Recently in a class I noticed something in a drawing exercise I was doing, so subtle it may not have been there.
At the start of each term I also do this exercise with the class so I was able to compare my line experiment drawings. Yes there was a change that would not really have been noticed in the first four but was especially evident in the fifth one. There was a big departure in line and mark. I do have a suspicion why.
This exercise is the first in my class to warm everyone up and to instill that all drawing is fabulous especially gestural and abstract and not all about matching reality with hyper realism. All media is used to experiment with how a page can be marked, scratched and cut and how many ways a line can be made. Paramount it is fun with no pressure. But now I realize that this unconscious spontaneous line making with freedom to allow anything to happen with no expectations exposed far more about what was happening with the drawer than I realized. It is a small thing but links to other ideas I have had and brings up questions.
The first of these thoughts is that there is change in your work and how it can be mistaken for loss of mojo.
About three years ago I undertook drawings for an exhibition. This meant I had sheets all over the lounge as I drew furiously anytime I could, mostly at night in charcoal on these drawings. The drawings were completed which I will refer to later and I had my exhibition. During this time I drew in charcoal at life drawing classes and produced a very decent drawing if not two in this class each week. I just did not fully appreciate these drawings or that I was in a very good flow of drawing until it abruptly ended, absolutely crashed down overnight and I could not produce a stick figure. I had a lovely exemplary series of drawings but I could not draw anywhere near that standard again and I was devastated.
This seemed permanent. Looking back it could have been that with drawing so furiously on my exhibition work I had been in the zone of practiced drawing which produced the life drawings but this also burnt me out and I was drained. I just had to wait and rest. But this did not really work. When I drew it was quite different and no matter how I tried I could not draw as I had been. I could not replicate what I had been doing. Not only can you burn yourself out with work but you develop and change with work. You are different after any work.
It took quite some time and uncertainty, not really knowing what else to do I keep drawing as best I could. I must acknowledge the life class for this as being the person who organizes it I am there every week, where another person may have not gone as it was too disappointing. As it was for me, but it was the drawing through it that worked. Gradually I felt there was a look to my drawings that was worthwhile and I believed I might be through what had happened. But my drawings were not the same as before. They were good drawings but different. I still feel for and want my drawing style back but it seems gone and I have to develop this new one to where it is going. This might be what people perceive as a creative block - the total lack of movement when they work so hard to recapture previous work and it is unyieldingly gone. You can't go back as you have changed. The very development that people want in their art means they can not return to a pervious stage and must accept going forward. This can mean working again in the beginning stages of hard work where nothing is good or clear. This new work must not be compared unfavorably to previous work and discarded, it has new value.
When I look at the drawings for the exhibition I had, some are worthwhile and some I would have like to have done much better. But this work must be done and exist for the next drawings. You can't arrive at the next stage without this work. So I am accepting of these drawings because they were what I could do then and their work contributes to the next drawings in this series.
The next thought was influences. How much do ideas, other artists and new things influence your development and is it a good thing?
Looking at my line experiment drawings from class the fifth one is very different. I had read half a book on Cy Twombly before it had to go back to the library. From this I had read about his interest in historic patina, the deep meaningful incising of marks that is very human and his drawing in the dark experiences. All of which obviously changed my thinking. When I experimented with drawing with my eyes closed in a very small test I was pleased to see the line quality was similar to Twombly's - how much does looking at art change your work? And there in the last line exercise drawing in my class was a very changed look to my line and marks because of this testing and viewing of another's artwork.
During this time I have been working on printmaking. This has been a valuable undertaking. I now have an understanding of starting from scratch and leaning something new. Your previous expertise is not transferable, you are a beginner. You must put in the time and not be ambitious. It has opened up a whole new area of texture and design for me.
I set myself a 100 mono print challenge. Just small ones, 12 cm square, I am up to 93. The rule was every one must be something new in mark making to push forward with development. Some were lovely small abstracts that I enjoyed and I was pleased enough to wrap them in plastic and exhibit them, 5 sold, and now with regret I realize my set is broken and they are gone. I am regretful because I find I can't repeat them for the very reasons I have discussed. Over the weeks I have changed and my experience with mono printing has changed me but that was the whole point of the project.
