Saturday, 11 December 2010


It occurred to me this morning that one of the reasons that drawing and painting are so difficult is because you have completely invent what you're doing. Every day, every time. When you start learning to draw or paint, your focus is on accuracy; on training your hand and eye in relation to learning the properties of materials. I would argue that this has to be done - that your inventions will suffer in the future if you haven't learnt something about the nature of light, shade and space, as they exist in the physical world. I suspect that people would argue against me here - there seems to me to be evidence that some artists have not focussed on this kind of learning, and arguably it doesn't affect their art at all. I guess they would say.

But even if you do set out to do this kind of learning at the start, at some point, you're going to start thinking a bit differently. My previous post on Matisse's 'exactitude is not truth' explored one aspect of this. Even if you're concentrating on improving your accuracy and materials skills, it's eventually going to dawn on you that you're inventing everything, even if you're trying your best to make your graphite create something that looks like a photograph. At some point, you're going to see colours where someone else would say there was only white, or you're going to decide that a slight distortion improves your composition. Many people gradually move away from the accuracy of their training, and begin to explore aspects of shape and colour that somewhere, once upon a time, they saw (though perhaps as likely in a dream as in the visible world) but for some purpose other than trying to photographically represent that shape and colour as it was originally seen.

And that's exactly why it's so hard. Because every day you have to reach into yourself, and at the same time  reach out into the world, and create an entirely new space. You have to actively frame some aspect of a momentary experience; work something into being from an instant's unbounded consciousness in a physical world of light and space and feeling. Every day you have to find the courage to try to fix a trace or capture a feeling. It's so much easier to wash the kitchen floor.

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