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.

Reverse Groundhog Day(s)

I noticed the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day pop up on Netflix, and it occurred to me it relates to a regular art-making practice in a backward way.

While Phil Conners relives the same day over and over again, we live new days, but try to do this (usually similar) creative thing over and over.

The trick we attempt is in getting better at making, and just as Phil slowly gets better at being a human being, we get gradually better at bringing out our visions and expression.

This is every day, if you want it.

Waiting for Thing to Happen

It’s a cliché that we shouldn’t wait for the world to recognize us for our work. So how do we get the attention? Instead of offering any how-to advice—because, hell, I don’t know, either—let me pose a couple questions you might ask yourself that I find myself returning to.

  1. Why do I want recognition? Answer this and you’ll either spotlight your ego (“I’m a genius, duh!”), or realize you care less than you thought you did, or understand you don’t know why.

The first is shallow, for good or ill, and that might not be a reason to disavow seeking fame for your amazing thing, but you should own it. The second is a pleasant revelation, and you are now free to do whatever you want—but do keep sharing your work. The third is the hardest, and you can either engage a therapist, or think hard about it till you figure it out. Or both. Both would probably be good for you.

  1. Does it matter if I don’t get the thing I want?

This can lead you back to the first question if the answer is yes, or free you to stop making art or forge ahead in sheer abandon, finally not giving a damn what other people think.

If it matters at all, though, keep working.

Time Management Can Go to Hell, in Certain Circumstances

You’re making art. You get sucked in. You forget the universe outside the one you’re making.

It happens, and you don’t have to feel bad about it. Sometimes if you’ve fallen into the work, and there is no time—for a blissful, weird micro-infinite period—its the best moment you could hope for, and a good reason to keep trying to regain a foothold in that pocket universe of your own creation.

Working on Noticing Things: Part One of More

One of the things about being an artist that separates you is the quality of noticing things others overlook. Seeing unusual things or ordinary things in unusual ways is a key principle in most creativity. So how do you start?

First attempts: slow and steady. Any regular route you take-to work, regular errands, family houses—tends to blur into sameness over time. We get used to the sights and sounds and stop looking, seeing what’s there.

So start with your regular route somewhere. Start expanding what you notice. Small things. Out-of-the-way things. Write them down, somewhere.

In Love With Art Isn’t Necessarily In Love With Your Art

I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be making art if we didn’t love it. Maybe there’s some tortured genius out there who’s just ambivalent about art in general, but keeps making it because she’s really good at it. But probably not.

It doesn’t follow that because we’re fascinated and enamored by a few or thousands of artists that we appreciate our own. Artists as their own worst critic is more true than not, in my experience, and that can easily extend to bald hatred of their own work.

I’m here to ask you to go easy on yourself. Making art—creating at all, really—is hard. Our visions of what could be don’t match what comes out in the physical world. But there’s tremendous value in giving of yourself so deeply. Pulling the viscera of your inner being out into daylight is brave and revealing. You deserve gentle adulation just for that.

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.

The Primary Audience Is You, but Art Works Better With an Audience > 1

I don’t like a lot of my individual things. I do tend to like my work in the aggregate, when I think of it or see it laid out together. But I’m my own worst critic. Sometimes I’m my only critic, because I’m the only one who’s seen the thing I made. This is normal, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to release everything up front.

But art never seen by any non-its-creator is incomplete. Art requires a second participant to be fully realized, to be whole. I think art is—in addition to being essentially human—a group activity when it’s “completed.” That is, once you’re done making a work, someone(s) else must experience it to finish it.

I know this is a bit convoluted. It seems like double talk. But as valuable as it can be to simply create on your own, your work is left unfinished until another person engages their senses with it.

Game of This and That

Sometimes a cheap, pandering title is just the thing to tangent from.

We obsess over stories like nothing else. It’s another essentially human thing. Obsession is good, in moderation. We have to have some measure of it to stick with anything when it gets hard.

Just as it’s hard to watch made up people you care about get killed off on screen, it’s hard to watch your ideas fail to find a firm place to take hold and then fade. But there are always more ideas. If we keep on making them, there will be a few that make it.