Creating art as introspection (weekly #12)

My core motivation in making art is a process of self discovery and contemplation.

Drawing or painting an image from my head allows me to look at it as a concrete and better understand what it is I had in mind. It is a process of translation from something abstract in my mind to a physical representation of it.

As I’m creating the drawing, I would feel compelled to move some parts, increase certain aspects of the gesture or minimize them, have the head turn a certain way, have the character look a certain direction or have a certain expression – I don’t always know all the parts beforehand – sometimes they become clear after I put down some core part of the idea I had in mind.

The best examples to illustrate this can be found in my old drawings (about 10 years ago) when I was drawing from my head. These drawings are anatomically bad, but they have something good. The stuff that makes art – art. That spice that cannot be mistaken for any other – authentic introspection (or inspiration).
They show a process of discovering the physical representation of something I found interesting and appealing, the process of finding that translation.

For example, in the drawing above, I had in mind a certain character, which was best expressed in a moment of fleeting attention to something.
Usually, no one would give this drawing a second or a first look because it is technically poor, but, wait one minute longer, see if you can find something interesting about it that would make you want to see this woman as a well-developed painting.
What I see, is a face and an expression one rarely encounters. She seems cold and mildly interested in what she is looking at, but at the same time she seems like a person who is not easily interested in things because she knows so much already (not because she is shallow or not curious as a person).
For me, the drawing started from a similar feeling to how this woman seem, and the motivation to draw it was a compelling urge to make it real so I can look at it, move some lines, change things, move her eyebrows up or down, decide if her mouth should be open or closed until I know it’s captures “that thing” just right. I don’t know what “that thing” is as I put it, nor why it is better if she has her mouth open and not closed – those questions are answered later, maybe, say, 10 years later as I’m looking at it, or ideally, after the first sketch and before I move on to working on making it a final, well developed piece.

I go through a similar process in drawing the whole figure from imagination, or while describing a certain situation. In the next drawing , for example, I actually had the dragon in mind, and the lady with it was a derivative.

The dragon is upset – it has to go through a long journey chained and shackled. It’s sitting in a corner, looking at its chains and crying, while its captive is care free.
The funny thing about it is that the dragon is 50 times stronger than the woman – the chain is not secured to the ground, but loosely tied to a thin, brittle stick which the girl is holding. The dragon can escape at any time, yet it doesn’t know it because it is busy looking at its shackles and crying. Too busy following its captor obediently to realize how easily he can be free. The idea doesn’t start with a dragon, in this case I couldn’t tell you what the idea started as, it somehow just was in my mind but then I still had that need to see how it would look like, to go through the process of figuring this idea out.

I had a similar moment to that as I was working on the background for the current painting I’m working on at my school. This one, however is different because I have limited choice in the subject matter. I did, however, choose the background:

I was struggling with the background for a while, trying different things that didn’t work until finally, I gave my self permission to just put things down boldly, to put down what I really want to see. So I started by making the curvy line and darkening the area bellow it, then, I knew I wanted bright sky behind her, I put the ocean line and the sky, then I realized this could be the edge of a large round window on a ship.

This is how groping for ideas for the background looked like at the beginning:


One last thing I want to talk about relates to the content with which I started this post.
In the past I would draw, not knowing what my technical drawbacks were. Being unaware of any flaws, I felt free to put down whatever was on my mind. I had total freedom to explore my ideas and I produced a lot of such fast drawings and paintings too.
After a while I realized the drawbacks and I was not satisfied with the technical side of my art anymore. I refrained from drawing because I was afraid to disappoint myself.
Today I realize, it doesn’t matter at all. You can always have room to improve the technical side of your work, as an artist, but what is equally valuable or of greater value, perhaps, is to be able to express your ideas; to have open communication with your subconscious and to be able to put down lines to create a drawing like the first one I shared here, of a woman’s face.
Today, equipped with better knowledge and experience I can improve the anatomy of that face, but I could never get back that moment and expression had I not put them down. If all I focused on was getting the anatomy right, all I would have now is one more anatomically accurate face. Boy, am I glad I didn’t worry about all that stuff!

The realization I had was that as an artist, preserving your soul is just as hard a job as improving your technical skills. You must give yourself permission and place to screw up in technique; to be wrong; whatever it takes, but keep that “channel” to your subconscious open.
Creativity is a habit, but a fragile one that needs to be nurtured and guarded. The good news is that all it really takes is your own permission.

Today I am celebrating my 31st Birthday. It is not a coincidence that today of all days I am sharing my oldest work which is also technically worst, something you would expect an artist to keep hidden in their closet.
As an artist, it is THOSE paintings and not my current ones (which are technically superior) which I would celebrate primarily. Those have my soul, these have my mind (as well as some of my soul). I find both equally difficult to make and eventually I will have the combined challenge of both things.

I hope that by putting my old work here for display for all to see, I am giving courage to someone else out there to embrace their own work and cherish their inner “spark”: don’t trade it for a better technique or for compliments. It just ain’t worth it, man.

I wish myself a good birthday and a successful and happy year to come.
Why, thank you, that’s very nice of you to say, Ifat. You too. 😉


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