The rhythm is gonna get you

variationsI’ve always enjoyed drawing series of things. It’s so interesting to see variations on a theme, to explore connections between things, and to expand specifics into generalities and vice versa. I learn a lot by doing drawings of similar things, going deeper into the familiar and seeking out variation. The subject itself is fairly irrelevant; the patterns and changes are what inform.
They are interesting to look at too. The eyes like rhythm. And repetition and pattern are made more interesting by variation. This is the basis of music, the bass line and the drum keep your feet moving, syncing up with the natural rhythm of the heart while the melody adds the variation that keeps you from zoning out.
It’s also interesting to revisit themes from your own work or that of other artists. Monet had his water lilies, haystacks, cathedrals and poplars. Mozart’s wrote variations on Haydn’s string quartets which in turn inspired Ludwig Van. Picasso’s painted dozens of variations on Velazquez’s Las Meninas, Warhol did soup cans, Dine bathrobes, Wayne Thiebaud cakes, Hirst pills, Ford westerns, and the Magnetic Fields wrote 69 Love Songs. It’s more than a shtick. It’s how you go deeper.
Life itself is a variation on a theme. The seasons repeat like movements. Each fresh day provides a canvas whose dimensions always stretch from dawn to dawn, while the clock ticks out the same number of bars each day. Despite this consistency, we have enormous freedom to play each day as we will. We can seem to trace the day before exactly, from bed to the office to lunch to the train home to the TV set to bed again. But our hand always hitches some where along the path, throwing in some minor variation. The art is in noticing these chord changes, attending to life closely enough to recognize its shifts. That’s the art of journal keeping.
I find enormous positive reinforcement in these little adjustments. They show me that what has been may not necessarily continue to be—the skies will clear, the mercury will rise. And yet I see the consistency too, so I am not as panicked by chaos. There is reassurance in the sameness and hope in the changes.