What’s a Brain-Fever? I’m glad you asked.
For the last few years I have been making quill pen and ink drawings, some in varying shades of gray, some with colors, all on white paper. My husband James started calling them my “Brain-Fevers”and the name kind of stuck.
The effect of seeing the Brain-Fevers in person is rather different than seeing them photographed. When you come upon one of the Brain-Fevers across a room, it looks like some sort of abstract drawing or painting, with the forms or patterns balanced in white space. But as the viewer draws a bit closer, the dots emerge, the colors separate from one another. (Or at least they do to me. Maybe if I had better vision, it wouldn’t be as fun!) The focus of these thousands of tiny circles draws the viewer closer, toward the picture and into the white space in the middle of each dot.
As seen on the computer, the viewer can get either the overall forms as if seen far away, or varying closeups of the tiny dots, but you can’t get both at the same time. I tried to so that with the slide show, but even still, it’s not quite the same.
Photographing my Brain-Fevers for this site proved a challenge for me in itself. Depending on the light, flash, focus and so on, the color of the paper looks gray or creamy, sometimes shadowed or highlighted. I tried to balance things out in iPhoto, to mixed results. Soon, I’m getting professional scanning done and that will hopefully take care of some of this. Still, photographing my projects was fun in its own way. After a while, the photos themselves seemed to become art, rather than just an archival way of capturing the original.
Shooting the Brain-Fevers at an angle in particular appealed to me and I also happened upon some cool accidents with detail photographs that I liked a lot.
Inspiration for my Brain-Fevers can come from many places: drops of dew blanketing my windshield in the morning, bubbles in the bathtub, clouds, a torn sweater, the sea in Greece, the shadows cast under trees, photographs of viruses or bacteria. There are dots everywhere once you look. My son points them out to me. “Hey dad, look. DOTS!” A lot of time, I was inspired by the sunlight coming in the windows of our house. When the light passes through the glass and hits our white walls, the patterns of shadow and texture and light mesmerize me. The lamplight from the street below casting a long shadow across the ceiling of our bedroom. I could tell you what inspired each piece, I suppose, but that might take away some of the fun. Sometimes little areas might look like people swirling or falling, or cells or a giraffe.
The larger projects are approximately 20 inches by 30 inches. (As I write 20 X 30″, it seems small, but trust me, it seems like a vast canvass to cover.) The smaller projects are mostly 14 inches by 17 inches. So even they are kind of medium sized. I’ve never clocked it, but for the medium-sized Brain-Fevers, depending on how dense, I’d guess I spend ten or twelve hours, spread out over a week or two. For a big one, your guess is as good as mine. When you’ve got the Brain-Fever, you lose track of time.
The best part about my Brain-Fever projects for me is that they look so intricate, more than a little bit obsessive, creepy: I use an old-school quill pen dipped in India ink instead of a newfangled ink pen. Plus, how many zillions of dots are there, anyhow? In reality, the Brain-Fevers are very relaxing to do, like knitting, maybe. I can sort out problems with my writing or music while I’m working on a Brain-Fever project. Or I can think of nothing much at all and just enjoy the silence of the house. I’m not the kind of person who has enough follow-through to be obsessive. Mostly, I catch up on “Hoarders” on television. Isn’t that how Seurat did it?
Beyond enjoying museums and doodling pictures for my son, I find it humbling how little I know about art, not having had a formal class since 10th grade. My high school art teacher was a bitter little man and his Art II class conflicted with chorus. I never took another class in art, not even art history. And so my career in music began.
Unlike my music or my writing, I am trying not to place any expectations on my Brain-Fevers, whether showing them, selling them, etc. Some day, that might change but right now, they are for me, my friends, and those who visit my website to look at and enjoy. Just don’t copy them without my permission, okay?
The side bar above has a few of my favorites with a nifty panning effect. Or you can see some of my Larger and Medium-sized work on their separate pages, with their own slide shows. How cool is that?