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Week #51
This work was done by Lisa Devlin in New Orleans this year for the session “Variations on Romans” in 26 Seeds: a Year to Grow. In her own words:
Like many Louisiana image makers, this state is my muse and I’m driven in my own way to portray its culture and tell its stories. Although born and raised in New York City, I’ve lived most of my life in southern Louisiana. Perhaps moving to a different region with its own unique culture has inspired my interest in how our environment shapes our identities.

It occurred to me that the experiences of Cajuns and the local Native Americans are very similar to the Jews in the story of Fiddler on the Roof. Because of coastal erosion brought on by climate change, oil drilling and river levees, many local people have been driven from Louisiana’s southern-most areas. is has threatened their livelihood, their sense of community, their culture and way of life. In other words, their struggle to hold on to tradition is as precarious as a ddler on the roof. Whether driven from the land by cossacks or by coastal erosion, the challenge is the same. However, in my drawing, the ddler has been driven to his roo op by the rising water—much like many New Orleaneans during Hurricane Katrina.

I drew A Cajun Fiddler on the Roof before starting Reggie’s 26 Seeds course. So it was originally drawn without text at the bottom. My process begins with an idea, followed by research and a little sketching. Typically, I develop a composition by creating individual drawings of different elements in graphite and move them about the rectangular background and re ne until I achieve the nal composition. I then lay a large sheet of tracing paper over the collage and trace it with pencil. e tracing is turned into a carbon and transferred to thick illustration board. Although it might seem that the drawing is locked in at this point, there is much opportunity for improvisation. While coloring it with Prismacolor pencils, I see new things emerge in the composition. ere’s a kind of push and pull as some areas are emphasized over others, new shapes evolve through color and texture can be created by erasing and blending.
The completed artwork was sent to an imaging center where a high resolution scan was made and a le provided in pdf form. A er opening the pdf in Photoshop, I extended the bottom to make room for calligraphy, giving it a torn edge to echo the feel of spanish moss (I think I probably went overboard on blurring the bottom).

The pressurized Roman calligraphy was created with a #2 Mitchell and brause nibs for the serifs. A er hours of practicing how to control the pressure and the pen strokes, I drew the letters on a separate sheet of paper which I had scanned, brought into Photoshop and added a reddish texture taken from the drawing. e attened Photoshop image was returned to the imaging center and an inkjet print was made.

A word about materials: Some people have asked if using Prismacolor pencils on such a large image is time consuming and expensive. I’ve found good prices online. Although I apply heavy layers of pencil, a single pencil covers a lot of space. ey’re high quality and interesting shades can be created by combining different colors. It does, indeed, take some time to cover a lot of ground with such a ne point, but I like the control it gives me and the ability to do ne, detailed work. Heavy layering almost gives the appearance of paint without having to spend time on paint set up and clean up. So if I only have 15 minutes here and there to work on a project that day I can quickly pull out my pencils. It eliminates the expense of paint brushes. And nally, colored pencils are very portable, so I’m not con ned to my studio. While I would like to include other materials such as watercolor and collage in future projects, I think colored pencils will remain a favorite.

I never intended for the original A Cajun Fiddler on the Roof image to contain text. But the addition of calligraphy has added another dimension to story telling which I hope gives it, and future work, a deeper, more meaningful experience.

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You can enjoy all the Pics of the Week from 2009 through 2018,
archived on the home page of my website www.reggieezell.com
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