I recently completed the first 5 of pen-drawing series of leaves titled “life per leaf".
Initially, I started the leaf drawings just expecting that they would become something visually beautiful. I could tell from some black and white photos of leaves that they would be excellent subjects for drawings by pen. So, I collected some reference photos of different types of leaves and started to draw from the simplest one.
While I was working on the first piece of the leaf drawing, an idea gradually started to grow…i.e. this series could be something more profound. Something like, connecting the shapes, values, the way the leaves are etc., with our way of life.
Hence the series “life per leaf” was born.
This may appear to be a pretty weird drawing of a leaf…this is not actually a drawing of a leaf but a drawing of contrast, a drawing of a set of different values expressed in the form of a leaf. If I had wanted to achieve a realistic drawing of a leaf, I would have made the transition of the values much more gradual. But “the smooth transition of values often observed in a photo of a leaf” is not a necessary element for this piece considering the purpose of drawing this work. So, I did not try to express the strictly photo-realistic values transitions in this image, but rather left the haphazard arrangement of the values as it was; the arrangement which, in fact, naturally developed while drawing this piece.
So, how is this drawing positioned in terms of the series “life per leaf”?
The term “values” can mean many different things, but I was thinking about values purely as “contrast”; the brightness and the darkness, the balance and the relationship between them. A leaf shows an infinite variation of values depending on the way you light it, so does your life. Something which looks very dark in your light may turn into something very bright in the light of someone else’s. The darker phase of your life may gradually change into the brighter phase, but you can also experience a sudden drop from brightness to darkness and vice versa. All in all. the values of life, i. e. the brightness and the darkness of life are unpredictable, can be understood only ambiguously, and make no sense. Therefore, the values arrangement of this leaf drawing making no sense makes very much sense. Well, I can hear some people mumbling “The world doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”(which they say is Picasso’s words)
#2 nothing goes straight
You cannot find any straight lines in the realm of leaves. You cannot find anything going straight in your life either.
As the name shows. I drew this one thinking that this kind of scrambled work is something that all pen-drawing artists must include in their portfolio.
#4 bye-bye, elixir
While I was looking for reference photos to draw leaves, I found many photos of leaves with water-drops. Plants absorb water from the root, but leaves do not. Like human skin, leaves may also be able to take in some water, but in most cases the water takes a spherical shape by the work of the surface tension and do not go into the tissues or the veins of the leaves as though the leaves are rejecting water.
Water is one of the essentials for plants to live and why do the leaves reject water? Unlike the root, maybe the leaves are wise enough to reject “bad” water. There are, indeed, “good” water and “bad” water, and quite too often bad water is offered to you as “very good” water and they try to convince you that the bad water is one essential for your life. They try to make you believe that the bad water is “elixir”, with which you can solve any difficult problems with your life quickly and easily. The wise leaves are not deceived. They know they don’t need to rely on any sort of elixir. They know they can decide and choose for themselves what is necessary for them to live and what is not. Elixir is something they can do without. So, the leaves simply shake it off.
#5 long, grey line of manhood
This title is taken from the line by Al Pacino in the film “scent of a woman”. A boy named Charlie happens to see his schoolmates doing something wrong with the headmaster’s car. The headmaster tries to persuade Charlie to “sell” the names of the boys who did that by offering him a bribe, i.e. the headmaster’s letter of recommendation that would guarantee Charlie’s acceptance to Harvard. Colonel Slade, the role which Al Pacino plays, says to Charlie who is feeling conflicted:
“I’m gonna shoot you, too. Your life’s finished anyway. Your friend George is gonna sing like a canary. And so are you. And once you’ve sung, Charlie, my boy, you’re gonna take your place on that long, grey line of American manhood. And then you will be through.”
Looking at the fern leaves, these little leaves of the similar shape, colour, size, and how they are tied up to a stem, I could not help but remember this line by Colonel Slade. The leaves may show some variation in contrast, size, shape etc., but their shadow is nothing but a long, grey line of faceless leaves. Not only accepting a bribe, once you do anything which compromises your integrity, you become part of the flat, indistinguishable long grey line of “amputated spirit” no matter how different you appear on the surface.