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I am drawing studies of flowers to help me think about them. My approach to drawing has always been very simple:  you look at something, you find yourself believing that a line describes an edge or shape in “this” way, you locate the line in “this” place in your mind, so you put it there.  You are either correct or not correct, but you’ve made a choice.  The drawing that you make as you go through many similar moments of decision becomes the record of all those perceptions, all those choices.  And for that reason I also don’t subscribe to any philosophy about what structures “should” go first, or how they ought to exist on the page, for the whole point as it seems to me is that you are cataloging aspects of your own perception.

I notice things in a certain order (held secret by my cerebral cortex) and I just go with the flow, essentially putting things down in the order that I notice them.

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Well, recently I met a guy who seems to ratify my decision with a very wise saying that he whispered into my ear.  Actually I was reading a book, but he expressed the idea so magically that I figure I ought to jazz the story up some — for it was very much like a whisper.  He said:  “Shoot the air into the air, and wherever it lands call that the target.”

Here’s how that works.

You cannot guarantee anything about drawing (the same is true of life generally).  You want to make a really swell drawing, but naturally you will make many decisions that you’ll afterwards decide to describe as “mistakes.”  You might tell yourself that it would be so nice if these mistakes could somehow be avoided in advance.  But, alas, it is somehow never possible.  And yet, wise folks know that to accomplish any deed you have to learn, that learning involves making errors, and that these errors must occur if you’re ever going to achieve the goal you set for yourself.

It can be demoralizing to contemplate mistakes.  In contrast it is intriguing to contemplate ideas.  I learned one day — don’t recall when it was — that the lines I draw are ideas.  Once they became ideas even the mistakes among them sometimes became quite interesting.

You have to start somewhere.  Especially if you’ve any hope of being inventive.  So sometimes you have to just “shoot the arrow into the air.” And where it lands — well, you not only call that the target — quite honestly sometimes it IS the target.

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2 thoughts on “Shoot the arrow into the air

  1. A beautiful blog post Aletha 🙂 here’s to your cerebral cortex 😉 By the way you have written ‘shoot the air into the air’ in the middle and I was really trying to work out how that works – haha – until I realised it was a misprint 🙂

  2. Thank you, Gabe, for the thoughts and the correction. I have since mended it, but as you can see I take the idea of “mistakes” to a bit of an extreme sometimes. I am going to have a little talk with my cerebral cortex about this, you can be sure.

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