Chris Muhl Art © 2019

With the artwork completed, the next challenge is transporting it safely into Portland to have it scanned to produce prints, and then to have it framed.

The artwork is about 50″ wide and 70″ tall and is delicate. I thought about attaching handles and wheels to the easel and leaving the artwork taped to it. However, the easel is too big, too heavy, and too awkward to maneuver.

The challenge was to create an apparatus that was sturdy, compact, and lightweight. I initially envisioned building something out of wood, but I was concerned about weight. I then drew up a design using PVC pipe. This would be lightweight, but I would it be rigid enough? Additionally, I don’t like using so much plastic if I can avoid it. I decided to go to Home Depot and look around and brainstorm.

Then I saw the 1/2″ copper pipe. Would 1/2″ copper pipe be strong enough? I looked back to my days sweating pipe with a landscaping company. I remembered sweated pipe being pretty sturdy.

Then I thought about oxidation. Humidity is on the dry side where I live, and the apparatus will be kept indoors. Oxidation should occur fairly slowly.

I quickly sketched out a design, bought the materials, and got to work. The final product should last for years, and will also serve as a means of storage, or a display board for finished artwork and prints.

The video below shows the process and final product.

I am excited to announce that DFA #1 is finished!

It has been nearly two years since I began the Drawings for Africa project in the summer of 2017. In total, I have made 4,902 measurements to ensure that all elements of the drawing are in near perfect proportion to one another, and that all wrinkles, folds, and other features are true to life. Using scientific sampling techniques and GIS software, I have been able to estimate the number of shapes that I have drawn in developing the texture of the skin. DFA #1 contains around 205,000 discernable shapes within a figure that is 35.5” wide by 50.5” tall. To draw a comparison, it is said that on a cloudless and moonless night, a full-sky reveals to the human eye around 9,000 discernable stars.

It is my hope that DFA #1 finds a home in a place open to public viewing. In my mind, art achieves its most valuable service when it inspires an audience to feel an intimate connection with the world beyond the self or encourages the viewer to contemplate the morality of their own way of life.

When we question the morality of our interactions with the world, compassion is alive within us, and there remains a potential to achieve greater degrees of equality among all life. But when we become indifferent, when we no longer question right and wrong, nor the impact of our actions on the world, we lose the ability to grow and progress together and to the benefit of one another. Questioning the goodness of our actions marks the difference between being truly alive, and somewhat dead inside. It is this deadness that I seek to change through art.

As the writer, Viktor Shklovsky remarked, “Art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony.”

We tend to accept life in the form in which it is handed to us. We adopt ways of living defined by technological innovation. And our interactions with the world are shaped by the ideologies of our time and the forces of social conditioning. But the abundant extravagances of the modern world often tarnish the quality of our own lives. As many people have remarked, we are so busy trying to experience everything, that we no longer feel the full substance of anything. And all too often, our encounters with the animate life occur through the inanimate window of technology. So, the stone loses its texture and the rose its fragrance.

Drawings for Africa is every ounce of the artist and environmentalist within me poured out onto a sheet of paper. It’s my attempt to “make the stone stony,” and to help an audience avoid the deadness of indifference.

Thanks for reading!!

When I started drawing this elephant, I had five white hairs on my head. I can now count nine. I have also earned a gaggle of wrinkles around my eyes from squinting while drawing the tens of thousands of tiny shapes that make up the texture of the skin. I have visibly aged while working on this one drawing. But white hairs and deep wrinkles I warmly embrace. Within the wrinkles of a face, lie the stories of each passing year. With time, each face develops its own unique character. This is the character of you. Worn by the wind, colored by the sun, shaped by decades of laughter and smiles, and sadness and pain. What a beautiful thing to age. With each day, we become more and more unique. And the more we explore, the more risks we take, the more we expose ourselves to the elements of life, the more exceptionally unique we become. The breadth and depth of our character expands exceedingly the further we venture from the crowds of conformity, like trees that grow at the extremes. If you have ever seen a bristlecone pine, you know what I mean. If I were a tree, I would want to be a bristlecone. Their beauty is not defined by height or girth or symmetry. Not everyone admires this type of tree. To one beholder, a bristlecone may appear peculiar, to another just downright ugly, yet for every bristlecone there is someone somewhere who will stand transfixed in wonder as their eyes take in the most glorious tree they have ever seen. They are not loved for being normal, but for being entirely unique. A bristlecone is loved for all its quirks. And isn’t that what we seek most in love, to find that one person who adores us for all our idiosyncrasies? So, there are some perks to growing old and gray. To all of you out there, I hope that you are accumulating the wrinkles of your dreams.

