Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Giving life meaning.
Every once in a while I will catch myself "feeling" the lines I put down. There is no way to describe this feeling. It is similar to a trance like state. I did not have this when I painted the yellow rose. I did not have it when I did the sketch of my daughter. I did have it when I did the sketch of my son.
I tried to pay attention to the quality of the moment when I was sketching my son to figure out how I find that place so that I can return to it. What was going through my mind? How was I holding my pencil? What was I paying attention to? What was I doing just before I started. How did it end?
The answer: I was absolutely focused on the process. I was not concerned with the result. I was not concerned with my surroundings. I was not doing anything but responding to what I was seeing. That answer sounds so vague doesn't it?
Every drawing is a response to what you are seeing. Right?
Many of my drawings are a response to what I think I know about what I see. Others are a response to what I see when I allow myself to stop thinking about what I know. When I allow myself the opportunity to discover what I am looking at for the first time it becomes exciting. This is even more true when it is something I am familiar with, like my sons face. You would think that would be something I have memorized. Yet last night, it was as though I had never seen him before in my life.
This is no great secret. In all of the great drawing books there is a section about getting rid of what you think you know and learning to really see your subject matter. We humans have such a need to predict results, yet the best results come when we let go of what we think will happen next. I am not going to claim that this is the best sketch I have ever done. I will say that this sketch felt better than any I have done recently.
I believe that I will be come a better artist (and maybe even a better person) when I can stop being dependent upon my ability to predict results and start relying on my ability to see what is really there. I will have to be patient. This sketch happened after several failed attempts to represent what I saw. It wasn't until I had exhausted my attention to prediction that I found my ability to see. My sketch began to take on a meaning that could only happen after I stopped forcing it to mean what I thought it needed.
This isn't just true as an artist. This is true about life itself. How many times have I been in a conversation and predicted what I think someone will say? How many times have I passed up an opportunity because I predicted the reward would not be worth the effort? How many times have I passed up an opportunity because I did not notice there was an opportunity? It is probably a good thing I will never know the answer to these questions.
Just as important, how many times do I attach meaning to things that mean very little. I fall in love with a line that is in the wrong place, or a shape that is off. I will struggle endlessly with all of the lines and shapes around it trying to make them seem right. This is not just a bad habit in art. This also happens in life.
It is fascinating how good and bad habits translate in various activities. I have been very preoccupied with what I would communicate visually if I had the skill level to communicate it well. Perhaps it is more important to concentrate on what I could understand in my communication efforts rather than what I could tell.
Of course, the best of this group is the drawing of the girl that my daughter put in my sketchbook. I don't have to analyze that one. I just get to enjoy it.
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