It's Obvious She's Totally Twisted

16 Aug 2012

When I first saw the work of drawing artist Joan Wadleigh Curran I felt trapped...in a very good way. Curran takes as her subject matter from objects and places that most people would steer away from—dirty trash bags snagged on a chain link fence; twisted and bent barbed wire surrounded by torn and pierced chicken wire. It doesn't sound pretty, but Curran makes it all so visually interesting that you get caught up in the work for more time than you might realize. That reaction speaks to the artist's drawing techniques and prowess with composition.

Fence by Joan Wadleigh Curran, charcoal drawing on paper, 30 x 22, 2009.
Fence by Joan Wadleigh Curran, charcoal drawing on paper, 30 x 22, 2009.

First, Curran's drawing paper holds a lot of depth on its flat surface, predominately because she knows how to draw layers of marks in a subtle way. There is a wide range of gradation represented in the works, and learning to draw that way is something I admire because I know how difficult it can be (at least for me). Curran will also tone her paper to give the sense of an amorphous environment just out of focus in the background of a work, or she'll include segments of objects seen from off-kilter vantage points to expand the sense of space.

Wreath by Joan Wadleigh Curran, charcoal drawing on paper, 30 x 22, 2009.
Wreath by Joan Wadleigh Curran,
charcoal drawing on paper, 30 x 22, 2009.
What I am particularly ensnared by in Curran's work is her compositional forms. She creates such interesting shapes out of objects that seem to have such a fixed form. Fencing, trash bags, barbed wire—these aren't things that come in varied shapes and sizes. But in Curran's world, lines of fencing or wire are bound and knotted together or bend and curve around each other to create unusual shapes so much so that you start to forget what the forms started as.

Trap by Joan Wadleigh Curran, charcoal drawing on paper, 32 x 28, 2004.
Trap by Joan Wadleigh Curran, charcoal
drawing on paper, 32 x 28, 2004.
If you want to see more of Curran's work and read up on her drawing instruction, you are in luck. She—and several other standout artists—are featured in the Summer 2012 issue of Drawing magazine, which you could have in your hot little hands once you sign up for your subscription. I can't recommend it more—it is one of the few magazines I read cover to cover for tips on how to draw and to see all the incredible works on paper being created. Enjoy!


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