I’ve been engaging in a bit of showy display, aimed at my Muse. The way it works, you see, is that she stomps off in a huff, leaving me with very little enthusiasm for anything besides playing video games or rereading books. Of course, there’s only so long you can do that before getting bored, and I haven’t got much tolerance for boredom, so after she’s been on vacation for a few days, I start trying to lure her back to work. Usually this takes the form of trying out several new types of artistic expression to see if any of those catches her fancy. This, I imagine, is like Homer starting off the Odyssey by chanting, “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns, driven time and again off course….” and hoping the story of Odysseus is interesting enough to inspire a new collaboration between man and Muse.
Or perhaps it’s more like teasing a cat: I trail progressively more and more interesting balls of aluminum foil across her path until she can’t take it any more and pounces, tail lashing in excitement.
Whatever it is, it consists mostly of shuffling through many new (and possibly exciting) things that I could try until one of them inspires me enough to plunge right in.
My conclusion from the silk painting experiments, and from thinking about what I want to paint, is that I am still missing some fundamentals. I need to learn how to draw, or more accurately to see. I don’t just want to create abstract designs; I want to be able to create representational art. And unless I learn to see, and to draw what I see, I’m going to be stuck doing abstract art because I can’t do anything else. I want to have more options.
So I am currently dragging books on drawing across my Muse’s path. The one I particularly like is Nicolaides’ The Natural Way to Draw, which starts off like this:
In most courses of study of any sort the general idea prevails that it is to your credit to get through the work quickly. That is definitely not true in this study…What you are trying to learn is not the exercise – that should be easy, for I have tried to make each one as simple as possible. You are trying to learn to draw. The exercise is merely a constructive way for you to look at people and objects so that you may acquire the most knowledge from your efforts.
…Don’t worry if for the first three months your studies do not look like anything else called a drawing that you have ever seen. You should not care what your work looks like as long as you spend your time trying. The effort you make is not for one particular drawing, but for the experience you are having – and that will be true even when you are eighty years old.
…Unfortunately most students, whether through their own fault or the fault of their instructors, seem to be dreadfully afraid of making technical mistakes. You should understand that these mistakes are unavoidable. THE SOONER YOU MAKE YOUR FIRST FIVE THOUSAND MISTAKES, THE SOONER YOU WILL BE ABLE TO CORRECT THEM.
There is not a huge amount of verbal explanation in the book; the author gives an exercise, explains it and its purpose, and then has you repeat the exercise several times. In fact the book is organized by section, each of the 25 sections representing 15 hours of exercises! This reminds me favorably by the quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, speaking to his apprentice: “Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time!”
I also have Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which I know is also an excellent book, but it doesn’t appeal to me as much as The Natural Way to Draw. So I’m going to try the exercises in The Natural Way to Draw and see what happens. Maybe it will light me on fire, maybe not: either way, I am invoking my Muse, and hoping she pays attention.
I have been slowed down the last few days by health problems: a minor nuisance turned into real pain over the weekend, and this morning I had an emergency root canal to drain an abscess in one of my teeth. The infection may have been contributing to my general lack of energy in the past week, and I’m hoping my energy will improve once the antibiotics kick the infection. I did manage to get one more batch of skeins dyed, but that’s all. More later, I hope!