Anne Eller – My World in Black and White
(First published in the 2017 VOICES and mildly edited and expanded here)
I appreciate color as much as anyone I know. But when it comes to my drawings, I see the world only in black and white. My black and white drawings have been described as having exact lines, graceful curves, startling contrasts and structured shapes. I agree that some are relatively geometric, while others are more intricate and whimsical.
My work has been displayed in the hallway gallery of the Club Center and can be seen in my book of drawings in the Carolina Meadows Library. I am currently showing my second Artist of the Month exhibit here at CM. Sharing my work with friends and neighbors in the community has been an unexpected delight for me because of their appreciative comments and observations.
People often ask me how my drawings come to be. Almost without exception, I use a black, pointed felt-tip Sharpie Fine Point on everything from paper to poster board to blank index cards. I’ve even done a few with ball-point pen when nothing else was handy and the urge to draw was upon me. Only twice have I ever started one in pencil and then inked it in. For all the rest, it’s do or die with black ink from the very beginning.
I have been queried as to how I achieve such precise lines. I would like them to be even more precise, but the trick for me is that, before I draw a line, I know I must be committed to it and not hesitate in the least. The slightest hesitation will result in unwanted ink blobs or wobbly lines.
For some inexplicable reason, I start almost every piece by making a quarter inch black border all around. I find it nearly impossible to start one without that black frame.
In one of the examples shown here, titled “Caterpillar,” I explored my lifelong fascination with the cornucopia shape. At some point that cornucopia turned into a bizarre-looking caterpillar.
This one is mostly free-hand with the cornucopia shape being achieved by the use of circle templates. Some are done entirely freehand; for others, I use a straight edge and various templates; and, as in “Caterpillar,” a little bit of both.
Most of my drawings take no more than an hour to complete. They often begin with an idea as simple as, “I wonder what would happen if I drew rays coming from the left top corner?” I’m in a peaceful trance throughout the process with a hint of tension until the last curlicue or dot or blacked-in area is on the paper. I know the drawing is done when that mild, pleasant tension disappears, and not a moment before.
I look at some of my drawings now, especially the more intricate ones, and have absolutely no idea how I started them or how they ended up the way they are. When I’m finished with each one, I determine what the result reminds me of, and that becomes its name.
My first attempt at black and white art was in 1981 on two pillowcases. One vacation when our boys took their own pillows for a week-long stay in a motel, the housekeeping staff stripped their pillowcases off, dooming them to be lost forever in the mix of industrial-strength pillowcases. As a solution for future trips, I used a black laundry marking pen to plaster an elaborate black and white image on each pillowcase, assuring that we would thereafter return home with ours and not the rougher motel ones.
Many years passed between those whimsical pillowcase creations and the next try. I was standing at my kitchen counter one evening in 1994, doodling with a black felt-tip pen on an index card and trying to express how my migraine headache felt.
My husband came in from work, looked at the result and exclaimed, “I like that!” Had he laughed and said, “What on earth is that?” I doubt there would have been any further attempts. Now more than 20 years and more than 140 drawings later, thanks to his unintended encouragement, I am still at it, though infrequently these days.
Someone asked me at dinner the other night, “But why have you stopped drawing them?” My reply, “I seem to have run out of ideas or things to experiment with.” If I sit down at my desk with a piece of drawing paper in front of me and simply decide to draw something with nothing at all in mind, nothing happens. It’s like writer’s block. The paper remains blank. If I force the issue, the result is frustrating, disappointing and ends up being thrown away before it is even completed.