Pencil Jam

Art under the Influence?

Posted in Drawing-Seeing, meditation, Sketch Club, Sketchbooks by crabbits on June 29, 2010

This discussion on our online community made me think about why we draw what we draw.

The question was, why do we draw?

George’s reply was enlightening:

“… Why this urgency to convey our subjective experiences? Writers, artists, musicians are all engaged in this activity, so it’s not simply a one off thing. The attempt to turn subjective experiences into tangible reality is a natural process of being human….”

Why, then we should be drawing all the time! George explains why we don’t:

“… As a young ‘un your inner, subjective experiences tend to be raw and powerful (Remember your first love, first breakup, first birthday gift etc…) These are often channelised through activity such as poetry, art or in some cases in adverse ways such as violence or depression. You probably sketched a lot when you were younger because many aspects of life were new. As you grow older you develop stock reactions to life’s situations, shorter, snappier, seemingly more efficient ways. A breakup is familiar territory and new love doesn’t quite feel the same…. “

Which is why music, depression, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, absinthe (am thinking of Marilyn Manson, who has Mansinthe to his credit!), shrooms, shoes, shopping, puppy dogs and other exciting stuff help a whole lot in heightening a dimension of emotion to a level potent enough to pin down a subjective experience as an objective work of art.

Even J K Rowling’s epic-in-seven-parts talks about some aspects of this kind of emotional channeling and their uses. Wizards can produce a Patronus they concentrate upon a happy memory (with all their might), which protect them against Dementors, the very epitome of weepiness and depression. A Boggart is a magical creature who takes the form of your very worst fear when it confronts you, becoming concrete and objectified in front of children, whose fears are simpler (spiders, snakes!) as opposed to forms that are more complex (the moon, scenes of death?) for adults.

George mentions in his post that as we evolve and survive, we develop language to help describe experiences, and develop stock reactions to common or recurring occurrences (breakups, brushing teeth et al). However as grown ups (groan ups!) our internal emotional state is increasingly complex with “hopes and dreams” and “vague fears hard to describe”.  Interestingly, children with their simpler inner hopes, dreams and fears (“I want a new toy car!”, “I hate school!”) – might I venture to call these “stock” – have vaguer descriptions of external experiences due to their limited linguistic capability (“It huuurts!”).

The stock reactions that we usually apply in everyday life lead to expressions like “quirky”, “embarassing”, “weird”, “surreal” to describe anything out of the ordinary hum of collective normalcy. The little children who love drawing truly express themselves with flourishes, squiggles, fingerprints, left hands and feet, tongues, toes and walls; relishing the feel of crayons on a surface, the process of drawing. As they grow, their abilities are chanelled into “colour within the lines”, “draw a scenery”, “trees are NOT blue”, “DON’T draw on the wall!” “Architecture entrance exam: draw in perspective for 10 marks!”, a systematic process of creating the equivalent of stock reactions; thus taking away all the undisguised pleasure of “drawing” as a process. Then comes the day when you draw every day for a living, where every drawing is a “job” and a “portfolio piece”; or you “can’t” draw; or haven’t drawn in ages since the computer took over your fingers.

This is when you need to unlearn all that those square systems of education (read stock reaction-conditioners). Its harder than it seems, isn’t it? Which brings me back to that immortal discussion on why we draw. This will hopefully push you a bit on the way to real unlearning.

Draw, draw, draw… like nobody’s watching!

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One Response

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  1. crabbits said, on June 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Soapbox moment: stock reactions are why stock images/illustration/photography even exist. Why not commission an illustration or a photo created especially, exclusively for your project, that describes the intended emotion far more perfectly than something you thought “would do”?


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