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Carl Pickhardt (an intro to Charcoal)

In late 2017 I needed to get a chunk of my colon removed. In early 2018, I had a followup appointment with my surgeon and my GI, both on the upper east side, with a four hour gap in between.

Between appointments, I found that there’s a really lovely and tranquil coffee shop on the top floor of Sotheby’s (I’m told in summer the outdoor roof deck is quite nice as well), as well as that Sotheby’s allows the riff raff to wander around their galleries of art that’s going up for auction. It has a similar (if slightly more stultified air) feel to Chelsea galleries, where you’re in a room with art with no other people and barely any supervision and a lot of quiet to take it in.

As I am wont to do, I fell in love with an abstract painter named Carl Pickhardt. I knew the value and joy of copying art (though the satisfaction of accomplishing it was much greater in this series) so when I went home I started copying one of my favorites from the gallery.

My girlfriend at the time commented that when I showed her the finished drawing, it was the first time in our relationship she’d ever heard me describe something I’d made with only pure contentment – no immediate self-doubt or criticism. What I found most satisfying about these was how I could feel the balance of the Carl Pickhardt pieces when I copied them in my own hand. Putting in the final strokes gave it an order and logic that’s hard to put into words, but was an incredibly satisfying experience. Like putting the final piece into a puzzle.

After that I began to improvise my own using loose rules. And then I added in charcoal as a medium, which I fell in love with for its soft, naturalistic qualities. I liked that I could make a very fussy piece and then soften it by working the piece over with my hands. I even fell in love with the simple textures created by preparing a piece of drawing craggy paper with a light charcoal rub to give it a lesser contrast with the dark lines.

Of course I also thought I should make a digital generator for these, but for once I decided that the unrepeatable, manual explorations were best.

Around this time I also started experimenting with smoking marijuana for the first time in ages, finding a light Sativa strain that didn’t make me paranoid, but did let me sink into the drawings in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Sometimes I would find a 3d effect in them that made them make more sense to my brain (other times it was still off-putting).

These are my favorite pieces I’ve ever drawn – so much so that they are hanging in my apartment to this day.

Like much of my artistic output — which come in deep, rapid bursts that are soon abandoned — these pieces sometimes seem foreign to me. Like I don’t remember the person who made them.