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A Conversation with Jason Shirriff of Anschel Ink Drawings

July 31, 2009 by Fabrik Editor in Art, Artists with 0 Comments

What were some of your earliest influences?

At an early age, I met an artist who was a pointillist. I was really impressed and amazed by the detail and the dedication to the work.

From 15 to 25 years it was really a process of learning. As a child and teenager I would often draw in the borders of my notebooks, although I never realized it was a part of the way my eyes and brain work with geometry and shape. I remember often being criticized that I was messing up the notebooks. Where I saw a canvass, I guess others hoped to see my schoolwork!
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EDIFACE CANYON. © Jason Shirriff.My earliest experience with formal drawing was drafting and architecture classes for several years in high school, and after that it was drawing classes and certain design studios I did for 5 years at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles. Everything was hand drawn back then. My work didn’t include any computer drawing before graduating in 1992.

My own artwork progressed after that and I found my own dedication in hand drawings. I felt the need to return to a method of formal drawings in 1995 in order to fulfill a lot of ideas I had developed about drawing in 10+ years of hand drawing in architecture.

Did your professional work influence your art by then?

It sure did! I did hundreds of ink and pencil construction drawings and design drawings on a variety of paper types for actual buildings from age 19 to 25. I worked professionally in architecture from the mid-1980s, so I really saw the transition from hand drawing to early AutoCAD and other digital forms. I continued to do hand drawings for architects in Toronto and San Francisco, but by 1995, things were clear: it was computers. I made the switch in 1995 and used them for my architecture. Then, I almost immediately had an uncontrollable urge to draw formally, by hand. I didn’t want to see formal hand drawing become a lost art.

So that’s how you became an artist?

I actually had thought of many ideas during 10 years of hand drawing and wanted to draw more conceptual and formal drawings with the care and detail similar to what was done 100 years ago or 1000 years ago. I actually took an etching class in 1996 and liked the density and qualities of etching. I looked to my architectural background to find a drawing medium, ink on paper, that I was comfortable with and would have similar qualities to etching. I began working with ink on paper because I loved the permanence that ink brings to the paper. Like the way etching carves a line out of a plate of metal, the ink permanently changes and adds to the paper. This process evolved into my Anschel Ink Drawings.

What’s your process?

I sought out materials that would have some permanence. I charge myself each time with developing an image on the fly. Preplanning or reworking tends to dilute the initial pen strokes. Therefore I don’t rework. I use the collective experiences of my life and experience to inform the piece. In a sense I already have what I need and I just need to keep getting it out on paper to actually see it. That’s where the process of discovery starts – in examining the finished work.

I put a lot of faith on the line when starting a drawing. Because, until the last pen stroke is added and the piece is signed, it is not complete. Not only can it not be understood, the possibility of ruining work with a technical error is there until the end. I’ve thought many times as I’ve worked on the piece about how ugly or disjointed it is and how I may not feel it will come together. Then at the end I am hit with the completed image and always find discovery in the results, and satisfaction that I did it.

BIOMORPHIC CITY. © Jason Shirriff.Is there interaction between your drawing and your architecture?

It’s kind of amazing the parallel track an architectural project will run with a series or even a single ink drawing. As I work on an ink drawing my thoughts start to settle about after the first row across a page. In the second row my thoughts are cleared and allowed into considering the work of the day on a particular building or even contemplate the simplicity of the line I am drawing. By the second row I am aware of my breathing and my roll in creating this work. My hand is able to draw in rhythmic time that works with my breathing. I think this is also a state people achieve when exercising when a balance is met.

Where does the name “Anschel” come from?

It is actually my first middle name. As a child I didn’t really like the name. It is from a relative several generations ago. I did a charcoal drawing “Regal Cinema-Opening Night” as a commissioned piece in 1995. That’s actually the first work I put my name to. Writing Jason Shirriff on the piece seemed to detract from it as art, but Anschel worked really well. So I discovered something about myself, and the name stuck. It’s almost like I gave a name to the artist persona of myself. I also like to use it to differentiate between my ink drawing art and architecture work, since they are distinctly different arts and methods of working. In architecture you revise and refine as many times as it takes to get it right and to get to the essence of the architecture and site. In my artwork there are no revisions and the essence is instilled in the initial moments of doing the work.

Where do you see your work going in the future?

Recently I saw some examples of engraving in man-made crystal. When I first saw the pristine examples I though to myself, I had to get one of my drawings into that medium. So I worked with the artisans who do the engraving for several months and created a crystal of my ink drawing “Aspirations, Anschel 3.2002”. It’s about 5 x 7 in size and the black portion of my ink drawing is now clear crystal, while the white portion of the ink drawing is now white lines in the crystal. It definitely lets me look at the drawing in a new light. I sort of get speechless when I look at the crystal and realize that the way light and shadow work on it is amazing and it can really affect the quality of the viewing if the angle and lighting are poor. So it is setting up a whole new set of conditions for the art.

I’ve decided to actually get my art out there, and part of that has been to formally create a business. Anschel Gallery showcases my Anschel ink Drawings. The work is now available online at AnschelGallery.com, Artmajeur.com, Mysoiree.net and I regularly enter juried shows at Artslant and Art Galley Projekt30.

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