It’s possible to take the stance that our limitations can become our strengths. It’s choice of perception… What I can’t do shapes the edges of what I can do. What is possible is discovered by freely playing at edges of ability and comfort and then stepping back to see what happens. Not so strangely, like everyone else, as I keep playing, the edges of what I find that I’m capable of doing keeps moving.
As we become more and more familiar with what we can do and what we can’t, we tend to lean towards activities that make our lives more predictable and stable, we leave the edges for the safety of the known and accepted.
What I crave is a sense of feeling outside of myself, when I’m embedded in the flow, I don’t really feel fully in control of what’s happening. I make decisions, take an action, evaluate, and repeat until done. I’m moving towards a result, but I’m not first seeing an end result in my minds eye and then moving towards that vision. Very much the opposite, the results emerge from the interaction of monkey wrenches purposely being regularly thrown into the chain of decisions, (my inability to keep focused on accurately drafting what’s in front of me, (I find that there’s an aesthetic to naive ability that’s easy (and comfortable) to relate to) or the result of an occasional random grab into the colors box, setting off an unexpected chain of decisions in reaction to the misuse of color.) Admittably, I do enjoy surprises and surprisingly, the monkey wrenches work.
Ideally, I don’t want to see reality, reality is already right in front of me. I want to see a reality filtered through an individual. I want to see the art that they make using the filter that they essentially become.
Tell me, which thought makes the corners of your mouth turn up in a smile?
A dog wagging its tail? or A tail wagging its dog?
At the end of the day, I just want to make it home in one piece, kiss Jess, maybe grab her hand and find a taco and a coffee, pick up some mixings for dinner before heading home to sit out on the porch with the kids, talking about what each of us experienced and what we learned during the day. The chit chat while we all draw easily pushes back dinner time if we start laughing.
I don’t know how other people find the time to sink themselves into large projects afterwork. I get off at 3:30 and hope to find bed at 8:30, but someone always seems to find me before I make it all the way. No complaints…
I’m Dreaming of Brassai.
I don’t really believe that I exist… If I did, is it a black and white issue? I do… I don’t. Am I the meat that is me? Am I the crystalline structure of my neurology or the bioelectric flow of emery? Am I a collection of impulses from the collective trillions of cells that make up me? Am I a lowa with amnesia riding an animal in a far away dream? Possibly a simulation or a mirage of consciousness in an electric universe.
Or I’m just myself taking time to do what the universe contrived to put me here to do… making a drawing while thinking to myself.
We search for simplicity, a maintainable ideal that we feel that we can devote ourselves to. Too many and too much, as fulfilling as it sounds, quickly leads away from something maintainable and off into the weeds.
“Kiss” 2016 collaboration Jessica Fong/ Zygote Blum
Nor should simple be considered the absence of complexity. Many of the of the simplest ideals that we devote ourselves to, Love, Happiness, or Beauty, these are some of the most complex undertakings that we can pursue, more parable than dogma, and it’s the chase of these that effectively give meaning to a lifetime.
What’s passable at any given moment, eventually will be questioned.
Still, do the work that you’ve agreed to do, even if that agreement was merely with yourself, (check that… especially if that agreement was with yourself). Show up, stand up straight, there’s no need to be in denial of a sense of pride when you honestly challenge yourself and come up short.
Today after work, Nico looked over my shoulder as I was pulling the tape off of one of tonight’s drawings and mentioned that the work was starting to look less like someone trying to draw something and more like someone drawing something, (the difference being the “trying”). When asked “what do you mean?” she answered while her finger, traced out the clean boarder around the drawing. “With all that white around it, it looks like a picture on a gallery wall. It looks like art is supposed to look.”
earlier in the week, I had started working the practice of masking the edges of the drawings with tape. “You draw all messy, but it looks like it’s supposed to be that way. Good job dad…”
In the past, the assumption was that work needed a plinth or a frame to be considered finished for presentation. With the drawings, I didn’t see them as worthy candidates for presentation. Even though the pastels had been set down, when I looked at them, they didn’t feel finished. Strangely, when I looked as what I posted on Instagram, they had a different feeling. The hunch was that the frame that Instagram provided
Now what I’m suspecting is that the work simply needs to be able to claim the space around it to be considered a presentable candidate. The juxtaposition of a simple drawing on a piece of paper with a clean boarder can make for a compelling object in itself.
In the past, a notorious test of an object’s baseline value has been that if taken out of context of an implied value, and is left to be found inexplicably on the ground by a stranger, would the person that found it choose to put it in the garbage or keep it…
Trash or treasure
Relaxing after a long day of deadheading roses and pruning trees with two sheets of paper, a few hard pastels, and a pineapple kambucha…
4 mouths ago, the thought was to sit down every night after work and do a quick portrait drawing, just relax and enjoy the process, make 100 of them and see where it goes. It’s been an experience. I don’t know how many have been done, I quickly lost track, but I’ve definitely improved and gained confedence in blocking in and laying down lines. As I was drawing this quick sketch yesterday, I had to take a moment to note that I was doing something that a year ago I wouldn’t have been able to do. To be able to just sit down and draw Jess wasn’t going to just happen, I would have been so overly concerned with making a bad drawing, I wouldn’t have made the drawing. Now… I really don’t care. Bad drawings happen. They happen all the time, but sometimes good ones happen instead. Both are worth the experience of doing.
“Tangled Sheets” graphite on found paper
Am I glad invested time and effort into moving back onto paper? Absolutely. Despite 30 years of working in the arts, I’m finally actually feeling like I’ve earned the right to claim to be an artist.
When in doubt whether an image is holding back… if it feels too restrained, too muted… my go to choice is to take an action that violates the acceptance of the image. Push it off balance. Create tension. Create a need for response and make the viewer question what they are reacting to. Create a state of arousal.
Questioning is a lived experience that acceptance very much is not.
There’s a part of myself that genuinely wishes I drew like this all of the time.
I feel her eyes on me and they purr “I don’t understand you, but I see you, and I accept you.”