This is a drawing on matboard, coloured pencil and graphite, about 30″ x 31″, from the summer of 1981. It took about six weeks to complete.
A Sense of Urgency
I was 21 years old at the time. It had been about a year and a half since I had left art school. My life as an art student was short – only about six months. I did well at the school but felt impatient with the regimen of the methods and theories that I needed to ascribe to in order to get a passing grade. I wanted to get started on work I could feel but not yet quite see and I didn’t see any point in delaying the journey that would get me to where I felt I needed to go.
Looking for a Doorway
The work I did during the following year was like searching in the dark for a doorway. I created a lot of art that really didn’t measure up to what I wanted to see. As time went on, it became clear that the only way to achieve cohesion between vision and result was to just work at it, with as few distractions as possible. The motivation and resulting discipline had more to do with establishing self-worth than theories of composition and colour or art history, though I also enjoyed reading the many books that my parents had acquired through the years about those very subjects.
After about a year I started to see results that resonated more clearly with who I wanted to be. But this particular drawing was the first time I could see clearly the reason I wanted to be an artist in the first place. Through this work I was able to transcend my own expectations and limited sense of self.
It almost felt like it had been done by someone else, and with that it occurred to me that art is really not so much about ‘self expression’ as it is about self discovery. As a result, I consider this drawing to be the true beginning of my life as an artist.
Befriending the Unknown
I continue to feel, almost 40 years later, that ‘not knowing’ is the magic elixir that fuels personal creativity. Which makes sense when you think about it, since everything we know is based on past experience and subject to the various biases we carry with us, socially, historically and personally.