CAS Research and Drawing Group 2020; Drawing languages for Dissent
Session 5; reading Miriam Cahn
I was thinking about Cahn’s softer lines and the indeterminate gender of some of her figures. I tried to draw a figure that was neither male nor female and I used (blue) soluble graphite* and splashed it with water and diluted pink ink.
*Graphite isn’t usually soluble.
I’m not sure how Derwent make it so.
It was interesting that the notion of materials affecting what or how we draw came up. I feel this very strongly but am never sure if others do.
Regarding Cahn’s ” black chalk”, Encyclopedia Britannica suggests that a visual art definition of chalk is “a prepared natural stone or earth substance that is usually available in black (made either from soft black stone or from a composition including lampblack), white (made from various types of limestone), and red, or sanguine […]”
The 1911 edition is more specific: “Black chalk or drawing slate is a soft carbonaceous schist, which gives a black streak, so that it can be used for drawing or writing.”
Miriam Cahn, in Yonat’s document, says that, for her, “black is the colour of life”.
The chemist part of me nodded in agreement: most black pigments use elemental carbon, and carbon is the raw material of life on earth. Of all the elements, carbon is by far and away the best at forming long chain molecules, which are essential for organic life.
I don’t use charcoal very often, in part because I prefer media that stays where I put it, and also my prelidiction for hard edges. Soft edges and gender vagaries. The clothed figure is meant to be either, or neither. Clothes maketh the man, but what if a woman wears men’s clothing? Our society accepts this (and I’m glad of it, because men’s clothing often fits me – I’m tall – better than women’s, and I find it very comfortable).
A note on different forms of carbon:
Lampblack is an amorphous form of carbon (ie it does not have a crystalline structure). Traditionally it is made using the sooty residue from oil lamps, and is the pigment used in Indian ink.
The use of the term “carbon” in relation to art materials (sticks and pencils are available) usually means amorphous carbon. It tend to be blacker than the blackest graphite or charcoal. This is because graphite’s crystalline structure reflects light, and charcoal is less pure (it contains a significant quantity of other elements).
“Carbonaceous schist” refers to a certain type of metamorphic rock that can be split into roughly parallel layers and is rich in carbon.
Coal, of course, is also predominately carbon. It’s a sedimentary rock, and as such could be a geological precursor to a “carbonaceous schist”.
(NB other black pigments exist – eg “Mars black” is an iron oxide – and some may occur as “soft black rocks”).
This drawing was made into the dilute pink ink using a fountain pen. Usually fountain pens make lovely, sharp lines – “masculine”, according to Cahn. I kind of like hard edges, but there you go.
One of the videos my daughter found for me to watch regarding trans issues was an (excellent) explainer made by two young academics, one of whom was a female-to-male trans. He had a neat beard, which I imagined that a) he was very proud of, and b) he might wear to disguise a residual feminine chin shape. So I gave this character a beard. And cartoon-like glasses, which might have been a subconscious reaction to the fact that the video concerned the furore over JK Rowling (author of Harry Potter).