Growth Spurt

Shades of Remembrancedetail of oil pastel drawing (face)

Mural detail

I’m going to see if I can’t put up a post every day for a while now. Some days I’ll just post an image or two (old, new, any medium) and other times, if actual thoughts or ideas occur to me I’ll make a supreme effort to get them into text before they vanish utterly like so many puffs of pixie dust. In honor of that concept, today’s drawing post is an older piece that represents a period of welcome growth that was spurred by my disappointment and frustration when I met with my chief studio adviser in grad school after a counterbalance of deadly dry time left me with little to show her beyond a handful of insipid scrawls that were mere ghosts of old ideas rehashed. In response to her admonition to ‘try something different’ I had a semi-hysterical bout of throwing out baby, bath water and tub all in one fling, deciding that the desperate measures I desired were a school of opposites. I’d been drawing 16″ x 20″ and smaller fussy (and excruciatingly slowly executed) surrealist still lifes in graphite pretty exclusively, and the exclusions came to include imagination and fun as I spiraled into frustrated ennui.

My solution: work large, explore a multitude of drawing media, work faster than is comfortable, draw subjects unfamiliar and intimidating, and quit critiquing unproductively midstream. It’s one thing to make small adjustments along the way, another to be immobilized by constant critical interruptions obsessing on the imperfection of my technique and execution–practicing past which was really the whole point of my doing graduate studies, after all. The result was that in the same several weeks it had taken to do the previous sad-sack batch of four or five drawings, I filled a gallery with walls about 5 meters in both directions from floor to ceiling with drawings, any one of them filled with greater energy and sense of adventure than the previous set combined. Not necessarily championship material every time out, mind you, but the mere act of pushing my productivity was a healthy kick in the keister for this would-be artist.

It’s entirely possible that my family and friends would have appreciated my taking a slightly less exaggerated approach to the change-up, since it resulted in massive amounts of large-scale (including a number of up to 9′ x 15′ and 4′ x 20′ murals) works that led, at the end of their assisting me with the installation of my thesis exhibition and lugging said works hither and yon, to whispers among them wondering why I hadn’t opted more kindly to become a skilled miniaturist. Or found less overworked relatives and friends, at least. But in the end they were all incredibly supportive and enthusiastic about my starting to learn how to manage my life in art production, and I learned perhaps the most important lesson I’ve fallen into yet, which is that the Muse requires equal ass-kicking; inspiration rarely happens without the regular pressure of constant and assiduous practice. If I think I’ve gotten to the point of needing no more practice to improve, I’ve clearly lost my last brain cell and should just lie down and rid the world of some ‘surplus population’. The mass-production approach to making art is, while a great boost via mere numerical odds to the number of possible “keeper” artworks, also an expensive enterprise, one that made me a much more devoted recycler in the process, to be sure.

Still, I wouldn’t trade this one essential atom of wisdom for all of my other education–anything worth learning and doing is worth practicing. I’ve had fallow periods aplenty since then, of course, but when I get the itch I know full well that the best way to scratch it is to dive back in and practice on a constant and vigilantly pursued basis. So many have written and spoken so eloquently of this in the past and continue to publish brilliantly on the topic, but until I stumbled on the experience in my own naive way I had no real appreciation for the power of this one prized truth.

This mural is one of several of the 4′ high by 20′ wide oil pastel on paper pieces that were part of the big life-changing project I tackled in those enlightening days of yore. This post is the first of my attempts at every-day blogging to bring the next degree of change to my life as an artist. Onward!

mural of faces

Oil pastel on paper, 4'H x 20'W

3 thoughts on “Growth Spurt

  1. Thanks! Green was sort of a “safe place” for me to go when I was finally emerging from my near-total immersion in black-and-white work. Maybe it’s the northwesterner in me that’s always in love with the flexibility and life green brings to everything . . .

  2. Pingback: Raised Eyebrows | kiwsparks

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