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.