This is the beginning stage of the super grid. When you obsessively date and time things (like me) getting page order correct is important. This piece required a level of planning that I had not engaged in before. This last year I have been contemplating larger and larger projects, and not necessarily in literal terms, e.g. larger paintings (all though, yes larger paintings too).
One of the things I did not anticipate when I started this was how much I would notice the ink capacity of the pens. I used Micron 01s – it took a whole box of 12 to finish this wall. Each pen will only do 4 18×24 inch pages like these. At the end of the 4th page, the pen is scraping the page, ink is still coming out but you have to press much harder and it would not complete a whole other page. I didn’t want want to have the figures abruptly shift in opacity by changing pens mid-page so I kept to 4. I marked each pen with a Sharpie each time I completed a page so I could pick up where I left off and not risk a pen running out mid page.
Another thing I did not anticipate was the physical toll this would take on my body. I am a heavy computer user and already very familiar with carpel tunnel syndrome. This project elevated that awareness to an entirely whole new level. When I started in on the first page early in the morning everything was normal. I usually sketch for an hour or so in the morning but my normal sketch books are done at a relaxed and free form state. Uniform pages like this require intense attention to each figure. A rhythm must build up so that a similar amount of time is spent on each drawing, otherwise figures will seem heavy from a distance. I usually do this by listening to music. The first couple of sessions on this wall were spent mostly listening to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, whereas during the second half of the project I was listening mostly to Gal Costa, Erasmo Carlos and the Jorge Ben album “Africa Brasil”.
But back to carpel tunnel syndrome. At the beginning I was stretching my arm and wrist after every page. By the 5th group of 4 pages I was stretching after every line. Sometimes in the middle of a line. And the effect was cumulative. I kept myself to only a few pages at a time, usually 2 or 3 per session. A few times I would have an early morning session and then an evening attack but for the most part it was 2-3 pages per day with a full day of rest for my hand and wrist in between. By the last group of 4 pages, even with resting and stretching after each row my hand felt like it was going to seize up. Within the first line my thumb would start to ache and start to lose mobility. Ibuprofen helped the wrist but could not tackle the aching in my fingers. Since completing the wall I have not drawn much, a few sketchbook pages here and there but I want to fully rest up my arm and decide exactly what I am going to do next. I need to paint some more. Painting uses a different set of muscles and does not take the same toll as drawing. Your body aches from standing in front of of an easel all day, and your hands get tired from holding a brush but its nothing compared to the hundreds of movements in just one of these pages.