I was amazed how quickly I remembered how to draw mazes after a 40-year break! Since my last post, I’ve explored a few new mazes that I’m excited to share.
I thought a self-portrait would be a fun maze for me to tackle. I wanted to include my guitar and after sorting through lots of photos, I found one that looked like it would work. My first step was to isolate it into black and white areas. The next step was to draw my template outline using Photoshop.
Using a stylus to draw smooth curved lines was challenging. I continually backtracked and erased. And then my stylus lost control. I thought it was the tablet, so I bought a used version of the same one I had. But the problems continued.
It was time for me to upgrade to a newer tablet and pen. It turned out that this was a huge improvement. My set-back ended up becoming an opportunity for me to gain even more skill. I loved how much better the new pen worked.
At this point, my process was to print the outline and render the maze with an ink pen.
But for this maze, the areas were far to small for me to render on my usual 11×17 page. I went for a bigger print of 16×20. However, the copy store printed it on blueprint paper. It looked similar, but it handled quite differently.
This paper did not work well with my pens. Rapidograph pens were out of the question, because they blotted up on the paper right at the start. I had to enlist white-out, which drove the perfectionist in me crazy. Then my pens kept going dry and when I bought new ones – they didn’t match.
Although there were certainly alternatives, I was determined to finish the maze I had started. I patiently worked on it for two weeks. My dry pens could work for 15 minutes at a time, so I just went with that.
Although I eventually finished the maze, I didn’t enjoy the process. I decided to take a break from mazes for a while.
When my new pen and tablet arrived, I was determined to redo my Judy maze. This time, it would be completely drawn on my computer.
Initially, the biggest reason was due to the quality of lines. When I compared scans of my pen work with digital lines – the difference was striking. Even though the naked eye might not notice the difference, I sure did.
The computer had some challenges, though. I worked without “turning the paper,” which was something I always did while using a pen. I had to create interesting lines in directions that weren’t as comfortable for me with a stylus. But I had the advantage of erasing and redoing any lines I wasn’t satisfied with. I always kept the outline as a separate layer, which made erasing easier.
Staring at the screen for hours wasn’t relaxing either. I had to make sure to blink often, or my eyes really dried out.
When I finished my second guitar maze, there was a big issue. I had gotten too tight and dark in some areas, especially on my face. This would be an impossible maze for anyone to solve, unless it was blown up to poster size. But since it was on the computer, I was able to redo those areas.
After finishing my ambitious self-portrait, I went ahead and quickly picked another subject. I looked for an image that I’d already illustrated, because I thought it would make it easier.
My earlier mazes (drawn as a teenager) used different maze tones, but on my self-portrait maze, there were no gradations. This time, I would try it with the rose. As I went along, I kept tones behind the maze to guide me.
Creating those tones were complicated. I wasn’t sure about the darkness of the maze size as I worked. It was only by zooming out that I could see the full effect.
Once again, it was hard to declare my maze finished. The hours added up.
I took a break from mazes to work on some new paintings. Painting with color again was a treat. Finally, I was ready to tackle another maze with renewed energy. My next project was to create a gift for a dear friend whose dog had recently passed away.
Her dog was named Zoey and she was a white standard poodle. This maze would definitely be a challenge.
When I created the tonal breakdown, it almost seemed like leaving areas white would be the way to go. It was a tough choice for me.
In the end, I decided to fill it all in. The gradations were dizzying, but I had a lot of fun when they worked.
Unfortunately, the digital process allows for unlimited fixes. My maze was never done. No sooner would I look at it blown up, then I would see an area that needed a better tonal transition. I would erase the maze in a section and then reconnect it. It was incredibly tedious and I finally had to force myself to stop.
This amazing journey will continue. I’m not exactly sure where it’s going, but I’m sure enjoying it. Perhaps I’ll publish another book of mazes, or end up being commissioned again to create mazes as gifts. I’m not sure.
I believe the most important part is my gratitude for exploring my creativity. That is truly freedom and joy for me.