Mel Watkin

Cross-Section: Armed (2019)
drawing on multiple sheets of graph paper
38 x 39 in.

In essence my work is about the process of drawing––making marks layer upon layer to build an image. I have been drawing on surfaces other than plain paper for over 20 years. I look for surfaces embedded with automatic associations such as graph paper, old road maps, pillowcases, lace and tea towels. Using traditional drawing methods, I pay homage to scientific history, as well as recurrent art historic themes such as the “four seasons.”

Since 2006 I have explored the dichotomous forces of nature by drawing the trees surrounding my old farmhouse in rural Southern Illinois. While the drawings are realistically rendered, they are actually altered compilations of different species. My drawings are intentionally beautiful, but also slightly menacing because, as recent events show, nature is awe inspiring, but it can also be deadly. Life in the Midwest now includes regular hurricanes, tornados, floods, massive snow and ice storms. In 2009, my rural area lost over 3000 trees in a Derecho with winds up to 106 mph. One of these trees, weighing approximately 1000 pounds, crushed my car. Watching this happen significantly changed my relationship to trees. While trees are essential to our lives and majestic, I now am much more aware of their height and weight. For several years replicating their huge scale was a major factor of my work. “Revolving,” is a 46-foot-long drawing of a life-size fallen tree held together with cloth bandages. It comes back to life as it cycles through the four seasons of the year and then begins to decompose before returning to the earth.

After spending years working in great detail on large-scale works on paper my focus turned more formal through a series of “Cross-Section” drawings on various kinds of graph paper. Using the circular format of “Revolving,” these works concentrate on the pattern, flow and movement of the bark which protects and strengthens each tree. Link to Cross-Section series:

artist’s website

© Mel Watkin