The beauty of materials is a good starting point in art. It parallels the beauty of materials in life. Look at the textures of life’s things, seen at any focal length, they are amazing. You see the fish. Closer in, one sees the scales. Deeper into that, the cells. The atoms. The quarks … the whatnot of smallness in whatever scientific discipline has spied structure by means of an intense myopia.
Get in close to art, and you find the beauty of the drawing’s mark or the stroke of a brush. The chalky texture of oil paint. The luminosity of watercolor. The spare bracing Attic logic of a pen’s pure line.
Marks are like thoughts, they pile on one upon another, coming from the unseen textures of mind. “Who has seen the wind/neither you nor I/but when the trees bow down their heads/the wind is passing by” was a nursery poem my mother read to me, but who sees thoughts except as we say them or craft them into this and that, and where do they come from? If you want to get close to a mystery in nature, you need do no more than try following the thread of a dream back to its source.
The details of my pictures are like snap shots of the whole. The pieces seem like echos. I was thinking the same things, whether big or small.
The early stages of a drawing have a certain charm, too. It’s narcissistic to gaze in this mirror, I’ll admit. But when you go to the trouble of trying to make something, you might as well get to know the maker. Yet I have so little clue what I’m doing as I draw, and this mystery fascinates me. I think the artist preserves something of a child-like spirit. They way that a small child can content herself with watching someone tie a shoelace. (Well, it really is pretty amazing when you think about it — and children unlike us — well, they think about it.)
When you look into nature, even human nature, sometimes it looks back at you. Kind of spooky, that!