Graphical Jazz: An Interview With Bob Ornstein

September 11, 2018 by Lauren Konopacki
Graphical Jazz: An Interview With Bob Ornstein

Bob Ornstein, a retired teacher, has been doing what he calls "Graphical Jazz" for the past 40 years. He creates some amazingly detailed abstract illustrations (over 400 and counting) that require a tremendous amount of patience due to the small patterns that fill the entire 12" x 18" sheet of paper. All of his drawings are done by hand using Uni-Ball pens on 140lb. watercolor paper, which he exhibits at local libraries! We decided to dig deeper and ask him a couple of questions about his work:

What is your process like for your illustrations? Do you plan it out or just go with the flow?

I rarely have planned what it is I am going to draw, and as the doodle completes itself, I am often amazed at what the finished piece looks like.  I doodle under the umbrella title "Graphical Jazz" because much like musicians playing Jazz music, where there is some outline they follow, but then there are those ad-libbed moments that tap into their individual talent, I often let my pen do its own thing, never knowing where its journey on the paper will take me.

How long does it take to complete a single 12" x 18" drawing?

It can take up to a month to complete a work.  There are times where I draw for 5 or 6 consecutive days and then usually because of wrist discomfort, I will be forced to stop for 3 or 4 days before continuing once again.  But generally, the average time for completion is 2 weeks.  

Exhibiting your work can be an initimidating experience for many artists. Do you have any tips or advice for those who might want to give it a try?

Last Spring I had a dozen of my works on display at a local library in NY for a one month period.  I included a guest book that people could sign with comments about the work displayed.  While I wasn't allowed to sell any works on library property, I did put business type cards on a small table so guests could contact me about possible purchases of my work.  I did sell a few works based on that exhibition.  This past winter I displayed a different set of works at another library in NY for a period of two months, for which I was most appreciative.  I received favorable responses from library patrons there as well.  I would suggest contacting one's local library as an inexpensive way to display one's work.  It has been very beneficial to me.

In a final word, Bob leaves us with this:

So there you have it.  I never knew that "doodling" would become a cultural thing. To me it was a way I relaxed and created designs that I believed people would someday view as art.  I hope that day has come.

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