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The Drawn Out Debate – A Happy New Year in Drawing

30 Dec

As a draftsperson working in the modern world (although ignoring a considerable chunk of its visual culture) I am regularly considering the significance of drawing in relation to other media and how drawing itself is being pushed and often re-imagined by artists. The debate has been clearer than the problems that have spawned the debate.

The debate is anchored in two deeply held beliefs. One, that drawing is a practice utilizing traditional materials and built on an observational craft typically grounded in the acquisition of representative drawing skills. Those skills based on well defined western ideals. From a foundation of traditional skills, the artist can then depart on one’s own and develop into an art maker with a singular voice.

The other belief is that drawing is indistinct from all other art making activity. Where the previous belief puts drawing at the center of the creative process, (or at least an independently important endeavor) they see drawing indistinguishable from installation art or painting and see it as fluid, above and perhaps beyond the limitations and restrictions of craft.

While this is an oversimplification of an important debate, it does show the inherent problems with both arguments. While the traditionalist may believe that the contemporary approach to drawing is resulting in half-born art, lacking in a fundamental understanding of form and therefore a mere exercise rather than a grounded piece of the art continuum, the contemporary artist sees that as an archaic limitation to a more expansive view of drawing as the delineation of just about anything and that this perspective expands the art and practice of “drawing for drawings sake”. Either way, both parties, stuck in their ideological camps, are failing to see the bigger problem. That problem is quality.

I could talk about quality and the guardians at the gate, (seemingly asleep at their post) but I am interested in something else. As we are getting warmed up in the twenty first century, I propose that drawing take on more important matters. For one, I believe it is important to look at drawing as a distinctive activity bringing a level of personal expression and communication that achieves what no other medium is capable of; an encapsulated autobiographical record (Berger) of the artists thoughts and intentions. Whether that is in the form of a line of bricks in a gallery installation or a pencil drawing on a napkin in a bar, we need to renew our love of a media that is, at its core, profoundly human and filled with the surprise and invention that result from the mysterious connection between mind and hand.

I say we re-dedicate ourselves to pushing our media and make the power of drawing self evident.

 Drawings above are from recent trips to England and Spain.

Flesh on Parade

22 Sep

Here are some more drawings from North Carolina. After three days I had nearly filled up my sketchbook and exhausted my tolerance for drawing fat people. I had also found what I was looking for. Pushing yourself to always finding something new can render a prescribed result. 

On a cheery note, these drawings have become the springboard for some pretty funny animation ideas that will be brought to full moving color very soon.

Still shaking the sand out of my sketchbook

21 Sep

Here are some more drawings from North Carolina. It isn’t quite the deep south but as you can see, it is deep enough. It is a strip mall paradise and too hot for rational thought. I found myself having much more sympathy for the people I was drawing. Usually I snicker to myself and gloat as only a Northeastern liberal can when witnessing the true ills of Red State America. Instead I felt sad. Sad for them and sad for me that this country doesn’t work very well. We have let our Southern neighbors figure it out on their own and they aren’t doing a good job (neither are we for that matter).  So I ventured forth. With pencil in hand I drew the voluminous patrons of Ocean Isle Beach and imagined that maybe all is well (or at least as it should be). After all, they are only fulfilling their duties as gross consumers of all things. As a Blue State liberal, am I just horrified at how American they really are? Damn right!

Drawing at the end of the pier (and contemplating the dive)

18 Sep

The next few posts will be sketchbook drawings from my vacation in North Carolina late August. These drawings reflect a shift in my thinking and drawing. For one, my ideas about America have been crystallized. Unfortunately, I no longer see the promise of a more perfect union because as I have come to realize, this country’s brain damage is permanent. On the drawing front, my sketchbook drawing is becoming the center point of all of my creative work. My next animation and a new series of etchings will be based on the drawings I will be posting here.

Confirming my suspicions, on the spot drawing opens up the brain in ways that a thoughtful and considered drawing can’t. As I have told my drawing students in the past, thinking can kill drawing. Strange but true. Intuition is the driver of great drawing not slow plodding hammering away.

So, at the end of the pier and looking down at the American paradise. It is a sea of broken bodies and broken souls. You be the judge if these drawings reflect something sad, cynical, decaying, bloated, broken, busted, vacant or all of the above or none of the above. I see an endangered species roaming around like a large animal too big and too weird to live with no idea that with each high fructose soda they creep closer to a stressed gurney under fluorescent lights at the end of their world.

Cakeaters – An animated film too weird to live

31 Jul

These are some images from my animated film called Cakeaters. I like the stills better than the film as a whole. At a New York screening of the film I had my worst but most educational artistic experience. Seeing something that you spent nearly three years making being quickly disregarded and judged (rightly) on the merits of it as a film was eye opening (even gut wrenching). Leaving the screening I felt bizarre. It was as if I had never seen the film. The deafening silence spoke volumes about the films snail paced timing and limited animation but also taught me that in the end, a film’s primary goal is to entertain. Even when you are bludgeoning your audience with a frightening truth, you must make it look good. I may be too hard on myself. Check out the animation and judge for yourself at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOZwa0th5q8&feature=channel_page