This is the work of my fine Lamy Safari and a hint of sumi ink. But most of the credit goes to patience, to slowing way, way down and just enjoying the calm that enveloped me and my desk. I drew this last night as Jack was at a concert in Brooklyn and my dogs were working on rawhide bones at my feet. The Dixon Brothers (Howard and Dorsey) sang about Jesus, whiskey and penury from my speakers and the air conditioner hummed in the corner. I studied each reflection in the corkscrew, breaking it down to three or four tones and carefully recording them.
I knew where I had fudged a line here and there, despite my care and slow pace, and I could still here that recriminating voice muttering in a corner of my skull. Whatever the hectoring spectre was that hung over me recently (addressed so lovingly and helpfully by all of your comments about my last post), it was still lurking when I recapped my pen so I started drawing a grid in the background and then filling in squares. Still unsatisfied, I pulled out my calligraphy nib. Then I just left my book on my desk and went to bed to read. I’d enjoyed the process but was still unsure about the drawing. And the muttering.
This morning, I passed through my study on the way to get some iced coffee and saw the page and thought “not bad.” Maybe some shoemaker’s elves worked on it over night or maybe the self-doubt has lifted.
In your comments, some of you suggested that the limitations of the EDM Challenges could be to blame, that having proscribed assignments was making me stiff and restricted. I think that’s probably true but it’s also part of the process. For me, now, being forced to work on one mundane drawing after the next is driving me deeper inside drawing, making me do something specific each day, filling the page, making marks, and thinking about art each and every day. Sometimes it’s painful and raises demons, sometimes it’s a mess, but I think it’s the only way to fight back the excuses and just keep at it until I breakthrough to something new.
Watching the Olympics is reinforcing my commitment. Imagine working day after day since you were a little kid on balancing on a beam or running 100 meters and then having all of that work and sacrifice come down to a single instance on a single day in a far-off land in front of billions of eyeballs. It’s pretty extraordinary. And the miracle, the fluidity of the moment is only possible because of all the discipline, the repetition, the working through pain and boredom that preceded it.
We all want to be able to draw beautifully every time. The myth of ‘talent’ is that we are either born with it or not, just like sprinters are genetically determined to have long legs, swimmers to have broad chests, hurdlers to have elaborate hairstyles. But the fact that I will never be Michelangelo or Picasso or Phelps isn’t going to stop me from being Gregory, from being as good at being me as I can be. Greatness isn’t necessary to proceed. And the occasional low score from the judges wont make me hang up my leotard.
I’m not going for the gold. Just for the stainless steel.