I have unexpectedly been included in a group exhibition next week, at a gallery where I am hopefully having a drawing exhibition later on next year- in Johannesburg.
I am not sure what the other artists on the show will be exhibiting this coming week.
I do however know that I am included so that the gallerist/s can see exactly what kind of drawing or painting skills I will exhibit.
The thing I am struggling with here is a concept…
How will I produce a single drawing that will stand strong amongst other works by other artists?
The challenge lies right here- the same challenge I wrote about in my previous blog post… The conceptual catwalk.
I have tried to stretch my thoughts about what drawing is, what is it that inspires me to draw, and why I choose the subject matter I usually draw.
The answer is this.
I like to draw the organic.
Bodies, animals, plants, water – things that move.
Things with emotion.
Things that make me feel.
I then exclude everything else.
I often get asked why I do not draw much of a background.
My figures and subject matter are almost always floating – anchored to the space around it with a few loose lines.
This line always differs in boldness, in frequency and in style according to what the subject makes me produce.
I draw things from real life.
I have always loved paging through fashion magazines.
I love drawing the figures of the models.
I love drawing the animal bodies from National Geographic magazines.
I love drawing sportsmen and women.
The way a person stands, an animal’s muscles flex, or mouth moves when stalking prey…
The way the bones of a thin model protrudes, a hand clutches a bag.
The way the tree roots press through the ground.
To me these little things tell a whole story.
It’s these little things that demand an emotional response.
They reveal and at the same time try to conceal a weakness or strength.
Most often it is not a story at all, but a small thing that serves as a reminder.
Often the pose or position of the subject matter can be related to other things, Iconic things.
In a drawing I just finished for next week, I paged through ‘The Lake’ Magazine.
I immediately knew I wanted to draw a diving figure in a Billabong surfer advert.
Drawing the figures feet, it reminded me of Jesus’ feet nailed to the cross.
One of the nights I was working on the drawing, I joined a few photographer friends whilst they edited their pics. They are out-doorsy, sporty, skateboarders and surfers with an insatiable lust for life and a marijuana habit.
This reminded me again of the free spirit this figure in the pic had. Diving, in bubbly blue water, long hair, free spirited in appearance.
Yet he was possibly also a teenager with religious constraints. someone that sins, some model that hated diving into the freezing water, and that just wanted the shot for the ad to get paid.
A person tortured like the rest of us by everyday demands like religion, forgiveness, making money and surviving.
Surrounded by the smell of marijuana whilst I was drawing made me think of how they were also just trying to escape these daily demands and the monotonous routine of survival in a modern world.
From there I thought of how similar and different people are, all at the same time.
The title I decided on was INRI/IRIE.
Both titles are Iconic in their fields. One religious and the other part of Rastafarian belief. Both are born from cultural beliefs, and similar in many ways. Bringing calm and peace, but both can be so destructive.
There is nothing more tangible and revealing than a figure outline, or a pencil line on a white sheet of paper.
I love seeing a figure almost breaking free from the paper.
I love to focus on the organic.
I say ‘I love’ quite a bit, but that is purely because I cannot point to one thing that makes this so pleasing to me.
It makes me happy.
I feel like I am ‘freeing’ whatever I am drawing in a way.
I have also realised that I have never drawn anything not ‘alive’ or organic willingly (still lives at school doesn’t count);).
If I choose, I exclude the rest, and always just draw the live subject/s.
I remember three things we were taught in art school:
I do not believe there are rules- so these to me is a complete load of shit, but they were:
1. Never ever use paint colours straight out the tube.
2. Never ever draw with an HB pencil!
3. Do not use a National Geographic magazine as a reference.
I am adamant to do all 3 of these things, in three different exhibitions or in one exhibition. The last point “Never use a National Geographic Magazine” made me think.
I used to study with a guy (a painter) who used to paint in quite a traditional realistic way.
He often used the National Geographic Magazines – and our one lecturer really could not stand this.
He always tried to push this guy into a more abstract and ‘loose’ way of painting.
So did everyone really.
I saw this guy recently, and to my relief he is still painting!
And in very much the way he used to.
I have met so many artists over the years that feel their work is too “tight”.
Some even do rituals to try loosen their approach.
Things like dancing or listening to music whilst painting or drawing.
This to me has never made sense.
When I draw or paint I relate to the figure/subject in my own unique way. For instance focus especially on the part where I put the line down.
I concentrate on the pressure I apply to the line I am drawing.
Where the subject needs to be stronger and weaker.
I guess one can say that I try to exploit these strengths and weaknesses within the subject.
Almost like I want to free the subject from everything around it. I want to isolate it and make it speak louder – so that everyone can see the truth in those little muscle twitches, or broken branches, or clenched hand.
If an image is from a magazine, I will often crop out a hand clutching a bag, I will leave out any body part or clothing. I feel that any part that conceals or alter my interpretation of the truth is unnecessary…
My favourite magazines are those thick, fancy overseas Vogue magazines and National Geographic magazines.
I love images, I can literally flip through thousands- often taking pictures of parts of the pictures in these magazines.
I immediately know when I see a subject I am drawn to.
It is then when I try figure out exactly what drew me to the subject. How does the subject stir me? What part of the subject does this, and why.
I do this sometimes with television too.
I will pause and draw a figure bending, moving or doing something specific.
I still find drawing to be the most relaxing form of art.
The process is painstaking and a little torturous.
I, for instance, avoid music when I draw. I concentrate very hard on the subject and intensity of it in the purest of ways. I find music disturbs this intensity.
After I have drawn a subject I always feel a great sense of relief – the struggle is always worth it.
When a drawing is complete I feel a sense of freedom in a way.
I feel a sense of calm.
Like taking something out of chaos that was concealing or abstracting it’s truth/beauty.
Like birth- rebirth maybe (producing images from images).
Since I can remember I cut out images- little things.
I spent hours pasting snippets in my diary- drawing over them- pasting them on my cupboard.
I could never wait for my mom to buy her monthly magazines.
I still love going to the hairdresser, where there are piles of those thick fashion magazines.
I sit and drink tea and take pictures of the pictures.
These Images are from a book I picked up at a market the other day. We had the same book when I was very little… they stuck with me all these years. I knew they were in that particular book before I even opened it!
In the beginning of this post I was worried about a single drawing being strong enough to stand by itself in an exhibition with many other pictures.
I wanted to create something punchy, striking and memorable.
Thankfully, I remembered the three rules art school tried to enforce on me, and the struggle of my painter friend- being too ‘uptight.’
Maybe seeing him reminded me to search for the real reason I draw what I draw, and how I draw it.
I found that reason writing this post.
I free images.
That in itself is enough for me.
I can and want to forever do this.
The same way I have forever been excited to receive a pile of old magazines from a friend, my mom buying her monthly mags or going to the hairdresser.