IN PRAISE OF DRAWING

Nude

I have been doing a lot of drawing lately; of the sex worker subjects I am working on in Earls Court; of the Nude; and of myself in the studio.

What impresses me again and again is how difficult drawing is. I have been doing it all my professional life, and yet it still feels like every new drawing is a different way up the mountain—attempting to capture all that is there in reality—which is momentous.

I suppose that is the hump of disappointment we always have to get over in drawing: the overflowing bounty of information our sense of sight is giving us as compared to the tiny amount of that information we are actually managing to impart to the paper. When you think about it: the conversion of this highly complex act of perceiving into the basic motor apparatus of nerves and ligaments and tendons gently flexing the hand, you’re left in awe of the activity itself. Imagine a higher primate producing a likeness of another primate with a charcoal-burnt twig. It would be an earth-shattering event.

So drawing well is really a miraculous act, and when it is happening, you feel it—you feel grace flowing through you as you do when you are dancing and really feeling it. It’s more than that, in fact:—a quiet ecstasy that shouldn’t disturb the act itself—because if you become too self-conscious, the “I am drawing well” voice chimes in and ruins everything. There is effort, there is extreme attention, but there is no straining. That leads to trembling and anxiety, which unsteadies both pencil and perception.

The gift of drawing is selfless. Self-judgment and criticism shut it down. Only by forgetting myself can I truly see the other. I am relaxed, I am enjoying myself, I am letting this activity happen of its own accord. There’s a natural rhythm of observation in tandem with the scratching pencil. The eyes going back-and-forth from distance to near distance–it’s a dance with the Other, the object, the observable, and the brain seems to know it so well, as if drawing is something it has always done, always wanted to do, from time immemorial.

So here’s to the beauty of drawing; the difficulty, the discovery, the simplicity of it. An activity which always leaves me refreshed and energized, and more in touch with being.

 

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