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Already a day and an evening under my belt, getting up early Sunday morning, taking only coffee and half a sesame bagel that was left in the fridge, sitting at the drawing table in my boxers, energized by my dedication to the project, in front of a brand new piece of bright white five dollar drawing paper, with clean brush in hand, and a fresh dish of water, I poured out a measure of heavily pigmented black ink and divided the page into rows and columns of squares; each one to be filled with a unique composition.
Peter Greenaway's "Prospero's Books" was fresh on my mind that morning. I was working from a vision of the books described in the movie; books filled with endless and interesting variations of water, mirrors, motions, and colors. The drawing project I proposed to complete that day was to create my very own "Book of Compositions".
My use of a creative strategy of capturing and cataloging a small, personally specified subset of images from a much larger database of endless possibilities first happened in 1985 when I exhibited 15 images selected from the 30,000 Viking Orbiter photographs of Mars. A fascination with plucking something singular and amazing from the endless unknown was furthered that Sunday morning in 1992 as I made tiny improvisational compositions by hand. This iterative method of making art finally came to fruition in 1996 in the form of a piece of software art called "Every Icon" and has been the basis of much of the work that followed.
|Unaware of the weather that Sunday afternoon, not eating, not leaving my table, exhausting all my ideas for compositions, panicking about what to draw, making random marks for the sake of sticking to the plan, pausing to listen and receive in the silence, grasping for an idea and finding nothing, no creative energy, empty for the longest time, resting, and then slowly, as the day fades, through the arising and passing away, I glimpse every side of myself at once.|
|Resting in the ebb and flow.|
I don't know how long I drew, late that Sunday or well into Monday morning, and maybe I'm still there drawing; but since then I've never stopped allowing.
During that night marks and brush strokes flowed past my eyes, clean sheets of paper replaced full ones, and what came into being was what had to exist; an expression of the natural state.
Philip Guston is quoted as saying, "I am a night painter, so when I come into the studio the next morning the delirium is over."
That Monday when I finally got out of bed, still committed to the project, reviewing drawings from the night before, sipping coffee, knowing this was the last day, recalling my blissfully open state of mind, the ease of allowing, new in the light of day, I sat and resumed dissolving pastels over maps, my work still not complete, the noises of the city waking up, a few stars left in my head, and hoping the magic survived, hoping to add one more layer of resonance, one more day of practice, one more insight to my transformation.
You know what Mondays are like, don't you?
Even though it was a holiday and I was free to draw, that Monday
dragged on. Some days require self-discipline to keep going, even
if those some days are spent making art all day.
After lunch I felt pressured. The anxiety of returning to work the next day and having to leave the solitude of the studio made me desperate for a breakthrough; but dinnertime came and went and I was worn out.
Then in the waning minutes of my project, ready for sleep, ending my studio vigil, and sitting one last time to look through the weekend's production, I finally saw through the veil.
Flipping through stacks of drawings, not focused on any part of the drawing, too tired to think, just sitting, just looking, just feeling the visual texture of the materials, the slightly toothy texture of the paper infused with streaks of yellow ochre pigment, fine grains sticking out of the surface of the paper, I felt these objects transmit back to me the residual energy of my three day immersion.
Not identifying landscapes or faces, no naming, no judgement, no notion of art, only aesthetic pleasure, the lift, the newness, something heretofore unseen now in my possession; I laid one singular item slowly on top of the other, open to what sensations they stirred.
It happened the moment after my eyes crossed a piece of map with the words 'sand pit' printed on it. The meaning of the text entered my mind just as I focused on a smeared clump of sandy yellow ochre pigment and in my mind the words were overlaid on the paint. I immediately grasped the correspondence, the simultaneous reality, between words and materials.
I understood the resonance between text and textures; that pigment was sand, while simultaneously representing sand in the drawing. The possibilities for interplay of map and territory, signified and signifier, and material and meaning were endless; and with this insight my art found what it didn't know it needed: a pathway through which to meaningfully enter the physical world.
|Never the same river.|
|Trying to summarize the 1992 long weekend studio immersion; funny how some moments in my life, short intense periods of time, act like holograms; tiny pieces of memory, if studied closely, contain my essentials: diagrammatic view, systematic path, and simultaneity.|
|Wild blue yonder|
|Smooth passage through the vortex.|
|Gratitude to Boulder|
|Mind maps meet iMaps on the long way back home.|
on an autumn day
|Some days, just being around is enough.|
|Returning to the next.|
|I am feeling the joy that comes from sustained practice; so happy to be back in the studio every day.|
That we are all one body.