“Camouflage” Pen & Ink on acid-free rag paper. Image size 32 x 48”

“Camouflage” Pen & Ink on acid-free rag paper. Image size 32 x 48”

When I first started out I was working as a graphic designer for a subsidiary of Xerox Corporation in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I couldn't afford to rent a studio and didn't have a separate work space at home so I decided to concentrate on pen and ink drawing on a large scale. In college I had worked with fine-point pen and it appealed to my sense of neatness and control. It was something I could pick up and put down without a lot of cleanup and I didn't relish the idea of living with the smell of turpentine.

I don't need to tell you how labor-intensive it was to create drawings this size and larger with only a fine-point pen and india ink. It's also a very unforgiving medium in that once you've made a mark with india ink it can never be removed. My friends started to refer to me as “the autistic savant of pen and ink,” because I was rarely seen without a pen in my hand.

After I had a body of work, I took my drawings to make the rounds of New York galleries.

In those days, galleries were a lot more welcoming to emerging artists. I had a life-changing encounter with Ivan Karp, a famous dealer who started out with Leo Castelli and was credited with having launched the careers of the Pop artists, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Oldenberg, etc. He threw my slides down on his light table and after looking at them he pointed his finger at me, with his big cigar in his mouth, and said “If you want to make money in this business you have to paint with oil on canvas. I can't charge enough for a work on paper to pay the rent on my gallery.”

Years later I sent him some pictures of my paintings and received a very gracious hand-written note in return which I still have in my file.

Cyndi Burt