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Jim Dine: The Glyptotek Drawings Online Exhibition | Thaw Conservation Center

Jim Dine: Drawing with Light

Read more: Intro | Translucent vs. Opaque | Building up the Layers | Putting Light into the Drawings | Drawings to Printing Plates | Glossary | Sources

Building up the Layers

Figure 2:

Detail of Dine's fingerprints in the manipulated charcoal of Glyptotek Drawing [11].

Glyptotek Drawing 9
Figure 3:

Detail of Glyptotek Drawing [9] showing texture from directly applied charcoal on the left, in contrast to the manipulated tonal area on the right.

Glyptotek Drawing 36
Figure 4:

Glyptotek Drawing [36]

Dine began each drawing with charcoal or lithographic crayon, which he manipulated with his fingers (figure 2) and a kneaded eraser to create subtle gradations. On paper and frosted plastic supports, Dine used vine and compressed charcoal as his initial drawing material. However, when he worked on a clear plastic support, Dine required a stickier drawing material that would adhere to the very smooth surface and still allow for later manipulation. For this, Dine chose to use soft lithographic crayons. In several drawings Dine created passages of charcoal that have the appearance of a liquid. He achieved this effect by applying a layer of spray fixative and using his finger to manipulate the charcoal before the fixative dried. To create large areas of smudged charcoal, Dine first applied the charcoal over the area and then manipulated it to create a continuous tone. Evidence of this working method is visible in the lower left corner of Glyptotek Drawing [9], where the texture from the directly applied charcoal can be seen in contrast to the manipulated tonal area (figure 3).

Once the initial charcoal or crayon drawing was completed, subsequent layers of black media were built up and secured with spray fixative as needed. These subsequent layers may have appeared in the form of more charcoal or crayon, or Dine may have chosen to use one or more different materials, including pastel, graphite, marker, spray paint, india ink or enamel paint. To monitor their evolution, the drawings were periodically pinned or taped to a wall. Ultimately, this working method resulted in heavily worked surfaces that effectively blocked the passage of light.

In Glyptotek Drawing [36], Dine created an opaque black background using successive layers of media, which further emphasizes the dismembered head in the drawing (figure 4). The head was first drawn in charcoal and heavily coated with spray fixative. Next, Dine used spray paint to block out the majority of the background. While spray paint was effective at creating an opaque layer, it did not allow the control required to follow the contours of the head without depositing drops of paint on top of the charcoal drawing. To fill in areas directly surrounding the head and other areas where the spray paint was translucent, Dine used enamel paint applied with a brush, followed by lithographic crayon and charcoal to fill in any remaining translucent spots once the paint dried. This resulted in a lively, multi-layered opaque black background. When used as a transparency, light could pass through the charcoal drawing of the head and toward the edges of the support where the background still remained transparent. In printed form, the lively black background becomes nearly flat, giving only the barest hint of the modulations in the original drawing.

Dine worked horizontally on top of a variety of white papers in order to be able to see what he was creating. Working in this manner resulted in distinct frottage patterns in many of the final drawings. A rough pattern is prominent in several drawings, while in others there is a pattern of miniature staggered dots, each with a diameter that is approximately one millimeter, or there may be a fine linear pattern akin to the texture of a laid paper (figure 5). The patterns are not specific to a particular support. In fact, all patterns appear in each support, sometimes two in one drawing. Thus, the patterns are solely related to the white paper Dine used below each drawing (figure 6).

Figure 5
Figure 5:
Examples of the three different frottage patterns found in these drawings: a rough pattern in Glyptotek Drawing [7] (detail) on the left; a dot pattern in Glyptotek Drawing [13] (detail) in the center; and a linear pattern in Glyptotek Drawing [17] (detail) on the right.
Figure 6
Figure 6:
The same frottage pattern is visible in drawings that are on different supports. For example, the rough pattern is visible in Glyptotek Drawing [7] (detail) on a frosted plastic sheet on the left, as well as in Glyptotek Drawing [8] (detail) on paper on the right.
Figure 7
Figure 7:

Detail of the negative rough pattern in Glyptotek Drawing [7].

Figure 8
Figure 8:

The wire mesh Dine used to manipulate the media is seen in positive and negative in this detail of Glyptotek Drawing [34].

Figure 9
Figure 9:

Detail of shoe print in Glyptotek Drawing [21].

In Glyptotek Drawing [7], the rough pattern appears in both positive, when Dine applied the charcoal and pastel, and in negative, when Dine subtracted the media (figure 7). This suggests that the drawing was worked from start to finish on the same surface in one drawing session. In other drawings there are either two patterns, or only sections of the drawing that feature a pattern, thus demonstrating that Dine changed the white paper below the drawing, possibly over several drawing sessions.

Other patterns seen in some of these drawings do not come from below the supports, but from applied patterned surfaces. In Glyptotek Drawing [34], a diamond pattern resembling a wire mesh can be seen in both positive and negative (figure 8). Dine used the mesh in this drawing to apply media, remove media, and manipulate it. In other drawings, the patterns were not entirely intentional. In Glyptotek Drawings [21] and [31], there is a second type of diamond pattern, which Dine confirmed is a shoe print (figure 9) and assumed he must have stepped on these drawings.ii Even though this pattern was unintentional, the print was left on the drawing and transferred to the printing plate. These shoe prints, along with fingerprints, smudges, tears, hairs, and drips from liquid media and heavily applied fixative, reveal Dine's working methods and become part of the history of the Glyptotek Drawings, and ultimately are transferred to the prints.

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Jim Dine: The Glyptotek Drawings exhibition page »

ii Conversation with Jim Dine at The Morgan Library & Museum on December 22, 2010. Heliogravure: An intaglio printmaking process also known as photogravure. Traditionally, this process uses light in combination with a continuous tone photographic film positive transparency to create an acid-resistant gelatin ground on a copper printing plate. To create this ground, the transparency is placed over a photosensitive layer of gelatin and exposed to an ultraviolet-containing light source. Areas of the gelatin that are exposed to light are hardened in proportion to the amount of light that penetrates the transparency, making these areas of gelatin less soluble and more acid resistant. This gelatin layer is then bonded to a plate prepared with an aquatint grain. The plate is then placed in a series of ferric chloride solutions used to etch the surface of the copper to transfer the image from the transparency to the printing plate. In the case of the heliogravure prints in Dine's Glyptotek, the Glyptotek Drawings were used as the positive transparencies. The elimination of the photographic film positive transparency is often referred to as direct gravure. Lithographic crayon: A black greasy stick used to draw directly onto a lithographic stone or plate. Lithographic crayons contain wax, tallow, soap, natural resin, and lamp-black pigment in varying proportions to produce five to seven hardnesses. Crayons come in the form of square sticks that are approximately two inches long, or the same ingredients can be cast into rods and wrapped in paper to create lithographic pencils.
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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.