Monday, August 28, 2006

On Journals, Goals, and Pencils

(cc) Douglas CooteyThe problem with blogging one's journey through life is the vulnerability of it. I am not a noble man striving to forge my way against the elements. I'm more like a bumbling nincompoop stumbling about in the dark trying to find his way out of the bathroom. Not really different than most folks, but still very not like a hero. So when I declare that I have arrived at an important epiphany concerning my art, and then you learn that this epiphany is that I prefer using an HB pencil lead instead of fiddling around with a range of different pencil strengths, you're liable to scratch your head and wonder what all the fuss is about.

I still haven't written my giant epiphany post yet over on The Splintered Mind, but in brief I can say that I've been doing a sort of Art Rehab to reforge some bridges that have been burned long ago. I began at the beginning - pencil rendering. As I've worked through the exercises over the summer I have discovered a few things.

(cc) Douglas Cootey1) I no longer have the patience to spend hours rendering one piece. I'm not sure yet if that is a stylistic change or if I'm simply out of practice. I suspect the former. I draw all the time. I just don't scan and share most of it.
2) I find managing pencil lead strengths to be tedious and distracting. I don't want to worry about whether I should use F or H, I just want to draw the blasted thing.
3) I find that my style is more present in HB drawings than in finely rendered drawings. The rendered pieces are nice, but lack spontaneity and life for me.

The reason this is so exciting is that the pencil stroke is the fundamental stepping stone of all art for me. My main goal with art for the past year has been to determine my own unique style. Knowing which stepping stones I am to climb brings me closer to the goal than I have ever been in years.

Becoming disabled suddenly at 25 put my life in a tailspin. I've spent the past 14 years coming to terms with it. A lot changed inside me, but I feel embarrassed that I can't account for why I never decided what pencil I liked to use. I was so busy doing art beyond pencils that I never bothered, I suppose. Watercolors, shading film, colored pencils, digital manipulation and painting, logo design, web design, etc. A lot of it earned money for me, but there was something missing. I could throw myself at the projects but they never felt complete. I realize that closure is an issue for people with AD/HD but this was more than that. It was something fundamental missing inside me. Part of it was that I was spending my strength on AD/HD distractions in the guise of goals, but I also knew I was missing a piece of the puzzle.

(cc) Douglas CooteyMaybe because I chased after so many new styles and mediums for years I never took the time to draw a line in the sand and say, "This is my style." I always compared myself unfavorably to almost everybody and loathed my own work then continued to work harder to be like them, no matter how divergent their styles were. What I find interesting about all this is that when I was re-evaluating my depression and how to overcome it eight to ten years ago I never thought to include my long borne attitudes of artistic failure and worthlessness into the new way of thinking.

But that's all going to change now. With this ubiquitous HB pencil I will change my world. I will take back my joy in drawing and like myself & my art for a change. As I told my daughters when undergoing this project, my art had a sense of professionalism and skill, but it lacked a sense of mastery. Deep inside my work there was a foundational lack of confidence. Perhaps I am my own hero, saving myself from years of preconceived notions and insecurities. Instead of propping myself up with new skills, I will rebuild some old ones.

As far as journey's through life go, this one may be right up there with trips to the dentist's office for you. For me, however, my life suddenly has untold vistas and faraway places I haven't travelled before. It is as if I have been colorblind all my life and have just noticed how beautifully different green is from blue. It's going to be a great journey. Good thing I'm bringing along my sketchbook.