My (relatively) large surfaces have begun to reward my persistence with the development of character and visual interest. This past week I have been able to deny the urge to move quickly and make large haphazard gestures, and instead to slow down and consider small things. I have divided and subdivided, blurred lines and marks, blended and separated, scratched and impressed. It seems to be a process of alternately focusing in and pulling away, and it almost develops a rhythm of its own. It is both challenging and satisfying, and although it requires patience, it is also absorbing.
Part of what is making this shift possible is an accompanying desire to draw. This revival of an itch that I haven't felt in a couple of years was neither deliberately sought nor cultivated, and I have yet to pick up my sketchbook. But the impulse is real and is helping my focus to sharpen and my marks to become more deliberate. Sketching, or drawing, requires an interaction with the object that is being drawn, while the abstract work that I have been doing requires an interaction with the surface that is developing, without an external referential object. But every drawing that is created feeds the repertoire of marks and images that eventually becomes a language for abstract composition. It also helps create a habit of focusing, something that I have been trying to develop amid all the abstraction.
The current desire to draw began in the days when I was not visiting the studio, and I did sketch a bit around the house. Then it was reinforced by reading Chasing Matisse, a delightful book recounting the journeys of an older artist (a group in which I count myself) from Little Rock, AR, who took a year to live in Europe with his wife, retracing the movements of Matisse throughout his life, visiting the places where he worked and the homes in which he lived. In addition to providing details about Matisse, the book considers artistic questions regarding both how to see and how to create, and also ponders the sanity of selling one's stateside home and moving to Europe. The book is quite well written, and its themes resonate with me. The author draws constantly as he moves around (some sketches are scattered throughout the book), and that whetted my appetite for drawing as well as provided insight into how to integrate sketching into my daily life. (No, I haven't done so yet, but I will be taking my sketchbook along with me when we head down to Bluff on a midwinter getaway the day after tomorrow.)