 

I’ve started the shading process on the face and trunk. Shading is where the fun begins, and I’m very excited to begin this process.

This project has really been a trial of patience. I had no idea when I started, how much time this would take. Along the way, I’ve listened to dozens of books that have carried my mind to every corner of the globe and throughout the span of human history. I’ve listened to thousands of songs of every genre. I’ve felt loneliness and isolation, and I have felt love and comfort. At times, my hand has even etched the emotions of my heart into the drawing.

And so for me, this artwork has become a journey of learning, an expression of love, and a test of my will. While there’s much work to be done, the fun is really just beginning. I look forward to sharing this adventure with you!

I hope everyone is happy and healthy, and enjoying lives filled with love, laughter, and smiles. And whatever your life’s pursuits may be, I wish you the best in achieving all that you can be.

I’ll leave you with a short fable that I picked out of Thoreau’s, Walden.

“There was an artist in the city of Kouroo who was disposed to strive after perfection. One day it came into his mind to make a staff. Having considered that in an imperfect work time is an ingredient, but into a perfect work time does not enter, he said to himself, It shall be perfect in all respects, though I should do nothing else in my life. He proceeded instantly to the forest for wood, being resolved that it should not be made of unsuitable material; and as he searched for and rejected stick after stick, his friends gradually deserted him, for they grew old in their works and died, but he grew not older by a moment. His singleness of purpose and resolution, and his elevated piety, endowed him, without his knowledge, with perennial youth. As he made no compromise with Time, Time kept out of his way, and only sighed at a distance because he could not overcome him. Before he had found a stick in all respects suitable, the city of Kouroo was a hoary ruin, and he sat on one of its mounds to peel the stick. Before he had given it the proper shape the dynasty of the Candahars was at an end, and with the point of the stick he wrote the name of the last of that race in the sand, and then resumed his work. By the time he had smoothed and polished the staff Kalpa was no longer the pole-star; and ere he had put on the ferule and the head adorned with precious stones, Brahma had awoke and slumbered many times. But why do I stay to mention these things? When the finishing stroke was put to his work, it suddenly expanded before the eyes of the astonished artist into the fairest of all the creations of Brahma. He had made a new system in making a staff, a world with full and fair proportions; in which, though the old cities and dynasties had passed away, fairer and more glorious ones had taken their places. And now he saw by the heap of shavings still fresh at his feet, that, for him and his work, the former lapse of time had been an illusion, and that no more time had elapsed than is required for a single scintillation from the brain of Brahma to fall on and inflame the tinder of a mortal brain. The material was pure, and his art was pure; how could the result be other than wonderful?”

 

 

Wrinkle by Wrinkle

For anyone following my blog, I’m sure you’re wondering, when will DFA #1 (a.k.a. the elephant drawing) be done. I hear this a lot from friends. The answer is, it’s still several months away from completion.

Why is it taking so long?

Well… I’m not a full-time artist. I’m currently working on wildfires, and my pencil only hits the paper between field assignments. Come the end of the fire season, I’ll be on DFA #1 non-stop until completion.

For those of you who have followed me this far, thank you!!! I have some big plans for the completed drawing and prints. I look forward to sharing the experience on my blog.

Cheers!

An Artist’s Website

After three days of design, coding (sort of), and content creation, my WordPress website/blog is up and running. WordPress makes it pretty easy, though knowledge of HTML and CSS is helpful.

I’ve looked at dozens of artist’s websites to see what the trends are. I deviated from the norm a bit, opting to place emphasis on the blog, and my current project, Drawings for Africa, instead of a gallery of work, as other artist’s tend to do.

I’ve tried to keep things simple. The blog will be the most dynamic part of the site, with updates, videos and pictures, and highlights of other enjoyable moments posted every week or two.

The purpose for this website is twofold, 1) to convey the story of my artwork, and 2) to provide a way for me to share news and information on environmental problems. I hope that my posts will serve as food for thought.

If you have any ideas or suggestions to improve this site, please feel free to comment.