Tuesday, 9 September 2008
I bought some stuff at the Warehouse Stationery the other day, which I have been meaning to buy for a while. About 40 years. I bought a block of drawing paper, some pencils and a rubber. When I was very small I drew a lot. I covered the backs and blank pages of exercise books and those little newsprint jotter pads with all the stuff little boys draw, which usually involved fighter planes with circles on them shooting down other fighter planes with crosses on them. It wasn't exactly the early Leonardo, but my teacher in Standard 4 told my mother that my future lay in art. Well it didn't, obviously. In fact with the encouragement of my art teacher,I gave up the drawing in High School, and haven't done any since, except for cartoon illustrations in letters to girls - which obviously worked because one of them married me. There's always been a niggling sense of loss though, in the place where paper and pencil used to be. In my twenties I even joined an art class but the other students were ladies with blue hair doing garish oil paintings of trees and sunsets, and I only lasted two sessions. I took photos instead.
Photographs are a way of seeing. If you go out with a camera and a head full of ideas about the pictures you are going to come home with, you will be disappointed, because they just won't happen. Instead you need to go out with a blank mind - my default state, I will admit - and try and see what is there. It takes a bit of knowledge, but not much, to be able to get what you see onto the film, but the real trick is in the seeing. It's more a matter of shutting off than turning on. It's all about stopping your habitual way of seeing things and being able to see what is actually there. Which is the same with drawing, I suspect, but even more so. I'm not really interested in producing drawings. I'm interested in seeing. Angles. Shapes. The way the light falls on things. The way things sit together. To get this stuff on paper I'll have to learn to see it first. I'll need to be present to it.
I have been encouraged in this step by my friend Audrey who is a genuine bona fide artist - who has exhibitions with more than the average number of red dots and people who proudly point out to their friends her signature on the pictures they buy. I talked with her one day about the process of seeing in photography and she told me I needed to learn to draw and I knew she was absolutely right. After all these years a circle has turned and I'm a little apprehensive because to do this requires risk and effort. Which is required for any form of being present to: with the world, with people, with God.