Drawing machines on display in Ashland

Faint lines form a curve that looks like an old map of a bay with streams and rivers flowing into the ocean.

But this is not the work of a cartographer.

The sun and the wind made this drawing.

Artist Jamie Newton has combined solar panels the size of credit cards, metal fins that blow in the wind, wires and pencils to create drawing machines.

Along with his accomplished abstract paintings, the quirky contraptions are on display through Sept. 30 at Hanson Howard Gallery in Ashland.

Put the machines in the sun, and they instantly spring to life.

"Wind-Aided Solar-Powered Drawing Machine I" has a solar panel with a propeller attached. Wires on the propeller blades whip around, jangling pencils that are suspended by lines. The jerking and swinging pencils trace out delicate lines.

"These odds and ends of metal are vibrating and pinging together, but you end up with these subtle, spidery drawings," Newton said. "I like that contrast."

A former Talent resident and Global Imaging System analyst for the city of Ashland, Newton recently moved to Portland, but made his machine-created drawings while still in the Rogue Valley.

He took a scientific approach to the process, recording the date, time, place and sky conditions when the drawings were made. He also assigned a number to each drawing from the Beaufort Wind Force Scale.

Britain's Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort devised the scale &

with numbers from zero to 12 &

in the early 1800s to help sailors estimate wind speeds with visual cues, Newton said.

"Wind-Aided Solar-Powered Drawing Machine II" created its drawing from 4:53 p.m. to 5:18 p.m. and from 5:20 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on May 21 in Talent when the Beaufort wind force number was about a three or four.

That equates with a wind speed of eight to 18 miles per hour.

At number three on the scale, a flag will occasionally extend and leaves and twigs are in constant motion. At number four, the wind will make a flag flap, move small branches and raise dust and paper, according to a Beaufort Wind Force Scale guide that Newton included in the exhibit.

While most of the drawing machines are elaborate, one humorous piece simply has a pencil held up by a wire stand. When the wind strikes a single metal fin above the pencil, it blows over and makes a dark, jagged squiggle.

Prior to making the drawing machines, Newton used metal and screen to craft "frost-catchers" last winter when there was a spell of heavy frost. Photos of the frost-catchers are posted on-line at /2006/12/frost-catcher.html and at /2007/04/frost-catcher.html.

"I'm intrigued by pieces that interact with the environment," he said.

Newton got the idea to make drawing machines after he was toying with a small solar panel that had a motor attached.

"I was playing with it in the sun and adding things to see how much weight it could hold," he said.

From there, he began adding metal fins to catch the wind and introduce even more motion and chance into the machines' movements. The planes of the fins add a pleasing counter-note to the linear wires and pencils.

Hanson Howard Gallery, 82 N. Main St., is open from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Sunday hours are from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information, call 488-2562.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. To post a comment, visit .

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