Japan at the time, and I had gotten into the habit of carrying around a stack of what I believe are B6-sized cards (approx 5″ x 7″) and trying to create a complete pen-and-ink composition each time I sat down with one. I ended up selecting seventeen of these drawings for the series.