I started another blog on January 1st called The Daily Drawing, taking heed of an art school adage about ‘doing a drawing every day’. I’ve made it simple and small, and I have done one drawing every day – 69 drawings so far at 7 x 7 cms, all in black on pre-cut squares of heavy etching paper that I had lying around. It’s been a good way to use up scraps! I don’t do any philosophising on the blog – no titles other than the date of the drawing, and no commentary… and I thought it would become a chore when I started out, but it’s quite the opposite. In fact, these little drawings may be the most important work I’m doing at the moment.
For one thing, I have to cast my anxieties aside. There isn’t room to fit anxiety into 7 square centimetres, but anyway you can’t be precious about a drawing that size. My stepson asked me how I decided where to start drawing on each square, and the answer is that I don’t make a conscious decision, mostly I just put my pen down until it touches the paper and start drawing, and the end of the image is wherever the edge of the square happens to be. Tiny things though they are, these little squares have freed me up. The rules are quite simple: I’m not allowed to edit, I’m not allowed to accumulate drawings on a different day to the date of that drawing (no cheating! It’s one drawing each day), and if I don’t like the outcome I have the option of turning the square of paper over and starting again on the other side, but I can’t throw it away and get another square – I scored and tore 370 pieces of paper, so there are only 4 spares in case I’m travelling and lose my bag or something. I guess if I’m travelling and lose my luggage I might be allowed to re-draw the ones I’ve lost, but I’ll decide about that if and when it happens.
The benefits of doing this have been huge. For one thing, it’s started me drawing again, and in a much less self-conscious way. I’ve been drawing in cafes, Ella’s riding/ballet/piano/swimming lessons, while waiting in the car, just before I go to bed, while I’m cooking… anywhere, really. And it’s been fun. And I’ve been looking at what I’m drawn to draw and it’s been quite illuminating. I’m drawing what I see around me. Not with a purpose in drawing a particular thing or in a particular style, nor with the object of presenting myself or my life in a certain way. I draw what catches my eye, and often it is little things: the way block lettering on a magazine cover falls down a page and the letters beneath each other form a random line with irregular spacing… the way in which a tiger on a bag of rice is drawn using lines, not sketched in an anatomically detailed sort of way… how the thatched roof of a cabana contrasted with the shapes of the leaves next to it… how the cheese board looked once I’d laid the table when friends were late coming over for dinner… the pattern on my daughter’s flip-flops.
So I wonder if I should be painting the same things. Maybe next year’s project should be a painting a day! Colour would bring added complexity to the idea, although it would be more difficult to paint spontaneously in a cafe… No, I’m thinking that this is all a scaled down version of my view of life. If I find it hard to paint because I’m not sure what I’m trying to ‘say’, perhaps I should look at these little pictures and recognise that ‘my style’ is in them. What I’m drawing is what I’m trying to say, so perhaps I should try painting it as well. There are plenty of other artists who paint domestically, as it were. What about Morandi? And there’s an Australian artist whose work I really like called Peter Atkins, some of whose source material apparently comes from things like packaging that he sees around him.
Time I loosened up in paint, anyway, and did some experimenting.