These are some flowers my daughter drew a couple years ago around age nine. These are her versions of things she saw in the Hortus eystettensis or in drawing of William Morris. She did her own bold interpretations of the images, copying and inventing at the same time (like a good artist). Indeed, the fixity with which she routinely placed lines — bam, bam — heedlessly, confidently — it became the watchwork of our household. We have long referred to her bold drawing. And it’s become part of the theme of this blog. Alas, she’s more of a “novelist” now (at age eleven), but she still draws sometimes!
You can learn a great deal from the careless approach that a child sometimes takes to drawing — before society gets hold of them and teaches them that drawing is “hard.”
When my daughter was just a crawler and I was recovering my artistic chops after long days of being exclusively maternal, I began to resume drawing by making drawings like this. I used colored pencils because they were child safe. I drew on the floor because that’s where my little crawler lived. The pattern of the floorboards came through the colorings as an accidental rubbing while I worked up the form. I copied fishes from a book. (My love affair with swimming creatures was already beckoning in nascent form.) I drew as carefully as the moment allowed, rusty draughtsman that I was, my drawing muscles all linearly out-of-shape. And I worked especially carefully at that aspect that looks back at you — at the fishes’ eyes. And this bothered my little crawler. She did not like drawings that look back. So she just as carefully scribbled over each of the fishes’ offensive eyes.
Wish I could have asked her what she was about, but it’s a wise secret she kept to herself. She was too young to talk! And now she no longer remembers.
In the previous post I showed just the eye. Here is the entire fish. We caught him on paper about ten years ago. We caught him and now he just swims in this one spot forever. Immortal fish.
Got to test the camera once in a while. I was trying to see how up-close I could get and still keep it in focus. I love magnification. Love to see the texture of the paper and the pigment dragged across the paper’s ragged surfaces. And regarding the fish one draws, one cannot but love the eye that gazes back at you.
About ten years ago, maybe longer, I stapled a piece of canvas paper to some cardboard and began drawing my blue compotier in quick strokes of paint. And what happened after that? The phone rang? I dunno. Whatever it was, I quit working and never resumed the painting. And it has stayed in this haphazard condition ever since. Of course it was only a study from the beginning. The canvas paper is torn and oddly shaped. But I love this unfinished picture.
It’s the kind of thing you do strictly for yourself, the way that humming in the shower is distinctly different from a recital. I made a record of forms and linear contours in whatever order they struck my notice. I was unconcerned about the identification of the object, about whether anyone can tell what it is. I observed instead its visual properties, and they held my gaze perfectly well in all their abstract purity.
The beauty of a sketch offers dangerous temptations. It can make one timid about going forward. The sketchiness can be so beguiling that one becomes reluctant to make that necessary journey toward finishing an idea. In my youth the buzzword was “over-worked.” It was the great terror. God forbid one overworks a picture. New bugaboos have replaced that idea now. Of course, there does exist a genuine fault involved in finishing something in unmeaningful ways. Yet we must bite the painterly bullet and go forward with ideas, willing to make mistakes of judgment in the interest of learning real visual lessons.
An artist definitely needs to learn how to go beyond the beauty of impulse, ephemera and accident. Certainly. But equally truly, one must have one’s moment of daliance with these delights. Or else one forsakes the encounter with pure form. It cannot be got any other way. Sometimes it comes just so fleetingly.
Artists learn to accept the stops and starts of discovery in order to get the knowledge that comes hidden in the different places — in the mind’s different corners of impulse and deliberation.