Watching Artists Draw Is Not Only Therapeutic for Other Artists, It’s Educational

Marcel Dzama and Raymond Pettibon Draw Stuff

I know, I know: we all revert to 10-year-olds when told something is “educational.” But no, really, it’s the next best thing to drawing yourself. In the video above, Dzama and Pettibon collaborate on some large drawings. It’s beautiful and inspiring.

It’s good for us to observe art in action. And, if you never watch other artists, you’re often struggling in a vast ocean of possibility. Maybe you’re getting better at staying afloat, but it takes a long time and is exhausting.

Drawing Is Being Human, and Seeing Reality

This article on Quartzy reviews D. B. Dowd’s new book, Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice. The article makes much of the idea that drawing is a kind of learning, which is somewhat true, but limited, I’d argue. Instead, I think there’s great value in championing the idea of drawing as a tool for many aspects of life, and not just the province of artists and fumbled attempts to imitate the pros.

Near the beginning, it says drawing should t be limited to the artists. But I’d say that misses the point, at least for me. Drawing is for all of us because to make art is human. We are all artists by nature. Most of us just lack refinement and practice in becoming connected to our creative cores and in utilizing various techniques of creation.

It’s well worth reading, and I hope it’s another bit of inspiration to start or keep working on your thing.

Color Suspended: the Bright Spectrum of Emmanuelle Moureaux’s Work

Layers of cut out kanji, suspended in midair, fill a large room in a saturated sequenced spectrum

Universe of Words, by Emmanuelle Moureaux

Moureaux is a French artist living in Tokyo, Japan. Her work is largely comprised of intense, spectral displays, which I’m forever drawn to. Her work, particularly the 100 Colors installation series. From her bio:

She uses colors as three-dimensional elements, like layers, in order to create spaces, not as a finishing touch applied on surfaces. Handling colors as a medium to compose space, her wish is to give emotion through colors with her creations

Her Instagram page is full of joy in color.

https://instagram.com/emmanuellemoureaux

Holly Herndon’s Ethereal Thunder Dreams

Somebody linked Holly Herndon’s Godmother on Twitter months ago, and I was an instant convert, sorry that I hadn’t found her before. Herndon recently finished her music PhD, and her sound is a kind of amalgam of vaguely recognizable traditional cultural forms of uncertain origin. It sounds weirdly familiar, but I can’t place specific influences.

There’s an emphasis on rhythm and voice. Herndon and her collaborators pile vocal tracks atop one another in a dizzying stack, though production remains remarkably unmuddied.

There’s also something disturbing, unnerving about both songs and video. Herndon uses programmed manipulation to chop up lines, in some cases letting a trained AI feed impressions back into songs. It’s all heady and fresh, and I’m very on board.

In Which Pride Goeth Before a Long, Hot Summer

And our shadows are taller than our souls. Which I’m still not sure means anything, but it sounds damned good.

It’s Pride Sunday, an unofficial holiday that demarcates a lot of admonition and exhortations to be oneself, yourself, our true selves.

This is a day to celebrate differences, and particularly gayness with several allied associated bands of people trying to be their authentic selves. Celebrating as a marginalized group is empowering, and the history of Pride bears that out.

But I was reading an article in Scientific American on ways we either misunderstand or overlook what qualities we call “true,” or “authentic.” And there are multiple ways we fool ourselves into thinking we know what we mean by all of it.

But the article strikes an inspiring note by the end, even as it tears apart our cursory understanding of authenticity.

Healthy authenticity is an ongoing process of discovery, involving self-awareness, self-honesty, integrity with your most consciously chosen values and highest goals, and a commitment to cultivating authentic relationships.

We choose who we want to be as much as we reveal who we are by being honest, internally. We can be proud of that, too, and keep trying to become more of that ideal self, choosing the qualities we most admire.

Animals and Mystery in Tamsin Abbott’s Fusion of Magic and Glass

Raycomb House, by Tamsin Abbott

Tamsin Abbott builds wonder from carefully etched drawings on stained glass, usually hand-blown (Abbott tends to use “mouth-blown”) by other craftspeople.

Stained glass not only glows with intense color, it has deep religious connotations. Abbott’s work hints at this spirituality, but resonates with older, more animistic tales and associations.

It’s exciting to see other artists on related paths, and I wish I’d found these wonderful works when I was working on my own series of mythic animal-centric pieces. The inspiration would’ve been fascinating, I’ve no doubt.

Angela Harding Creates Nonverbal Narratvie and Mystery

Three hares stare nervously from a tangked shrub in front of a lit house and distant figures in the snow

“We Three Hares” by Angela Harding

There are a few artists doing something not too far from the things I’m experimenting with. Animals in stories, more abstract forms, saturated color. Angela Harding has a woodcut feel to most of her work, and it’s edging more into the commercial print realm than I usually want to go. But I don’t want to ignore that world, either.

Harding is—and rightly so, I’m sure—taking advantage of the attention on her work to expand her venues to merchandising and business commissions. And why not? There’s more snobbish division than I like between illustration and “fine art,” and I don’t think either is superior.

Her work has an art of the mysterious, a little Gorey in there, some dark shadows contrasting the playfulness of the scenes.

You’re Not Usually Done At the First Try, Sometimes It Takes Many

I sometimes return to this video to remind myself how often it takes more than a few viewpoints and a handful of revisions to get the best version of a work of art.

It’s telling that it took multiple people multiple attempts to get to the finished initial Star Wars film. Most familiar, probably, is the advice to writers that the first draft is only the beginning of the writing process. Musicians’ demos are another example of an idea that was often made into something greater.

It’s not that art always has to be deeply refined. Sometimes the spontaneity is the reason for a piece. But generally, the idea is brought into sharper focus and more resonant emotional power by honing, tweaking, shifting, and occasionally rebuilding from the parts.

The Beginning of Rebirth and Renewal, Through This Devin Townsend Song

Let there be light
Let there be moon
Let there be stars and let there be you
Let there be monsters, let there be pain
Let us begin to live again

The video is a bit distracting, but I find the words a thrill, even as some make me laugh. This is a valuable, rare quality in art of any kind, and Devin is better than most at pulling it off.

It’s helpful to have a reserve of these kinds of messages, things to tell yourself that help you keep going. Discouragement is often part of making art, like frustration. There’s excitement and satisfaction, too, but those don’t need encouraging memes to return to work. Sometimes all I need is a simple nudge that it’s meaningful to be doing it.