Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Back to the drawing board

One of the best pastimes that I have never fully taken advantage of is drawing. In my room I have this pretty thick and practically empty sketchbook that constantly begs for me to take it out onto the Lakefill and draw something, anything, everything.

But I don't. At least not enough. And I wonder why.

Flipping through my notebook, I realize I have a tendency to only produce one type of sketch - the portrait. While I've deviated from the norm on occasion to draw the TARDIS and to attempt a preliminary sketch of a landscape that I could transfer to acrylic paint on a canvas, of the few drawings I have, they're pretty much exclusively of the faces of people.

I've thought a lot about why I enjoy drawing people. And I've come to a conclusion. It's not that people are more interesting than landscapes or objects. It's not that I feel a particular compulsion to stare at people rather than places. In fact, I often prefer to be in peace while I sit around and observe nature rather than humanity. I get enough of humanity in classes, on television, in movies. No one takes the time to film or appreciate nature for long periods - save for National Geographic, but I don't subscribe and I can't access the TV channel.

Yet when I have the opportunity to draw, I'm drawn (pardon the pun) to faces.

When it comes to art, minutia is the deciding factor over whether your work has a sense of realism or fantasy. While I've always enjoyed being creative and coming up with new ways of representing something that already exists, I have very little talent for interpretive art - which is generally lacking in minutia. So I've turned to incredibly precise representations in my drawings.

That isn't to say I'm accurate. In fact, though my characters are usually identifiable with their real life inspirations, they are often a sort of illustrated take on the person.

[Side note: From here to the end of this blog, I'm going to pretend that all I draw is portraits. Thank you for your consideration.]

But where I do put a focus on accuracy is in one area in particular: the eyes.

Someone once said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. I don't know who it was or why they said it, but it's certainly caught on since then. And I've come to really believe it.

When I draw, after I've established the shapes that make up the facial structure of my subject, my first take on the real person behind the image I'm creating is to copy their eyes. If I could, I would sit with my sketchbook for an hour just working on eyes. When I find that there is anything off about the eyes, I erase and start over.

You cannot make a mistake with the eyes.

What I've found in my limited experience with drawing is that no matter the other features of a person, when you've found their eyes you've found them in the piece.

Sometimes it scares me. I'll be in the middle of creating a face and have finished drawing both eyes. Suddenly, I'm no longer alone. It's almost like the character on the page is jumping out at me, watching me construct the rest of them. I feel a connection with what I'm putting on paper.

It all sounds strange and slightly schizophrenic. And I think most of writing about art does. There's really no better way to characterize the way an artist feels when creating their work other than schizophrenia.

When I listen to or create works, it's like I'm splitting myself up into two parts:

First is the part of me that is the creator. I'm sitting (or standing) with my work - whether it be music that I'm singing, an image that I'm drawing or a photo that I'm taking - and manipulating it. I feel detached from the work in that I am overseeing it rather than participating in it.

But the second part is where I may need a psychoanalyst. Because while I'm drawing or singing or taking a photo, I start to feel myself inhabit the space that my subject is in. It's not that I'm them, per se, but that I'm with them. If I'm drawing I can feel myself and the image looking back at me, if I'm singing I can hear my voice as a separate entity from my body, if I'm taking a photo I can recognize myself as a part of the image since I'm behind the camera.

I don't know what to make of it exactly.

All I know is that for some reason the eyes have it (play on words, get it?). Everyone understands that feeling of peering into someone's face and learning about them through their eyes. Or feeling someone's eyes on them when they're not looking. There's something penetrating about a stare, even a look. Even if it's not there.

I wish I would draw more. If only to feel the intimate connection that I do when I'm drawing a face. When I work on the eyes, I become entranced in the work. Time and space seem to disappear. That might even be why I avoid it.

When I draw, I could do so in a matter of minutes. But I usually end up taking an hour at least. It's not the obsession with intricacies that does it - it's the fact that in that frame of 60 minutes I become stuck in the world of what I'm drawing and I can't get out. I drown in the eyes for hours.

Still, I'm grateful for any opportunity I have to become a slave to my work. Even if it doesn't become a daily occurrence or an undying passion, I love that feeling of wanting desperately to express myself - or the object I'm drawing's self.

There aren't enough things in life that you never want to end. A good movie, sure. A summer vacation, yes. A day at Disneyland, I know all too well. But when you can find something completely within your power to do on a daily basis, you have to hang onto it.

And I need to get back to the drawing board.

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