Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Artistic Paradox.

I made it back to Panza Gallery for another drawing session. I've only been going once every few weeks since the baby was born. The rotation of models has been consistent, so I haven't been missing out on new people to draw. I'd love to finish The Book of Life with some variety. I'm in the business section now, partially through the letter "e". The end of the project is in sight... it has been for awhile now. I am ready to be done with it- an entire phone book filled (every other page) with drawings. Somehow I'm starting to feel confined, as if I was curtailing my artistic progress. On one hand, I know that my skills have improved markedly in the nearly two years that I've been working on this thing. But I can't help feeling that my imagination has been stagnating.

I've been daydreaming about doing some more experimental drawing. I'd like to continue drawing from live models, but find a way to advance a sort of mutated vision. For some reason I've felt constrained to doing rather conventional figure drawings in this book. It certainly seems to fit my intentions for the project. Still I keep thinking about strange growths and exaggerations. I hope finishing this will be as liberating as I think it might be. I could have simply taken a break from it and started something else, but the lag in my progress has been glaring. Last year at this time I was drawing several times a week. As it is, it's looking like I'm not going to be done for several more months.

I know that the structure and the discipline required for completing The Book of Life will have a substantial payoff. The scope of the endeavor entails an inevitable development. I once read about a chess grandmaster who suggested that merely playing a 1000 matches would lead virtually anyone to become something of a master of the game. For that expert, getting better is largely a matter of perseverance. One can't help but learn something from repetition. This is most likely applicable to drawing as well. It would be hard to argue that I'm not improving my level of craft. But I have to ask myself whether it is making me a better "artist".

When I see the mannered paintings and drawings of those who aspire to the mastery of the classics, I don't necessarily consider these pieces to be "art". I can be impressed by the level of craftsmanship displayed, but they don't move me in the ways I expect "art" to move me. There must be conception, not just representation. I don't see the point in simply trying to make an image incredibly realistic. I have photography if I want to represent reality. Even in that medium, I've been moving further away from conventional documentation. So what is it I'm looking for? I appreciate the idiosyncratic and intensely personal work that forms a unique world view. That's the type of art I want to make.

The complication in all of this is that a certain level of technique is necessary to be able to convey my ideas into their external form. I've never had formal instruction in any of the pursuits of self-expression that I'm involved in. That goes for drawing, writing and photography. Still I can't help thinking that study and practice could only expand my possibilities. And yet this has to be balanced with a looseness of articulation that involves being apart from convention. If I learn the "proper" way to do these things, then they are going to be (by definition) less subjective and more derivative. It's a conundrum that I'm having difficulty synthesizing.

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Blogger Marc Snyder said...

As you're not asking for advice, I hesitate to give you some, but in somewhat similar circumstances I've taken the low-tech printmaking route - continue making the drawings you're making, but occasionally take a few of them to Kinko's, xerox them, cut up the xeroxes, splash around some paint, hang that stuff up on the wall, throw it on the floor, walk on it - let yourself use all of those drawings as BOTH a means towards improving your vision of what you want from drawing AND a big pile of raw material to throw around and see what happens. I'm a big fan of having LOTS of stuff around to keep things from getting too precious. . . "in order to achieve insight, one must work" Kurt Schwitters

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the exact thing you strive for is being shown and told right before are eyes....keep it up....MP

6:01 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


Thanks a lot for the suggestions. That's good stuff right there.


I'm trying.

7:18 PM  

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