I’ve had the great pleasure of designing the cover art for Brian Metters’ new book: “It’s Not About The Wine! A 50 years memoir of wine WITH history, philosophy, art, travel and people”
I met Brian, otherwise referred to as “Dr. B” through our blogs 2 years ago. Since then our friendship has grown not only out of our mutual love of wine but also our numerous conversations on a wide range of topics; mostly wine, of course, but also philosophy, perception and psychology. We may not always agree, but I’ve learned a lot from his knowledge of the human brain, his approach to tasting wine, and his acute philosophical inquiry. I hope, in some small way, he could say the same about me. I’ve also been inspired by his many accomplishments in his lifetime including mountaineering in the Himalayas, education aid work in Nepal, and publishing three books. Not to mention he has been instrumental in supporting and encouraging my blog. So, when he offered me the opportunity to create some art work for his book, I was more than happy to accept.
Being commissioned to do art work for someone has come with new challenges, setbacks and revelations. I’ve gained a lot personally from the project and I hope to find more opportunities to express myself through art in the future.
ACT 1: Brainstorming
ENTER A SWIRL OF PENCILS, PENS AND PAPER
When we first started talking about what the book cover should be, we spoke about what’s in the book: wine, but also history, philosophy, art, travel, chemistry, and so on. Brian mentioned being particularly drawn to history and philosophy, especially with regard to his travels in France where he seemed to run into reminders of philosophers such as Rabelais, Voltaire and Francis Bacon quite often. He sent me some pictures from the book and then left the rest to me.
Some pictures from the book:
Brainstorming was probably the most enjoyable part for me because there was no pressure. I was free to play around with ideas, experiment with new techniques, and get everything in my head out on paper with no strings attached. Looking back now, I wish I had kept some of that freedom and spontaneity throughout the process, but what’s done is done and lesson learnt.
Book Cover Inspiration:
I generally draw in a (more or less) realistic style, but I wanted to try my hand at something different this time. I started with a cubist sketch of a wine bottle as cubism had spurred a lot of conversation between Brian and I. It’s difficult to wrap your head around the full implications of the theory and even more difficult to put it into practice. (You can find my related articles on Cubism, wine tasting and wine illustration here: Assembly Required Part 1 and Assembly Required Part 2) The next time I hear someone say “what’s so special, anyone could do that” about a Picasso painting, I’ll have to laugh. That being said, it does get your head thinking about the object and how to depict it in different ways which is a useful tool for any artist.
Next, I tried some continuous line drawing. The only rule is to not lift your pen, which means you have to use your imagination to get around the contours of the object, and especially the details. Sometimes the best continuous line drawings are simple and spontaneous, but the more detailed ones produce some interesting ways of showing shading and texture. As an exercise in drawing, I discovered new possibilities of expressing detail with freedom, spontaneity and creative problem solving.
Then I moved onto blind contour drawing which produced completely unpredictable results. There are three different ways to approach this type of drawing:
1. you don’t look at the paper at all, just the object your drawing
2. you can look at the drawing occasionally, but only about 10% of the time.
3. a mixture of looking at the paper and the object, somewhere around 50%/50%.
This technique is a useful warm-up for artists because it trains your hand-eye coordination and your ability to trust yourself. While some of my sketches were just downright terrible, others actually turned out OK, and some more than OK with an abstract quirkiness I would have never been able to achieve had I been trying. It may not be for everyone, but to be honest I find it inspiring and I love the feeling of surprise when you finally look at what you’ve drawn. It’s not about being perfect, if it didn’t come out right your excuse is you did it without looking, and it keeps the act of drawing lighthearted. My new logo is, in fact, inspired by a blind contour drawing that I reworked.
And so, I did dozens of drawings in this way, filling up my sketch book, blowing through the copy paper I had left, leaving a swirl of pens, pencils, paper, pencil shavings, and rubber clippings strewn across the table, laughing like a mad scientist in a laboratory. Then things got serious, desperately serious…
TO BE CONTINUED