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About This Piece

July 20, 2020 – August 23, 2023
(1,130 days or 3 years, 1 month, 4 days)
15,257 stars + 17,097 threads all individually placed and shaped by hand
PSB background = 7.6Gb 400dpi 100x70cm

When I began my lockdown art project, I thought it would be a great distraction for several months, I had no idea that I would be working on it nearly every day for more than 3 years.

The reason this piece took so long is because I had to start-over so many times, the artwork became the very thing it intends to depict. Each stage of drawing it takes an age, so an early mistake or misjudgement doesn't become apparent until after a lot of work has been done.

But it's the fact that so much time has been spent on it already, that makes it worth being prepared to lose a few weeks, or maybe months of really hard work, otherwise I would never be happy with it, and then all that time, plus the much longer time that is still needed to complete it, really would have been for nothing.

Also my style evolved while creating this, and each revision was trial and error over many months, but eventually my Stardust style emerged - everything is made of stars.

My style has been developing since the late 1980s, when I would draw pieces using watercolour-crayons and fine-tipped pens, but over the last 15 years I've been trying to recreate the process but with tools that open to greater detail and accuracy, teaching myself how to draw the outlines in Illustrator and paint the backgrounds in PhotoShop.

I also had to wait until building a PC that could cope with processing 7Gb files without lagging was affordable, and this was the first artwork that allowed me to explore taking the style to a new level.

When I started this piece, Artificial Intelligence was still a rumour, but as I finally complete it, suddenly AI is an accessible reality, so I feel it is important to point out that my method is very much by hand. The closest I get to anything automated is using gradients, but I control every part of them by hand, so it feels traditional to me, it's just that instead of using a pencil and ruler I have much better tools to achieve the same goal, but it takes much longer.

I'm so glad I decided to document the progress, as it shows the decisions I made, and the experiments and developments. As well as regular stills, I also recorded my screen while working on key moments, so that it shows how much work is involved and confirms that it is indeed a drawing and none of it is computer-generated.

This piece was persistent in my mind for a long time, I guess it formed as a representation of how it felt in those early days, when the UK experienced our first COVID lockdown, but it had been lurking as a ThoughtSeed for long period before then.

I could see it clearly but wasn't sure how to go about achieving it, but in 2019, depression and loneliness, and the dark, plundering thought-cascades that bond us to our deepest fears, all suddenly became universal, the unfamiliar became familiar to everyone everywhere, and the vision of this piece was forced into sharp focus.

The ever-changing chaos of the event is further represented in the behaviour of an optical illusion, due to the way that your brain is likely to try to make sense of the information coming from your eyes as it switches between possibilities. In the storm in
our lives, the truth keeps changing all the time as the events unfold, like the storm in
this artwork.

You might never see the same artwork twice, it may even change as your eyes move across it, sometimes the texture flips from appearing to be either softly pushed-in like seeds on a strawberry, or harshly pushed-out like pimples.

This reflects how the drama which leads to our despair is unpredictable, sometimes changing rapidly and in front of our eyes, constantly moving. Sometimes the artwork will actually change in the blink of an eye, quite literally. This is a very different form of interactive art, but it's all in the mind.

Trying to depict motion and form in formless clouds was an interesting challenge, but I wanted to show how deterministic causality can be found in what first appears chaotic and turbulent, how events follow events, each situation affects each other, and consequences have consequences.

The first restart happened when I realised I had focused on the wrong direction for the energies, favouring the downpour instead of the force of the intense, destructive winds, and to undo and correct this this would mean taking it to a crucial point several months back in the process.

But as this energy is fundamental to the final piece, I used my now better-informed understanding of what the artwork itself wanted to do, and gave up hope of pursuing something that had previously shown promise but could never be fixed, unless drastic action is taken in the form of a clean break, just as in my real-world despair.

I restarted to different points so many times I have lost count, but each time would be an advance towards a working system of cooperation and causality between the competing streams and directions, and with each start-over I would also let go of rigidly following the procedures, methods and tools I have been developing as my Stardust style evolves, and rekindle the joy and satisfaction of artistic integrity, hopefully supporting the narrative rather being faithful to the physics of the scene.

I'm so glad I persevered and wasn't deterred by the seemingly Sisyphean task of making things right, no matter how hard it may seem.

If I had allowed despair to discourage me from seeing the value of the rebuilding, this piece would be one of my rejects. No one else would ever see it, and I would regard it as a mistake which would have wasted so many back-to-back hours, days, weeks and months, time dedicated to a folly when I could have been doing other things.

About the Subject

About This Piece

So What's My Story, Why Did I Draw This?


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