I have always loved drawing. Growing up in a tumultuous environment, I found solace in the recesses of my bedroom drawing the things around me, for hours. When I lived in NY and worked as a mural painter, drawing was always the first step of the mural process. And a few years ago when I traveled through Italy, I decided to bring only my sketchbook and a few sharpies (my preferred drawing utensil - I especially like when the sharpies are at varying levels of fullness. I can then alternate pens depending on the level of lightness or darkness I need). but, I digress…
In Italy, as I traveled from one town to the next, I used a small rectangular shape set within the page as my drawing space. I drew whatever I wanted. It is important for me that my drawings serve no other purpose than a fluid flow from subconscious thought to the page. The drawings don’t have to mean anything or be part of anything. They just are. When I look back at that Italy sketchbook I see how tentative I was in the beginning. By the end of the sketchbook, the drawings became more abstract and the negative space more purposeful.
And that is what I love about drawing the most. Its ability to lead me to where I want to go. For instance, the Italy drawings lead to the series, The Space Between, paintings on stretched silk with wood constructions. To look at that sketchbook, one might not see the connection or the value of the sketches. But their sole purpose is to translate thoughts in a visual way. My drawings are my visual diary.
I have several friends that make beautiful sketchbooks with bold and colorful drawings. I have always lusted after these sketchbooks worthy of putting under a glass case (see the work of Ruthie Chen below). Mine are messy, delicate, experimental. Some are filled with words and squiggles. Others are filled with little drawings surrounded by empty space. Several years ago, I let go of the notion that my sketchbooks had to be beautiful or art worthy or sketchbookie. They had a much more important purpose acting as a siphon of ideas.
Today, I fill my sketchbooks as I see fit. I find that drawings made a year or two ago are only now becoming full fledged artworks in the studio. Because sometimes a work needs to gestate, in the mind, on the page and in the studio.
One of the very best artist talks I have heard is with Stanley Whitney at the School of Visual Arts. While I love this painter’s work, I find this particular talk so relevant for all artists because he is completely, unequivocally honest about his struggle to find HIS way of working. He speaks of the years of making paintings and not quite feeling right about them. Whitney makes the point that it is through his drawings that he ultimately found his way. And the drawings are really good works in and of themselves. Take the time to watch or listen. It is worth it!
For me, I will keep drawing when I want to and how I want to, without dictating a direction or worrying if the drawings are good or not. I know they are leading somewhere and I trust that implicitly.
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