Love the work you have done, it is of it's time and of you at that time and you will not be able to recapture it. Above all keep working.
I am planning a series of artworks that I imagine as mono prints. It is to explore a serious issue and is an examination of being brave with subject matter. Also, can I realize an idea? I am inspired by Kathe Kollwitz and an artist new to me Marcelle Hanselaar. I have begun researching and working with mono prints at Inverlochy Art School life class. At first it was with an inked plate of perspex in class but at the moment I have found this is just a little to much to cope with. I will work in charcoal which deals with value and has a similar add and subtract element to get into the method. I might even work drawings up fully in this medium to begin with.
I don't want to start with thumbnails and build collected elements. This is too much like illustration, also the reason I chose to work in mono prints. Working them up as stream of thought works will also remove this reference.
I was at a life class at Inverlochy Art School on Saturday and got into conversation with another drawer. They were fired by the idea of getting better at drawing the figure and asked about classes that were available. Yes we have classes both tutored and untutored. Welcome to your new life, nothing now existed before life drawing. I remember doing the same thing when I arrived. You are aware you want to draw and there is an inane human interest to work with figures. You have no idea that a whole world exists, equally theoretical, measurable, historic, modern and as individual as you can imagine. The tastes, styles and journeys to travel are infinite.
We also discussed books and significant names in drawing that are recognised as talismans to your life drawing development. The usual suspects are Bridgman, Hale and Cole and Nicolaides. I was introduced to these must have books when I set myself on the course of life drawing in 2000. I work in graphics and at that time had no opportunities to draw with pencils or paper, none were on my desk or in my draws at work. Apart from the drawing classes at my late 80s graphics cause I had a memory of attending a drawing class at Inverlochy Art School as early as 1995 and that is as unassuming as the decision was that is now a big part of my life. For fifteen years I have been drawing, painting and now tutoring at Inverlochy.
It takes a while for things to occur to me. Usually several things have to be around for a while for a connection to be made. First, is that I have been asked about tutoring a life class before and I am intimidated by this. I as yet am not sure what I really do when I draw. My memory of those first life classes at Wellington Polytechnic are very faint. The classes themselves were scares as well. I did attend others but again they were short and dimly remembered. Most of my understanding comes from doing, drawing at the untutored class. Then greatly improved by feedback, which I will explain later.
I have begun tutoring drawing and this has been a big challenge for me but I am really enjoying it. I am now constantly examining what I do and also how others draw. People ask me questions that give me real cause to think and gradually I will build my tutoring skills up. So with my thoughts on life drawing tutoring, what I actually do and all the fabulous must have books, I had an insight. I don't draw the figure using anatomy or constructional blocks or Canons of measurement that fill all those good books. I have to admit I have not used them despite my love of the authors, great intentions and belief they had the goods. The books themselves are drawer's possessions.
So could I teach figure drawing? I am teaching the sighting, relating technique of drawing already. What people expect is the anatomical approach to the figure. Can I look at those books and amalgamate that information with what I do and build a class? I would like to learn all this myself. There is always that glowing interest in me to develop and draw more deeply, the flame never goes out. The promise of those publications is still strong. Can I gradually work through these books and reap their benefits?
After deep thought I have decided there are two sides to everything. I have now selected a few working methods of drawing that are successful for me that I can develop and make my own contribution in. Being constantly used they may end up the only way I draw and this will lead to stagnation. With the expansiveness of drawing there is no shortage of directions to go in which could be your direction rather than the theories of others. But there is solid knowledge in the explorations of others. I have also seen drawers replicate their heroes at the expense of their own drawing and glow in that achievement. I'm sure I would not have an equivalent ability of those published so this is not likely and I have found my line will out no matter what I try. Would there be a noticeable development in my drawing more appreciable than my own work of the same intensity. Is the myth of this knowledge real? Is my desire to achieve this status in knowledge some peer group expectation.
Then I decided there wasn't two sides to everything. There is one: all work is good. All directions need a starting point and that can be a classical exercise or something that has occurred especially to you. The measure of each is not important. The fact you are investing in drawing and painting is what counts. Especially if something has caught your attention. Follow it up. There are hundreds I want to try, from Hale and Cole to Kokoschka's' School of Seeing theories. I will explore them all. Even briefly they will have an effect and I have already begun.