I went to rural Oregon. My brother lives in a small town, and I missed Christmas with him this year, so this was the next nearest thing. It was beautiful, if an exhausting road trip, with some time to reflect on where I am to go and what I am to do with this artificially shiny new year.
Christmas is, essentially, a celebration of new birth, whether adopting pagan solstice traditions or touting the arrival of a savior.
It’s a good thing to have these divisions of the year. Without seasons and change, we wouldn’t have such visceral cues upon which to hang our expectations and our resolve. Precious few of us are so self-motivated as to be able to begin anew, regardless of the day or month or year.
But anew we shall proceed. Here’s to auld lang syne. and to new days, unknown adventures, too.
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.
No matter how cynical I feel, there’s always something magical about the first snow of the season. Probably because I spent so much time in the Southwest, it’s always been special. Now that I’m here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s normal for most, if not very frequent.
But I want to always be aware of the magic moments. The feeling of them is kin to the wonder of artistic creation and connection.
The ability we have as denizens of urban centers to wander a little bit and find sustenance is amazing and humbling. I feel lucky many days, and I’d hate to lose that sense of understanding.
While we’re doing our work and facilitating the circumstances that lead us to generate more, I think it’s good to continually explore our surroundings and the people who inhabit them. This is our physical center, the close connection to humanity, and to feeds our creativity, too. Not to mention, for those of us in service jobs, it’s good to spread kind and appreciative patronage to others.
Today was for looking up. The light is growing more scarce, the nights longer. To avoid the onset of seasonal depression, or at least to mitigate it, I’ve been trying to add brightness. It’s like turning up the filter on life a bit. There’s only so much that can be done before it washes out, but every little bit probably helps.
And the story lover in me is forever intrigued by walking around city streets. What’s going on in all those glowing little squares? what triumphs and drama and everyday existence is playing out in ten thousand parallel narratives?
Life is always happening. We capture and reinterpret it with sparkle or sharp focus. The light around and within it is always there, but we have to decide what to do with it.
It’s a bit strange living in a city that preserves a good bit of its past. I’m not used to it. But a cool feature of the Pacific Northwest is the abundance of trees. So you get the new with the old, the living and the (constructed) dead side-by-side.
This is our ongoing inspiration and source for art. Everything that was made with everything that grows and changes is the source. The mix of both is what we make new things out of.
I was talking with someone today about drawing. It started off a bit dry, acknowledging the mechanics of leaning and teaching, but I noticed the more I talked, the more excited I got. I was caught up in the spell of artmaking, unable to keep my emotional connection to it out of the conversation.
I can forget easily how it feels to do the work. There’s a lot of discussion and analysis, and plenty we do in art school. But to connect the two is a great gift. Artists who write about what they do aren’t always the best at it. Read Jerry Salz, the art critic, and it’s bursting with love for art. Similarly (uncle) Paul Klee, though with less abandon.
I must remember the massive seas of feeling inside that connect me to art when I talk about it in an analytical way. I think our passion is the best connection we can have when we try to get others to understand or participate.
There’s something to be said for a gathering of friends—or even just acquaintances—at your place. It’s your sanctuary, but you welcome in a few people you know to celebrate something.
It’s an old ritual. One that echoes with tradition and history, but of the most basic nature. The few rules (know when to stop drinking, know when to go home) are well understood, near-universally.
It’s good food for the soul, this communion of friends. They’re your friends because they’re interesting, they’re insightful, they keep you honest. They’ve got worth first as fellow humans. But they’re also valuable for inspiration and support, which every artist needs.
Humans are social creatures. We have advanced knowledge and achievement collectively by being able to interact. Humans don’t do well in solitary confinement, and we need some measure of contact with others to stay healthy and sane. To this end, we have parties.
Long story short: we had a party tonight. Friends came, some were shy, they engaged in the end and made a new experience for everyone by doing so.
Parties exist to lubricate networking and enhance acquaintanceship. They’re the place to let loose and freely express yourself. Hm. Sound familiar?
Well, of course, these metaphors applied to creation are what we expect to find when we work on projects, when we practice our craft. But you can’t force it. The stuff happens or it doesn’t. The piece comes together or you spend the evening in the corner watching the tv. The cool thing is, there’s always another party. And another day to work on a thing. Don’t sweat it if it doesn’t happen the first time.
One of the benefits of art school is your fellow students. They can easily become your peer group, or better yet, your collective. There’s a moment of opportunity when you meet a few other creators who have a connected aesthetic. If you’re lucky, you can parlay that into a shared movement. It’s a chance to get attention for what you do, based on a packageable meme of some kind. It’s the equivalent of a “school,” i.e., the Bauhaus or—if you’re feeling really generous—the Impressionists.
But even if you’re not trying to form a movement or project what you do as something important, it’s good to have a lot of eyes on your work at any given time. Your fellow artists and your friends are cheerleaders and supporters as well as critics and sounding boards. You’ll have a better idea of what connect with other people the more you share your work. And connection is what you’re after. Making work for yourself alone is fine, but resonance with others is what makes art deeply important for us all.