Looking forward, looking back
It’s been an unusual winter for me. I’ve had several shifts in my health over the last couple of months which have precipitated long stretches of sitting/laying on the couch. I’ve been doing some drawing, trying to keep up with contracts, but in all honesty it’s been difficult to get it all done. Anyone who knows me well knows that I usually run along at a pretty high pace, even sitting on the couch usually means knitting, drawing or some other handwork. The last couple of months have seen a lot of reading, a lot of sleeping, and doing my best to eat healthily and just plain take care of myself.
I got a new piece of equipment about a little less than a month ago, a Surface Pro.
It’s made it so much easier to draw digitally, to play with making marks in that funny ‘real-not-real’ way. I’m getting more and more comfortable with it (there’s still a bit of a learning curve to go), and like the way the stylus feels against the screen better than any other screen/stylus combination I’ve used. It’s meant exploring new drawing programs, new tools.
I miss working in tactile medium. I miss the texture of the paper, the friction between nib or brush and substrate. The way ink can lie on a surface, or be absorbed by it. The layering of the physical: watercolour over ink having a different effect than ink over watercolour. While the programs have wonderful effects, many very realistic, they bend the possibilities of mark making, of constructing images. Programs will let me mix media in ways that I never would be able to in real life – and somehow that leaves me feeling like the image is ‘unreal’ or lacks some kind of credibility. That and the fact that it is inherently ephemeral, impermanent, non-physical.
Some of the more formative experiences I have had in my life around art have been viewing real, tangible pieces of art in galleries or less formal settings. I’ll never forget seeing Picasso’s work in one gallery and Emily Carr’s in the next at the Vancouver art gallery. Seeing Jan Van Eyck’s work and Davinci’s at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I have the guidebook I bought at the Hermitage Museum because all the work displayed together – in a way unconventional to my North American eye – left me unsure as to what I’d actually seen.
What struck me with each piece, each time, was the hand of the artist. The mark. The physical presence of that moment in time, that decision of colour/stroke/cut enduring across time and space. That, the day Picasso touched brush to canvas on Three Musicians, he’d had a coffee. He’d kissed his wife (or his mistress). He’d read the newspaper. Been pushed and pulled by culture, by politics, by climate. He’d been a real man in a real moment, feeling the world in its multiplicity of sensation. That all of these things led to making these marks.
I think that’s some of why I love digital drawing less. I still love it – love images, love colour and form. I want to find a way to infuse the digital work with the moment, with the context. With the meaning, the sensation of being in a time, in a place. To somehow take the ephemeral, the impermanent and give it the feeling of being ‘real’.
Yeah, sometimes I bite off more than I need to.
And with that, I’m going to retire back to my favorite corner of the couch with my Surface Pro. Work on contract drawings. Make more marks. In this time. In this place right here.
Until next time,