Friday, November 7, 2008

Subject and Technique

I managed to get some work done on my latest project last night (stayed up wayy to late), and I have to say I'm really excited about her. I had picked a different subject for this latest pencil drawing to challenge myself, and for probably the last week I stared at my chosen image and wondered how I would even start. She's a little Asian girl about four years old, so there are no life lines on her face yet, no story there. What's more, she's sleeping, so I didn't even have the eyes to get me going. I thought there was no story there at all.

Boy, was I wrong. Once I started the lines I realized that everybody has a story to tell, no matter how young or old. She's simply beautiful, and I didn't see the fullness of that until I was drawing her. How the shadows play differently over her peaceful face. How her chubby hands reveal that all-too recently she was just a baby, and in many ways she still is. I love drawing hands as much as faces, they're so full of life.

I purposely did two things in my efforts last night: one, I kept my left brain firmly out of the room, opting instead to trust the process without intervention. And two, I kept my lines open and free, maintaining the energy that I think makes a piece live on its own. I prefer sketching with these open lines for that reason, because I feel there's more energy in the finished work. There is of course some editing to finish the piece, and the real challenge lies in knowing where to stop editing to preserve that energy. So tonight (or maybe my son's nap time, if I get lucky!), I'll focus on a very light editing. I think the piece has some terrific energy and I don't want to ruin it (lord knows I've edited the life out of my share of drawings).

I had some interesting thoughts on my choice of subject while I was letting my pencil wander:

A few months ago I took a drawing class, "Multum in Parvo" (Much in Little). The instructor asked us each to pick an object to focus on, and he emptied a bag of items out onto the table. I was dismayed by the choices: plastic toys, metal bolts, bottlecaps. So I slipped outside and picked a wildflower that was growing in the crack between the sidewalk slabs. I just couldn't fathom drawing something that wasn't alive. I can do flowers, people, wood. Anything with a story. When the class was almost over, out of curiosity I picked up a bottlecap and tried to draw it. I couldn't even get past the first line, there was simply nothing for me to grab onto. It had nothing to say to me.

This might be true for a lot of artists, but since I don't know many others I thought it was interesting.

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