I kept thinking about this dot.
I knew I wanted to try to draw an image over top of a simple circle of color. It was a hypothetical, projected thing that I played with in my mind for months, if not a year. “I’m not an illustrator,” or “I didn’t go to school for this so no one will care anyway,” said the literal art school graduate. Those little negatives nagged my brain and kept this little dot off of the priority list for a while. However, the urge to experiment prevailed, and I took a few minutes to put the idea on paper.
Just kidding. First, instead of working with the idea that had already been plaguing my brain, I decided to pick a bunch of leaves off of Richmond’s disgusting ground and bring those into my home to arrange into attempted leaf paintings. I don’t know. I was reaching. Bless my heart.
Luckily, I decided not to pursue my budding leaf art career, and was struck by a moment of genius: What if I tried to do the thing I’ve been thinking about doing for months? It was wild. I grabbed the first few things I could get my paws on, which happened to be a couple of Prismacolor markers and the ring from a mason jar lid. Then I did the thing:
As per usual, the physical product functioned a little differently than my original fuzzy plan of the stagnant centered circle, but something fun was happening. I was getting to play with color and positioning, which sent some little dopamine particles bouncing around in my brain.
This, naturally, sparked a multiple-day circle spree in my bedroom, with different types of paper, markers, pens, and inks laying all over the place, and me manically scribbling and cackling at my creations.* After experimenting with multiple mediums, I most gravitated toward the ink. During the day, I work at an e-commerce fountain pen retailer, and we sell little vials of fountain pen ink samples. I end up with a lot of them, so it was easy to experiment with my surplus of tiny odd-colored inks.
*only slightly dramatized.
The circles of ink had such a satisfying effect; depending on the surface, they would set or pool to reveal striations, pockets of sheen, or channels of shimmering particles. Once they dried, I would decide what to draw over top of them. I am a planner in most other aspects of my life, but when it comes to art-making, I tend to flail around and go for it before I figure out what the strategy is. In this case, I was drawing all of the illustration portion freehand with pen - a bold move for someone hovering over each swatch of ink like it was a precious and irreplaceable gem.
I was so interested in each part of the process that I documented many of the steps, in hopes that I could preserve each piece if something went awry. I was also excited to see the different combinations of layers and how the ink behaved. What made this process most noticeable was the fact that I was sharing a lot of these findings on ~the social medias.~ Whenever I was working on something, I would share a quick Instagram story or take plenty of pictures of the behind the scenes process. I invited other people into my learning curve and asked for ideas from my virtual (but also very real and lovely) peers. I made a little account where I would post phone-edited versions of my original photos so I wasn’t spamming the folks who weren’t interested in the “dots.” I called my little account Project Dorothy, a play on the word “dot,” which can be a nickname for Dorothy.
Because many of these drawings were squeezed onto scraps and corners of pages, they were often not great to give away or sell to anyone in their original states (that forethought, though). I started taking the photos and converting them to digital files, where I uploaded them to RedBubble. I figured I could provide an opportunity for anyone who really enjoyed certain images to get their favorites printed on paper. Or shirts. Or stickers. It also let me feel like I had a copy of these drawings that could exist in the world, and not just hidden in a pile somewhere.
I eventually learned to add a little bit of a planning element to the process, and introduced some more presentation-friendly materials. Dots go more or less in the center of clean pieces of paper (revolutionary), and I sketch the drawings out in pencil before going over them with a Micron pen. I loathe pencil lines, so I go back and furiously erase everything and then mat the final piece. It’s right cute.
Now, I make a decent handful each month, where they go to hang out at various local businesses. A few currently take up residence at Guncotton Coffee & Gallery in Hopewell, and there are a bunch on display at The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café in Shockoe Bottom. On First Friday nights, I’ve been invited to show them at Aubergine Depot off of Brook Road in the Arts District.
It’s both humbling and encouraging to start from a place of uncertainty and feel so much support from others. The more I push myself to keep making and keep putting the work out into the world, the more I learn and improve. I’ve even expanded the project into the embroidery realm, but that is for another day.
Moral of the story: don’t put off your hair-brained ideas, and document anything you want to be successful as if you’re just really excited and want everyone to see your excitement. It turns out people get excited.
If you want to see the ongoing gallery of dots, check that out here. I’ve tried to update it with their whereabouts and whether or not there are originals/digital versions available. To follow along in a more timely manner, you can follow @projectdorothy on Instagram.
Thanks for tuning in, you sure are swell.
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