Friday, August 28, 2020

Drawing on something


I took up drawing again about a year ago - I say again because I haven't really done any since my teens. Armed with a pocket-sized sketchbook and a couple of pencils we sat outside cafes in Ortigia as I sketched people passing by, photographing the Church of Santa Lucia, delving into their holiday rucksacks, chatting with their friends and on their smartphones. They weren't up to much - my sketches, that is - but I had a particular project in mind, and I wanted to find my way into drawing people. You have to start somewhere. As with my earlier attempts, half a century before, I realised that I don't have much that you might call technique. In fact I don't think I'd really want technique even if it was on offer. I just want to discover what works for me. I want to watch my drawing evolve. Of course it's not quite as simple as that. It's not all about first hand discovery. As art critics have often pointed out we are always governed by what we have seen before. What we draw or paint looks right because we have seen something like it previously. Still it emerges afresh on the page as we draw. We do it ourselves, and that's a creative act whether it's 'good' or just good enough. It's our own expression of something. Anyway, in those intervening years - those between my early drawing and my current rekindled interest, I have been preoccupied with writing. Not particularly good or even interesting writing, but writing nonetheless, and most of it professional or academic in nature. And the most important thing to emerge from all this writing is the realisation that what attracts me most is not actually its originality (although of course that helps) but the creative self-expression itself - trying to represent things in my own way, in my own voice. As with drawing, my writing doesn't have a preoccupation with technique - at least not in a self-conscious sort of way. It's just constantly refining itself. And of course it refines itself in the light of what I read. That's not quite the same as saying it's all imitation, but I think it always draws on something, even if I might not be  sure exactly what that is. The word expression seems to capture that, and if I were to write another book that would be a driving theme. Writing - technology and expression or something like that. Even in writing that it would be perfectly obvious that I'd be drawing on something.