‘Tis the season for piling on resolutions for the coming new year and eulogizing the outgoing one. Among, you know, other things.
I’m pondering changes for the blog. It’s been helpful to have a daily thing, but I want to do something different for 2020. It might transition into more of a daily art thing with an adjunct newsletter. I’d like to push writing into more long form things and get back to visual art practice as more rigidly daily.
As with everything, we’ll see how it goes.
(NOTE: the title is spoken by Timmy Lupus in The Bad News Bears after the team loses to the rival Yankees. The film is notable for its loose-tongued kid actors and heartfelt sports movie plot.)
I was reading a bit from a newsletter about gesture drawing, and how they can, given the proper technique and direction, lead to refinement of your regular work in drawing. I mean, it can, sort of, but this is weird to me, because it isn’t how I think about gesture drawing, which I learned in a different way.
Gesture drawing, in the Nikolaides tradition, is a way to discover how something feels when you draw it. It doesn’t usually look like the thing you’re drawing, and it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t. Because part of learning to draw is learning how it feels to draw, to become connected with your subject. You end up drawing more accurately because you’re getting out of your own way, not drawing how you think something looks, but translating it into paper like it was a language.
Gesture drawings are quick, aiming for essence and motion, not likenesses. They’re bits of nonsense, scribbles with soul, and it’s ideal to make them your partners.
That’s a Troy McClure quotation above. The relevant idea I was thinking of was that artists get things made mostly on their own, from the depths of their own personal being. You won’t find a lot of writing defining art as channeling. We tend to think humans do it from within ourselves, even if divine inspiration used to be taken for granted. Artists were still always praised or berated as creators, not the lucky or cursed vessels of other beings with the real talent.
And what’s the point of inspiration without the work needed to bring it into being? You’re the factory worker as well as the visionary—at least the vast, vast majority of artists. It’s very human to make art and still human to work hard at it. It’s ironic: a play is still a work.
Keep it up, because you get the work made, and only you can make your kind of thing.
We always have a choice on whether to make art or not. I know it’s become a standard thing to say “I have to paint,” or write songs or books or dance, but it’s good to know you have to decide to bring something into the world. These are difficult thoughts to try to focus in on. It can feel like we have to create, and that intense, fiery desire makes it important.
But I think it’s more valuable to consciously—or deliberately—decide to make things than to hand wave away the choice. It’s definitely cool to believe someone is so monumentally driven by their artistic soul that they simply found themselves overtaken by its demands.
Cooler to me is the knowledge that it’s sometimes a struggle to come to the metaphorical drawing board and bring something new into the world made from small parts of it.
Is it even worth it? The thing is, if it isn’t, how would I know? All I can tell is that I do—or don’t—enjoy the moment of creating something, and decide if I want to keep going. That might be all we can ask of life.
With that in mind, I’m figuring out where to go in the coming year, what plan to chart up and start, how best to make my way. The planning stage of anything is exciting, and a little unnerving, but it’s often the only way to avoid random floundering or too much time wasting. A little is good. A lot is fine, but not fulfilling. Given a choice, I’d rather work on a long hike with a spectacular view than an easy trail that circles back to the same place.
I spent some time in my twenties involved in various mystical pursuits. They didn’t go very far, but some principles I thought were useful, and so I kept them even when I dropped the rest of the woo.
One of those is that when you feel you’re standing still, you’re actually growing more than in times of great excitement and action. The concept is similar to that of exercise is general, that training is growth, the competition is when you put that growth to use.
If you feel at all stagnant, do keep this in mind. As long as you’re still working, there’s growth even when it feels like you’re standing still.
I must admit, the diminishing daylight and rainy skies is probably affecting my mood, but it’s a tug-of-war with my love of gray clouds and wet gloom. Growing up in Arizona affected me more than I know. Part of that is getting used to an unfamiliar seasonal pattern.
I think about emotional patterns reflecting environmental ones, and there’s got to be a similar phenomenon connected with our work. Motivation is harder, judgment harsher. But. There’s a flip side.
My delight in bright colors and silliness is magnified. I’m hesitant to emphasize this too much—I’m not the best Pollyanna. it’s just another reminder that, like most everything, there are more ways to understand and analyze darker days than just as a mood dampener.
We finished putting up the basics of the “holiday” season, the month long run-up to Solstice—and by definition, the new year—festivals of all kinds. It’s fun and it’s pretty, but it reminds me of so much that’s underneath. Not only the living space itself and the trees, but family gatherings, friends celebrating, and a robust increase in kind feelings.
Those are the important and necessary bits. The rest is a reminder and flourishes. Bet I don’t have to mention how this applies to creative work.