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Frank Mulvey   February 19, 2014

EMISSARIES - The Process of Creation

Emissaries is a drawing made from charcoal, acrylic and chalk pastel on paper.  I created it in 2013. The drawing measures 111.8 cm x 76.2 cm (including the frame).


I work in charcoal because carbon, its main ingredient, lends itself to a wide variety of light and dark effects. The generous range of this medium enables me to create convincing illusions of volume and depth. These visual gymnastics are what people react to when they admire how the subject matter “looks real”. Although there is something seductive in the art of making things appear round or far away, for me the real artistry is intuitively knowing where to tone down and where to illuminate, and how to interweave these qualities in a composition so that the presence of each makes the other more magical and compelling. The interplay of light and shadow on form is what has always most captured my imagination as an artist, and in its embrace a building or a person or any other subject can transcend its own properties and join the dazzling poetry of visual experience.

In the drawing Emissaries, I imagined a woman in a dark interior approaching a portal that permits the passage of light and movement from beyond. The butterflies spilling into her shadowy introverted space are emissaries from a radiant and better place. I asked myself how I could convey a sense of boundless possibilities, as she closes her eyes and breathes in this experience. With charcoal and some touches of colour, I tried to answer the question.

In preparation for this drawing, I made a paper butterfly that I attached with a glue gun and wire to a wooden stand. The wire permitted me to bend the wings into various positions. I photographed this butterfly from a range of viewpoints and with different wing positions.  I also made a wall and a portal out of cardboard, a cheap oval picture frame and some wallpaper.  I photographed a female model adjacent to the portal with carefully arranged lighting, and I did a digital collage using components from these photographs.  The digital collage served as my point of departure to make the drawing.  The medium was charcoal, and for the colour sections, I first applied a thin layer of acrylic paint and then used colour pastel pencils on top.  From one photo of a butterfly, I was able to create a virtual wall paper pattern and to then digitally skew this pattern into perspective, which was a useful reference for me to draw a "wallpaper" pattern of butterflies in the drawing.

Click on the "VIEW EXHIBIT" button to see the drawing followed by a series of images that tell a visual tale of the process described above.  The series of images ends with a close-up detail of the drawing.

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    Kim Berlinguette

    February 26, 2014


    That was the first and only word that came out of my mouth when I first seen this artwork at the Dawson College Gallery. I appreciate the manipulation of light and dark as well as the small touch of color which completes it. Our eyes wander around the whole composition following the direction of the flying butterflies and the ones printed on the wall paper.

    I completely agree with you about your preference on the usage of charcoal; it is a messy medium though you do receive better contrast from light and shadow on which you have done an amazing job at.

    Thank you for your complete explanation with the help of images for us to have a greater understanding on the process of making this piece. I would have never thought that all those butterflies come from a single homemade papered one on which you have constructed: genius!

    Great work and I hope we will be seeing more of your pieces in class!

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    Felichia Kessia

    March 6, 2014

    What a beautiful piece!

    The delicacy of the woman’s rendering is so different to the butterflies, yet they go together so nicely. The gentle light pooling onto her face, and that one graceful butterfly brushing against her cheek makes the dark and the light colours mesh with each other smoothly.

    I appreciate all the preparation it took to put together a good reference image for the drawing. Creating those butterflies, the making of that little round window, working with the model and putting it all together to make this drawing come to life was a process that was well worth it!

    The gentle dreamy quality of it all makes me think of soft violin music.

    What a wonderful piece!

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    Alana D'Amico

    April 12, 2015

    This is an absolutely beautiful artwork!

    I really enjoyed being able to see all of the different steps that went behind creating this piece of art. Just by looking at the finished product one can’t see all the different stages of work that went behind it and I find it absolutely wonderful that the process behind this piece is being unveiled.

    It allows us to understand all the hard work and effort and determination that was behind this beautiful piece.

    The butterflies are so light and have a glow to them and the light that is shining in through the window accent’s the woman’s face.

    Your choice to use charcoal for this artwork was wonderful because it allowed you to blend the different contrasts together and it allowed you to produce a stunning artwork.

    Good Job!

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    September 3, 2020

    This exhibition is really interesting and it challenges us because as human beings, we tend to focus more on the final product and neglect all the work behind it. It was really fascinating to see all the different steps and efforts that were made behind the creation of this artwork. Observing all the steps allows us to focus on details that we would not necessarily see on the finished product. It shows the thought process and the intentions of the artist, which provides us a better understanding of the meaning behind artwork. Also, unlike music or literature, the interpretation of visual arts is less intuitive and more complex. With that being said, seeing the process of creation allows us to have a better understanding of the artist and can help us appreciate and interpret art better.

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    September 3, 2020

    The exhibit “EMISSARIES - THE PROCESS OF CREATION” is especially interesting as it uses a perfectly balanced combination of different art techniques. This provides the art with originality and uniqueness and leaves it unlike any I’ve ever seen. The artist uses techniques including photography, charcoal, acrylic and chalk pastel. In this piece, the colour scheme especially stands out to me as it uses the contrasts of black and white to enhance the yellow tones. This piece makes me realize how underrated and underappreciated art can be, as the finished product can seem a lot less complex than the work that may go into it. This can also pertain to real life. The end result of anything in life, always seems less complex than the work put into it. What is often forgotten is that the work leading to the end result is just as important, because you can’t obtain that end result without the work.

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