When Alan Jackson’s hand begins to cramp he does tekubi shindo undo, an Aikido wrist-shaking exercise. Standing with his feet shoulder width apart, he sinks his weight down by settling his abdomen and relaxing his knees. “Think of shaking water off your hands, or if you touch something hot and then try to shake out the pain,” explains the longtime martial arts enthusiast. With the dizzying precision of Jackson’s pen-and-ink line drawings—complex, detailed grids that resemble ridges of tree bark or aerial views of the prairie—tekubi shindo undo must be a constant practice.
A principal with McKellar & Associates Architects, Jackson began drawing because he wanted to clear his mind. Thus he filled notebooks with doodles of abstract shapes until he got up the nerve to show them to friend, artist, and gallery owner Lese Corrigan, who encouraged him to go bigger. “Last summer, I finally settled on a drawing format and found a pen that produced the line quality I was looking for,” he says.
Working on 23- by 29-inch Bristol Board, Jackson included elements of both hard line drafting and freehand sketching in each composition. “The aim of the series was to examine texture, tone, and precision through line work,” he explains. With each piece, he began with self-imposed rules and graphic constraints, such as no intersecting lines.
As the work progressed, he experimented with different shapes and with each completed grid, discovered something new. “Many of the uninterrupted, straight lines are executed with a continuous vertical stroke—not unlike the vertical cut of a Japanese sword,” says Jackson. Continuing to experiment, he began adding curved lines to create depth and a sense of movement. In Horizontal, non-touching, straight and wavy, his intricate markings evoke the interplay between air and water.
Inspired by Jackson Pollock, Sol LeWitt, and Eva Hesse, Jackson describes his drawing process as meditative since it involves intense focus. His original intent—to clear his head and relax—has a by-product: decluttering his mind on paper creates a complex world for the viewer to explore.