Completely by accident tonight I saw a book called No more second hand art: awakening the artist within by Peter London. Someone had left it, many passages highlighted, in the classroom I teach in. I haven’t read the book and cannot speak to its value, but I browsed through it a bit and read a phrase that struck me. It was talking about a problem the author had about finding the correct pastel color to address his ‘drawing concerns’.
Drawing Concerns. Drawing. Concerns. Drawing, Concerns.
I’ve been working on a series of 5″ x 7″ drawings for the gallery I show at in Provincetown http://studio411provincetown.com, and as I’ve been working on them my mind has wondered all over the place. At times I’ve worked in silence, listening to the wind blow around my sky lights. At times I’ve listened to NPR. At times I’ve texted with 1 hand and drawn with the other. At times I’ve paused to drink coffee, spill coffee. At times I’ve chatted with my neighbor and discussed with him drawings, other drawings, we are going to collaborate on, while actually drawing something completely different alone. At no time though, have I been concerned, per se, with much of anything, nor has the color in my drawings addressed concerns- at least not formal ones. I’ve tried, while working , not think too hard about doing things the right way, or the way I usually do them, or the way I already know about. My mind has been relatively free of formalist issues ( in as much as the mind of anyone who has been making art for 20 years and has advanced degrees in same can be free ). I think of this kind of drawing as a lawless universe and the best way to get out of my own way is to not think too hard about ART. It’s like doodling. I doodle when I’m on the phone and after I’m done talking I am often mystified but what came out. What the hell is that magic ?
Painting is different. Taking on painting does require some significant cerebral activity, some hard thinking, some serious work. Of course the best paintings hide these truths and make you think they are spontaneous overloads of human transcendence, but there is always secretly a lot of thinking going on behind the scenes. Drawing is not like that for me. It’s where I go to let it all go. If I can relinquish my grip on knowledge and fact and everything I know how to do then I will find a new and better way. I will tap into some part of me I don’t know yet. If I can stop the muscle memory from making the same mark over and over and find a new way of moving and I will be like Marco Polo and find a vast newness.
The phrase stuck with me because I have a lot of content guilt. When I read it I thought, rats. I am a lazy bad person who is utterly devoid of drawing concerns. I will never get anywhere if I don’t become concerned at once. Then I remembered that what I really , actually believe is that we are all drawing ourselves, every time. When I draw I am marking my experience, I am reeling out years and years of Stuff. Of Experience. Of , dare I say it, Life. I am also exploring and learning new vocabulary and refining my language. Gradually as I work new forms emerge. I have so much content and so much experience that I think I will never be able to say it all and I need more and more and more to try to explain. There are shapes that describe things known and unknown to me; unchartered terrain. There are combinations of things that narrate a particular experience, a feeling, and my accumulative knowledge. I may be more unstructured than some , but my drawings and I will remain adamantly unconcerned.