Beginning Here! • November 21, 2014
When I started counting how many half finished drawings are stacked up on my work tables and shelves this morning , I stopped pretty quickly. I was getting a little overwhelmed by how much remains to be done, and maybe even kind of upset that the same thing happens over and over. Almost always, I start a new image with a great burst of clarity, and just pound along. Sometimes (it’s kind of rare) I get clear to the finish. As pleased as I am, I’m also a little disoriented, because I’m not quite sure how it happened. This is NOT the way things normally go. Usually, somewhere in the middle (and when a picture is beginning to look really good), I reach the point where I either don’t know what should come next, or worse, I have a vague hunch but no clue how to get it done. I care too much; the idea that I might fail locks me up. I stop. I prop the picture up, sit back and look at it long enough to realize there is nothing in my head but static. The really weird thing is that if I start a new drawing, I go right back into overdrive and charge off again. This has become a too familiar rhythm.
Thus far, I’ve dealt with stalled drawings by setting them aside. We all know that if you let problems rest for awhile, you’ll see them differently, and maybe solve them. It often works, but now my studio has become an archeological dig. At the bottom of piles and in overlooked corners, I’m finding really good starts that should have been completed. It feels like neglect not to see them through, but my thinking and mark making have evolved; I want too keep rolling, but I’m dragging all this weight and keep adding more!
Lately, I’ve had a sense that some kind of turning point or a big leap is coming. When I fail these days, it’s often on a level that I would not so long ago have been thrilled just to reach. I am making progress. As I write this, it’s reminding me to hold that thought close. I’ve decided I’ll have to abandon some old work. Better yet, to just get it gone, I’ll tear it up for scrap paper. I’m also going to try to be less concerned about failing on something I put a lot of work into. My big picture should be made up of all the pictures I’ve completed (or maybe even just worked on) in a series, or a season, or a year. It ought to be a vista I can look out over and see a creative migration.
Reidun, the love of my life, says that I should stop worrying about what turns out great and what ends up finished but a touch disappointing. She says that if I don’t tell folks which is which, they probably won’t know, and that if I keep moving, good work will keep coming. Where being practical is concerned, she has good sense without fail.
Once there was a man and his son who were reindeer herders. After a particularly long day, the kid asked, “Dad, when will we get there?”
His father replied, “Son, we’re nomads. We’ll never get there.”
Put a brush in my hand and off I go!
Your Buddy Bill —————–
Here are a few drawings that perplex me. I’m determined to finish them:
Mt. Haynes Behind the Madison River #5, Yellowstone National Park
The question: How do I resolve the middle area, where the wall of new growth trees ends at the water’s edge. You’re probably trying to find what the heck I’m even talking about. The interplay of textures and exuberant brushwork in the bottom half of the picture is sooooo lovely and suggestive, yet at the same time so indistinct. I like that, don’t want to lose the essence, but don’t know how to bring the bottom into harmony with the top half, which has become more defined.
Mt. Haynes #6, Yellowstone National Park
This one is really an essay in wild, almost abstract mark making. Yet I see space and depth in it, with the mountain perhaps in winter time snow under moonlight? Yep, really! Now, How do I get it to the point where you might see it too?
The Paterson Power Plant, #1
How’s this for jumping from wildly expressionistic to seriously realistic? This is the first Paterson Project picture I began, late last winter. Oh my gosh is it tight, and threatening to torc down further. I wore myself out on it and only now am about ready to go new rounds. The windows will take as long as the rest of the drawing has so far; if I manage it, you’ll see what I mean!
PS: the blue and orange lines are tape masking areas out – not the longed for addition of color some of you keep hoping for!
Roadkilled, Long-earred Owl #4
It started as a sketch with no prep beforehand, and has since morphed into an all out essay in texture and pattern. Lots of problems too, starting with the fact that it’s very hard to undo rapid gestural drawing decisions done in ink! As it turns out, every mark in the barely indicated breast and head is in an utterly inconvenient location. As I try to figure out how do deal with that, I’m also wondering how I can perhaps keep the whole area far less highly resolved. As a friend has pointed out, if I dot every eye, this could end up looking like an Audubon Field Guide drawing.
Roadkilled, Long-Earred Owl #3
And this time, I feel I need to finish the super detailed feet/legs and really, really slide into a more suggestive, spare finish for the rest. I think.
Finally, here are two views of a Bear Swamp Creek pool in low water and autumn leaf clutter. Wonderful textures and brush work are happening in these, but both pictures are dizzyingly fragmented and disjointed. The real scene is like that too – the woods are at their most cluttered right now, yet if these are to function at all, I must pull them together some how. I think it means that I must figure out how to lie a little!