Tuesday, 12 May 2009

every mark matters

My art teacher was saying recently that we ought to be braver and less timid with our art. She said we ought to remember that 'every mark matters' and then just go for it. Her words were inspiring, if a trifle daunting, but i decided she was right and that i would give it a go. i could hardly wait to get back to my easel where i splashed around ink and watercolours, and layered chalks, charcoals and pencil with a delicious sense of abandon. This was it - i was an artist now, my materials flowing onto the page as i created my master work. i stood back from the easel, having really enjoyed applying my marks so deliberately and confidently, to find myself looking at one of the most appalling unappealing messes i've ever had the misfortune to put on paper. i was stunned at how childish and amateur it appeared. i saw teacher heading for me. Usually i think of her as a friend, someone i'm rather fond of in fact, but now i felt like i was back in school - how could i hide from her or at least hide this rotten drawing? Would she be cross with me, i'd been doing exactly as she asked hadn't i?! She looked at it in surprise, made a few suggestions (i think rubbing out over half of it was the main one) and then mercifully moved on to the woman next to me who was paralysed by the thought of every mark mattering and so couldn't begin. Thinking about it later i realised that my teacher is right - we should know every mark matters, we should be less tentative. i also realised that the huge gap between our intention and our abilities is hard to bridge. When i watch my art teacher draw i marvel at the confidence of her line, her sureness of execution. For me, what my brain wants and what my hands can do are two very different things. i try to practise as often as possible in the hope this will change, but for now, i must live with it. It was nice to draw for a day as if i believed i could, even if the results were as flawed as ever! 
One good thing did come out of the lesson. My terrible drawing (even my teacher, usually gentle in her admonishments asked why on earth i'd made the arm look like a sausage) was rescuable. Taking her advice i rubbed out, drew over, rubbed out and drew over until i at least had something i didn't feel had to go straight in the bin. i decided i would photograph it and post it here first. At home i would have given up, but i found that being told to keep reworking until it was better is a possibility. Learning to push through and redraw was a good lesson.
Every mark matters, and if you don't like the ones you've made you can always make new ones.

top: the offending drawing, post rescue
left: detail of the face which i quite like and other drawings from the same day in class.


Owen said...

One art instructor I had always wanted us to "Make it wigger" (he had an interesting accent and bigger came out wigger. Always, wigger, wigger. One day I got a tad bothered over it and during our figure studies drew so large the figure went well off the page in more than one place. I could feel him looking over my shoulder. When I turned, hoping I would find him annoyed only to see him beaming. He patted me on the back and said, "Now, make it even wigger."

Well, he did go a long way to helping me to get over myself and be less timid. :)

Happy creating to you.

David R. Vallejo said...

These drawings are really good! They have an expressiveness that I wish many of my drawings had.

Anonymous said...

I love these drawings.
I had the same trouble in college with multidraft essays (probably why I don't have my masters yet).
Congrats on making it through.

Anonymous said...

I think "rubbing out over half of it" is about par for the course for life drawing - isn't that the whole point? It's something that was always drummed into us at school, then again on my foundation year, then again in college. If it's wrong, get rid of it. Do it again. It's a hard lesson to learn when you've spent half an hour on a foot that you think is your best foot ever, then you realise it's an inch too far to the left, but it's a useful one. And you're right, it's freeing to know you can always do it again.

I think that "every mark matters" thing is a really useful one as well though, and it's something I'd started to think about more in the last year (when I used to draw instead of just clean the house). I'd always been guilty of just scribbling until there were more lines in the right place than in the wrong place, but I realised I could benefit from being a bit more deliberate.

Anyway, well done on sorting the drawing out. I love the quality of the colour on the pink bits - it's kind of glowy.

Stephen Hall said...

Hi Sarah! You left some wonderful and flattering comments on my site - you made my day! You have a wonderful ability to open up a fabulous 'arty' debate - you should do it more!
I have 'killed' many a painting by putting a line in the wrong place, I have also produced some 'fantastic' work, gone to bed, next day... bad painting fairies have been in the night and made it horrible! I would love a button on my easel that allows you to restore it back to the place just before it all went wrong! I love Owens comment - make it bigger, my advice to anyone is paint big, if not, have a small space but fill it! Rachels advice, 'if it's wrong, get rid of it, do it again' is so right. We can be really precious about our art and spend hours getting it wrong, at the end of it you may have lost a piece of paper and a bit of ink - I have many paintings out there on canvas's with a horror of a painting underneath! You work like an artist, the elements are there, the rest is about honing skills and just keep doing it!

kazumiwannabe said...

You raise many very interesting questions here! Being very slow I've not a lot to say on the matter, except that we need to allow ourselves to make mistakes and messes if we want to progress. I tell it to my students everyday and try to live by it (easier said than done ; ). Anyway, I need to say that your final painting is beautiful, and moving. Love the colors, very poetical, and there's a great movement in it!