I finished this drawing little over a month ago and thought I’d show you some close-up shots of the drawing’s details.
Here is another in-progress shot of one of my small drawings. The piece is 4×5 inches, graphite and ink on paper. I’ve been focusing on small work lately, and have really enjoyed creating these little gems.
I draw the deepest shadows with ink, and use graphite for the rest of the drawing. In the background you can see my favorite mechanical pencil and a fine-point pigment ink pen. The pen has a tiny .2mm tip. The pencil contains .5mm lead. For drawing extremely fine details, I will carefully sharpen this lead even finer with an x-acto knife.
Here are some installation shots of Constellations in Purdue University’s Ringel Gallery.
Thanks to Purdue University for hosting this beautiful show and inviting me out to speak. The reception was lovely. I was too busy to get any photos from the reception, but my gallery talk was filmed, so I will provide a link once that video is up online.
Today is the opening of my solo exhibition Constellations, on view at Ringel Gallery on campus of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. The gallery is open Monday – Saturday, 10am to 5pm, with extended hours on Thursday to 8pm.
I am giving a gallery talk on Thurs, Sept 11 at 5:30pm, which will be followed by a reception at 7pm. Both events are free and open to the public. For those who cannot attend, I’ll post some photos of the show after I return from my trip to Indiana.
I recently received a question asking how I achieve very smooth blending in my charcoal drawings without leaving lines. I’d say 90% of it is experience and practice, and the other 10% is using the right tools.
I don’t approach drawing as if I am capturing a series of outlines. Rather, I am drawing light and shadow. Instead of lines, I draw gradients that create shadows and highlights. This means I almost never draw directly on the paper with a piece of charcoal. If I don’t make lines on my paper in the first place, I’ll never have to worry about blending out those lines together later on. A line is drawn only if I want that line to appear in the finished piece.
These are some of my most useful tools for blending and shading charcoal. Next to my charcoal holder we have some pieces of chamois, small foam sponges, and a few tortillons. These are the tools I use most often. The secrets of my success! I use these for application as much as I do for blending.
Which tool I chose depends on the texture and level of darkness I want to achieve. A soft, clean sponge or cotton cloth is good for the very lightest areas. The softer the material the better. Overtime these clothes and sponges will accumulate charcoal powder, and they will be more useful in slightly darker areas. Because they tend to lift charcoal from the drawings surface, there is a limit to the shadows they can be used for. For darker areas, a harder material like paper and chamois is better. My fingertips are perfect for the very darkest blacks; they lift almost no charcoal off the paper, and the oil from my skin lends a bit of luster and depth to the charcoal, creating deeper, velvety blacks.
There are plenty of other objects that work well for blending, like brushes, old kneaded erasers, makeup applicators, corduroy, and newsprint. Experimentation is the best way to learn what suits your personal style and technique.
If you have any questions about my work or process, ask away! Leave a comment below or send an email to email@example.com.
This copy of Bl!sss Magazine just arrived at my studio yesterday. I was interviewed by Liz Rice McCray, and our conversation appears on page 46 of the August 2014 issue. My drawing Alcyone was selected to illustrate the interview. Copies of Bl!sss can be ordered from their website, and the current issue may be viewed online here. For those unable to access the magazine, I’ve written out my responses below.
Your drawings are often scaled to life-size form, 10-feet tall. Will you share some of your creative process while creating these drawings? For example, how long it takes to create, medium, your strategies to sustain interest, enthusiasm, and concentration?
The large-scale work is my favorite because I enjoy creating something that is my own size. There is an odd comfort in feeling like my body would fit inside the drawing. These pieces can take well over 200 hours to complete, and the entire time I feel an urgency. What if something were to happen and I had to leave the drawing unfinished? That would be terrible. Whether large or small, an unfinished piece really nags at me. That’s one reason I put so much effort into the preliminary drawing process; I have to make absolute sure a piece will work before I begin, because once I start, I have to see the thing through.
Do you ever get tangled in bodies? What is your process to conceptualize a piece, refine it, “test” it, etc?
My process begins in a very hands-off manner, and switches to tightly-controlled by the end. My models are given free reign to improvise their own poses and move however they want while I stay out of their way and snap photographs. This leaves me with a wealth of images to sift through, play with, arrange in different configurations. It’s a very intuitive process that is alternately liberating and maddening; I’ve spend many hours shifting bodies around by millimeters, trying to get everything placed just right. I make dozens of detailed sketches from these images before I hit on one that has the right rhythm and will work well as a drawing. Then after deciding what size it should be, I can begin the artpiece.
What do you think is most misunderstood about your work?
I really don’t know. I hope people bring their own personal experiences and interpretations to my work. So If two different people have totally different understandings of a piece, that’s fine with me.
You draw from models; do you utilize dance to help you identify, refine, etc? Are your models dancers?
A few of my models have identified as dancers; most have not. Everyone carries themselves a little differently and moves with their own personal lexicon of body language. So working with a diverse array of people is very important to keeping the art fresh. Dancers make great models because they’ve been trained to convey meaning with their bodies. But the rest of us do that too, even if we might not be so conscious of it. Often the untrained can bring something really unexpected and special to the process.
Are you a dancer or were you once a dancer?
I am not a dancer, though I love dance and am influenced by it. I never had the opportunity to take dance classes when I was younger, and at this stage of my life, it’s just not going to happen. I think of myself more as a choreographer, and my drawings conduct a sort of dance.
Do you dream about flying or falling?
No, I don’t. I think some people assume my work is about my dreams because the drawings feel dream-like. I certainly make dreamy images, but they are not based on any dreams I’ve ever had.
You are formally trained: Pratt Institute, M.F.A. Painting/Drawing and University of New York at Fredonia, Fredonia, B.F.A. Painting/Drawing, Minor: Art History. Will you share a little about your school experience?
I really enjoyed being a student. It was the first time I’d ever been around other artists. Art school is a little protective bubble in which you are actually encouraged to create. The minute you leave school that encouragement evaporates. It’s time to be responsible, get a real job, pay bills, get married, have kids, stop wasting so much time on your self-indulgent “hobby.” To be an artist, particularly one not from an affluent background, requires incredible drive and dedication. I was lucky to have professors that prepared me by instilling me with a real work ethic.
What’s coming up next for you?
That’s a question I am rarely able to answer. I’m flying by the seat of my pants.
Where can people check out more of your art?
My website: leahyerpe.com
I have some great news! Purdue University has invited me to have a solo exhibition Sept 2 through Oct 11. The show will is titled Constellations, and will be held in Ringel Gallery on Purdue’s campus in Lafayette, Indiana. At the moment I’m busy packing up work to be shipped out in a couple weeks, so stay tuned for more details to come!
In the meantime, I’d like to thank Downtown Magazine NYC for selecting my drawing Daphne’s Roots as their feature image for this article about Art Southampton.
Dillon Gallery will be displaying six of my new pieces at this summer’s Art Southampton fair. We just finished framing five new small graphite drawings and one 38×50 inch charcoal drawing, and they look great!
The fair takes place July 24-28, with a VIP preview July 24th at 6pm. The fair takes place in the Art Southampton Pavilion at the Southampton Elks Lodge, 605 County Road 39, Southampton, NY 11968. You can purchase tickets online here.
Hope you can make it to see these pieces before they’re gone!
Thanks to everyone who made it out during Bushwick Open Studios! The weekend was a great success, and it was fun to open up my studio to the public. If you couldn’t make it, a few of my drawings are hanging downstairs in Dillon Gallery, at 555 West 25th Street in Manhattan, NY.
Thanks to Michael Sanderson for writing this nice profile of my work on the Arts in Bushwick Blog.