Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"It's simple: You just take something and do something to it, and then do something else to it. Keep doing this, and pretty soon, you've got something." ~ Jasper Johns

Bales, Striping, Hollibaugh, Xircus. Braze, Sand Swirl, Paradox, Shattuck,
Pearls, Flux, Tipple, Crescent Moon, Printemps, Fescu (with perfs)
Bales, Striping, Hollibaugh, Xircus. Braze, Sand Swirl, Paradox, Shattuck,

Pearls, Flux, Tipple, Crescent Moon, Printemps, Fescu (with perfs)

I found today's quote in Bert Dodson's wonderful book Keys to Drawing with Imagination. As Dodson explains, Johns gave this response when someone asked him to say a few words about the creative process. Sometimes, I feel the wisdom of his response when I am drawing. I start with a string, fill one area with pen strokes, and it continues that way until all of the areas are filled with design. That's what happened with the tile to the left, which I drew a few days ago. I decided to add the Fescu with perfs on a whim at the very end. The Crescent Moon lady bugs around the outside edge also appeared on a whim. Isn't Zentangle often that way?


Scent by Jasper Johns (1975-76)
What Johns says about taking something and doing something to it and all that is absolutely true, of course, but those who get that don't need the explanation in the first place. It seems he was trying to explain visual wisdom verbally, which doesn't really work all that well. When I'm not drawing, I teach academic writing to non-native English speakers. If I found Mr. Johns' quote in an essay draft, I would write in the margin, "Elaborate." If
Mr. Johns were my student, his next draft would probably look something like this:


Jasper Johns is alive and well -- he's 85, and may still be making art. I doubt he is aware of Zentangle, but if he were, he would have to laugh at the step outs for Nekton.  Clearly, he knew this pattern in 1977, long before it was reborn as a tangle.