Friday, November 4, 2011

Planning for Saturdays and Epiphanies

Shrimp by Qi Baishi
Image source: Cultural China
Let me tell you what I plan for tomorrow.

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I'm going to sleep in. Ideally, it will still be morning when I wake up, quiet and gray.

After donning my warmest sweater, I will sneak down to the kitchen and make myself breakfast - nutella on French bread, tea. This I will bring back up to my room, and I will enjoy the rare luxury of eating slowly.

I will read, and then I'll go on a long walk throughout my neighborhood.

With me I will bring: books to return, pencils, pens, sketchbook.

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October was not a good month for drawing, for which I felt guilty until I read this post on creative burnout from Terri Windling's blog (that you should all go follow). In a nutshell, the post says that you are always going to have dry periods in your creative work and they are natural, so chill.

Well, that's let me make peace with the fact that I've been neglecting my art. But I cannot sit back and do nothing about it.

What am I going to do, then?

In late September, I read an essay about painter Qi Baishi in Chinese school (what an unlikely place to get inspired). His early work (meaning before he was 60) was mostly derivative - based on the work of others. Then he decided to raise a bowl of shrimp and studied them and, as he did so, his work became more and more vital. He made stylistic alterations - but they were informed by the real animal.

When I read the essay, I was already a few weeks into my drawing malaise. So I thought, why not draw from life? I've always been aware of a lack of certainty in my art, a lack of substance that infects even my best work and makes my worst all but monstrous. I learned to draw by copying others, and that is no good.

With each step away from the source, the power is diluted. My technique is already weak - I should not handicap myself further by keeping distance from the ultimate source, reality.

It's about time to act.

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