Craft & Character (Part II: The Sublime Mark)

Until January I have an exhibition up at the Lee Center in Alexandria, VA. This exhibit is in the  director’s office of Parks and Recreation. In order to visit this show you will need to arrange an appointment through the Alexandria City Commission for the Arts. (You can call 703-746-5588 and talk to Sarah about arranging this.) Below is a brief statement I wrote about the exhibition, and some images of the work.

Closeup on a pen & ink drawing by Matthew Kiehl

Drawing and writing with a pen can be an activity wrought with fear, as one is unable to take back any kind of mistakes. Fear of mistakes cause many people to avoid creative endeavors, but this excitement is one thing that drives my work. Drawing with a pen can be full of adrenalin, like walking on a tightrope, with dire consequences to the left and the right. Like the tightrope walker an artist can become attuned to the motion of everything, the vibrations in one’s hands and arms, the dampness of the ink, the movement of each fiber in the brush or the rotation of the ball in the pen, the give of the paper and the desk, the humidity of one’s skin and breath, even the movement of one’s eyes and the beating of one’s heart. The most delicate of marks must be made during moments of stillness, when one is holding one’s breath, and when the hand and heart are still.

Closeup on a pen & ink drawing by Matthew Kiehl

Most marks however are made within the Eb and flow of all these things, like a captain guiding a ship on a stormy sea, making the best of it, attempting to complete the journey despite setbacks. In ways it can also be like an archer, firing from a riding horse at a moving target, who, with practice makes it look easy. To further increase the risk and the excitement, I do not deeply preplan my work but let the work evolve shape by shape. Often I will only draft a geometric outline within which to draw (Like the shape of a circle or arch). These drawings are the end product of a sort of jazz, written on boat upon a stormy, rocky sea, in the still moments between breaths. 

“The Monastery”, pen & ink, by Matthew Kiehl

Sometimes my best marks are made after I have been drawing for some time. After about six to eight hours of drawing my movements can become very smooth, with a light touch. (My drawings can take hundreds of hours to complete, as much as two hours per square inch)

Many artists use art to unwind, or to escape, but I use my art in order to take a deeper grasp of reality, to sense, to look, to feel, to listen. Ultimately it is a craft of love and empathy.

If you are in Alexandria you should also stop to see “Craft & Character (Part1: Wasteland)”
Part three of the Craft & Character exhibit series, “An Exploration of Light” will open in July at the workhouse arts center – (The opening reception is July 14th from 6-9pm, I hope to see you there).


Matthew Kiehl

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5 Responses to Craft & Character (Part II: The Sublime Mark)

  1. Rachél says:

    Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Rob Currie says:

    Wow very nice! I can really relate with your comments…I like to draw “organic patterns” (thats how I describe it to people) sometimes mazes and things like that. Something about the tedious nature of the work draws me in and causes me to focus just like you are describing. As I kept reading I was saying “yes, yes, YES this is true”!

    • mdkiehl says:

      Thanks Rob. I’ve been finding recently that I can describe what I’m doing in my art fairly well, this one came out rather poetic, almost better than the drawings themselves hah. I have a few more essays I hope to post up soonish. Thanks for reading!

  3. Pingback: Accursed Are The Rich (The Rich Man and Lazarus) | Matthew D. Kiehl

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