Figuring

“Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see.” Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Drawing is about both seeing and about expressing.  But to make others see, as Degas, one of the world’s finest draughtsman suggests, a drawing has to be about something more than reproducing what the subject looks like or expressing the fallout from rush-hour traffic.  It has to be authentic, it has to be connected and it has to display your individual uniqueness.

However, in a struggle to hone skill enough to lay down a line that isn’t embarrassing, what I often see is a hand trying to be more and more in control.  The tighter it gets, the ‘deader’ the drawing or painting becomes.

So instead measuring and gauging and fretting, my approach to any subject is to set up a situation that keeps control at a minimum.  That means giving myself  a problem to overcome (besides drawing),  like  not looking; or using a non-dominant hand; or drawing over other drawings; or turning the page upside down repeatedly still drawing the same thing; or drawing in all 4 directions; or erasing all or part  with eraser or paint after several minutes and starting again. And again. Each time leaving evidence that I was there. Not worrying about the outcome, just the moment in which my hand moves the charcoal, graphite or brush. That way a little bit of what is inside is allowed to leak onto the page as if by magic.  And at the same time that I’m tripping over the extra challenge, there is seeing, there is connecting, there is learning.

Paula shared part of a beautiful letter from a student of her husband’s—Marc Lipshey, a renowned oboist: “He insisted that as a musician it was my challenge and responsibility to craft a life for every note. That every note, no matter how brief for the listener, has a birth and death. That each note was a lifecycle and together they create a universe.”

The artist has the same responsibility with each mark, with each stroke of the brush.  But sometimes we may have to get out of our own way in order to find it.

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