I am fortunate to live in a place where I can easily walk to places where the water, earth and creatures are relatively undisturbed by human activity. I try to go to these places often, to balance out my perspective on the rest of my life.
I take snapshots of things I see. I think it helps me translate the experience of being and seeing into marks on paper. Here are some from this morning’s walk.
Mostly I don’t directly refer to the photos while I’m drawing, but use them to remember the way branches tangle, or water holds the sky, or how shadows play through trees.
Sometimes I work directly with a particular image. But my personal ‘rules’ for the daily drawing aren’t really about making finished illustrations. So when I do that kind of drawing, in a sense I’m taking time away from my basic practice to work on technique. Instead of going into the space of not really knowing how things are going to end up, I choose a sort of concrete challenge, and can measure the results.
I think both approaches feed each other. Observation sharpens my seeing of details, and strengthens my control of media. I’m trying to get to where I spend enough time to be able to do some of both. Meanwhile, the daily practice keeps the lines open.
One of my big blockers is the one who reminds me that I have nothing to say that’s worth sharing. My doodles and scribbles are meaningless or trivial, they add no particular value to the world. This critic says I should know what my drawing is about, and should be able to talk about it with context and references. Sometimes to get past this one, I have to find some kind of feeling or attraction (magenta crayon!) and just make some kind of mark on the paper to get started. Then I follow the marks into that uncritical dreaming space of lines and colors, politely reminding all my inner critics that they may carry on their conversation in any other room in my consciousness that does not stop me from actually doing this trivial and silly work.
If necessary, I can look at my photos which are a compilation of times I paused to say to myself “how beautiful!” The pictures are many, and I’m not a very good photographer, so they feel ephemeral and un-precious as autumn leaves. So my drawings can be like the leaves too. Some come out pretty good, some just do the job, but they’re something to look at. I post them, and they become part of the massive drifts of images you see every day. If I ask myself why I keep doing this, part of it is just to see where it’s going. By taking this action every day I am changing what I am. In a sense any purpose and practice I choose beyond basic survival is arbitrary, so I finally choose one that lets me call myself an artist without feeling a pang of dishonesty or regret.
Here are the drawings I posted this past week: