Friday, June 21, 2013

My New Old Routine

The past couple of months have been spent happily enjoying my new old routine: Drawing. Drawing daily. Drawing almost all day long, in fact.

Yes, yes; it's always been my routine, really, but not daily, and not like THIS. At least not since I was little.

For a long time I've been trying to somehow get back to how drawing made me feel as a child. Back then I was always drawing -- drawing during Saturday morning cartoons, drawing before Lights Out at night and before breakfast in the morning, and most especially when I was supposed to be doing something else, like cleaning my room or completing my homework. It was FUN. There was stuff to learn. And there was color....

As a kid my big goal was to eventually draw so well that my creations looked perfect, like photographs. Over the years I learned lots during all that practice. It was fascinating stuff. Hard work, but fun, too. And over the years I got pretty good (I think). Things were looking 'photograph-like.' 

People seemed impressed. I was routinely asked, "How long did it take you to draw that??" And I would hear, "You're such a good artist!" Wow -- I was a bonafide artist! And I was an artist because I could draw like a photograph.


But pretty soon drawing was no longer fun; it was boring. And there was something missing. I know now that I was what was missing. There was nothing of 'me' in my work.

I'll admit that I only came to this conclusion a few years ago. (About time, too; I was only half a hundred years old, after all....) I was going through a highly uncreative period then where I pretty much began using my studio as a spare room in which to store boxes. I didn't know what I wanted to do. Drawing wasn't fun, it was dull, it was work. No -- it was a J.O.B. :(

I'll change the subject for a moment and say thank goodness for Fest. I didn't join it all those years ago because I wanted to sell my art. No. I knew that I had no acting, singing, juggling, fire-eating, lute-playing, morris-dancing, slack-rope-walking, or pulling-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat abilities, so my art was my Only Way In. Fest gave me my family. It gave me an audience, and an opportunity for feedback. My friends and customers there listened and offered their suggestions and support. They kept me drawing when I wasn't sure I wanted to draw any longer. Plus, I knew I couldn't just 'quit' Fest; I loved it. So that meant hanging in there when I didn't feel like it.

But I'll admit that there were Festival seasons that were frustrating for me (and probably for my customers, too). Creating products for a regular audience that was trying to keep up with and understand my flux was difficult. Especially since I didn't really know who I was as an artist. Or if I even WAS an artist! Wasn't I just a copier?? No, not anymore. But if I had something to say, it was still a mystery to me.... 

So where to begin? Begin at the beginning. Take it all the way back to Square One, I told myself. I knew the basics, right?, how a face is composed, how to shade a circle so it looks like a ball, blah, blah. I couldn't forget all that I'd taught myself, all that I'd learned. But I could bend some rules, perhaps. And I could reintroduce myself to my inner child.

So I began sketching again. Only without an eraser. And without a photograph.... I learned to 'embrace the mistakes.' I drew with a pen (frightening!). I tried drawing entirely from imagination and found (unsurprisingly) that my imagination muscle SUCKED. I drew and disappointed myself. I locked my inner critic away, drew some more, and got better. I found myself in that kid situation again of learning all over from scratch.

This year at Fest I know I'll hear what I always hear: a handful of folks lamenting, "Why don't you draw eagles anymore? Where are the landscapes? I miss your old stuff!" Oh well. I've moved on. I'm no longer That Artist.

And I'm moving on even more, it seems. Things are even simpler now. And there's color, too (whoa....). I'm not 100% sure if I'm moving forward or backward, really, and I don't think I care. Because whatever it is I'm doing is interesting me and making drawing fun again. I spend whole days at it now, even on the weekends. I walk away and then hurry to return to it. I carry my sketch stuff with me. I get up in the morning and sit down to my pencils and spend long hours before it even occurs to me that I have yet to brush my teeth or make my bed. 

And those all look like good signs to me.