The Arc Phase Variations (2011-2016)

Somewhere around 2010 (I think), I picked up a Sharpie in an idle moment, started scraping it across a spare piece of wallpaper backing sheet, and ended up with a large, abstract doodle, characterised by its stark monochromacity (real word there?  Dunno.) and by a lot of circles.  I blu-tacked it to my wall for a while, and thought nothing more of it.

Some time later, I was told off for having done the drawing on such crummy paper - although, in my defence, when I started doodling I really had no idea the thing would end up as developed as it did - and in 2011, I was presented with an A2-size pad of 220gsm cartridge paper.  For those of you who don't do paper, that's about three times heavier than normal copier paper, and has a much smoother surface.  It's no exaggeration to say it's the most beautiful surface I've ever worked on.  I almost didn't want to make a mark on it.

I can't remember how long it took me to work up the nerve to commit ink to such a nice piece of paper, but eventually I did - and the circles reasserted themselves.  The resulting image revisited many (although not all) of the visual ideas from the original overgrown wallpaper doodle, but in a slightly more controlled and developed way.  And over the next couple of years, it proved to be the first in an ongoing sequence.  From the second drawing onwards, the series continued using the same basic visual ideas, but each new picture rearranges its elements around at least one new geometric concept: Variation II is in some ways the most minimal, but characterised by elements that break away from the usual circle; Variations III and VI both reiterate a whole group of elements en masse several times in one image, guided by different mathematical sequences, and Variation V goes further than any of the others in terms of getting elements to fold back on themselves.

One of the most difficult aspects of these drawings was simply finding a name for them - their sheer abstraction made it very difficult to find a name that makes any sense - but eventually, somewhere around the creation of the fourth instalment, I settled on The Arc Phase Variations, mostly just because I could (and while I was at it, I retroactively titled the original doodle Arc Phase - or maybe Arc Phase Zero; I still haven't quite made my mind up).  A related phenomenon is that, since the drawings don't explicitly depict any particular subject, they leave the viewer free to form their own subjective interpretations, and I've found it fascinating to hear what other people think I've been drawing.  Personally, I thought I was just drawing a bunch of abstract geometry, but it turns out I might be wrong about that.

The series stalled after Variation V, as I had got half an idea for the next one but couldn't persuade the geometry to fit onto the page; it was another two years before Variation VI finally got finished.  I started work on a 7th drawing a few weeks later, but it proved awkward again and took another year and a half to complete - and then I wasn't entirely happy with the finished product.  You can only put yourself through that mill so many times, so I think the series is now finished.