Also oh hi! I have an (ornamented!) Australian Gothic book out this month: Flyaway
Meanwhile, in the observation journal, it is the 30th of January. I was still recovering from a bad back (as recorded on the left-hand page; I almost got stuck in the freezer in consequence), ladies in the cafe were still hoping to get to a pool in Bali, babies were disconcerting, and I reached a détente with Phthalo Turquoise, although it didn’t extend to learning how to spell it. Incidentally, writers could do worse than look at paint descriptions for a thesaurus of ways to handle colour. (For more about paints: Loving the Tools.)
But on the right-hand page I was working through points of habit and resistance.
Some habits are good. Some habits are style. Some points of resistance are there for a reason — the negative shapes we draw around. But I wanted to be more aware of them, more deliberate in looking for lines or “shapes that please me” (as Peter de Sève put it), and less frequently startled when I look back at something I’ve made with several year’s distance.
The process was simple:
- Look back at my work (mostly art, but not solely) and notice patterns.
- Work out what the flip-side of those would be.
- (Not shown on this page) Deliberately apply those approaches to a piece of work and see what I learned.
- The fight against a shrinking delicacy of marks has been long-running, and is why I first started sketching with markers. I still like a sense of lightness, but now I try to make it a chatty communicative lightness instead of pencil that’s so tentative it evaporates off the page like smoke.
- While I’ve tried drawing more violent and grotesque figures (often with editors pleading with me to “please make it more horrible!”), I know now that’s not what I want to do. However, I have tried to bring more energy and grimness back from that experiment — and discovered the delights of a plunge into the ornamental gothic. I’m almost always happy to add more skulls.
- On the other hand, I find I like drawing squat figures more than slender ones, although it’s still an effort to adjust the proportions. I’m at the stage of concentrating on not making them too attenuated.
- When writing, I have to include an editing pass to add emotion in.
Exercise for writers/artists:
[Note: You could also adapt this exercise by using it to look at someone else’s work, as a way to study it closely.]
- Look back at your work: the sum total of it, or comments you’ve received, or a piece that you’re working on at the moment.
- Look for patterns and habits. If you’re looking at one piece, what are some distinctive features? Lyricism? Vigour? Tiny pen marks? Make a list.
- Now flip the list. Think of opposite(s) for each item.
- Try applying those approaches to your work — either a new or existing piece, or just as a mental exercise.
- Which confirm your choices? Which create dramatic new directions? Which are confronting but intriguing?
Love your journal and the exercises. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks so much, Stuart!
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