After 10 years of declining health, my mother at 92 years old, died on January 25 of this year. I was able to spend almost every day with her during those years and while I knew the end was near, I had no idea how profoundly her death would affect me. Struggling to focus, especially in the studio, and finding myself edgy and angry as I tried to process and find meaning, I gave myself a gift of a week in Mexico with time to walk, read and draw, all things I really enjoy. I decided to embark on a thirty day, thirty minute for thirty drawings exploration and challenge.
This is the first drawing, ink and graphite, done on April 22 while in San Jose del Cabo. I posted each drawing for thirty days on Instagram and the first comment from an artist who doesn’t know me was, “there’s something very vulnerable about this drawing”. This one is so minimal, stripped down to its essence. Hmm, maybe I was on to something…
I’m not including all thirty drawings, but this one was the fourth. I worked with graphite, ink and pastel, blurring some lines while others are more distinct, a nice contrast. I tried not to think of anything, not to judge myself, just to be totally present and focused during those thirty minutes.
This is the seventh drawing in ink, graphite and pastel. Another Instagram comment, “It looks like you’re drawing on a window”. The tangle of lines and the feeling of observation and looking outward interests me. A goal was to loosen up, to let myself draw whatever I wanted without concern for what anyone might say or think.
The eighth drawing, also in ink and graphite, contains more curvilinear lines, softer than perfectly straight lines, as they meander in and out of space. Over the course of ten years of caregiving, I began to soften, becoming a more compassionate and patient person.
Water of any sort, plays an important part in my creative process. Recently, I found myself mesmerized by a waterfall and body of water in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. This eleventh drawing, done in different inks and graphite, was an attempt to show the movement of the waterfall connecting with the surface water of the pond.
Ovoid shapes and circles have been showing up in my work for over thirty years. Sometimes they are linear, sometimes they are filled in. I used a piece of Japanese paper collage, in addition to ink and crayon. I like the relationship, in this thirteenth drawing, between the two dominant shapes and the tiny black dots, reminding me of my family.
Anne Lamott in Bird for Bird, one of the books I took with me, says, “You can see the underlying essence only when you strip away the busyness and then some surprising connections appear”. Lamott’s book is about writing and being a writer, but I find the parallels to all creative forms, including art, to be striking. In this seventeenth drawing, I love how the torn edge of the collage, intersects with the lines.
I’m enjoying the simplicity of expression, the negative spaces contrasted with the thicker and thinner line work. Another Lamott quote, “You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words (or lines in my case), who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander”.
In this nineteenth drawing, I’m combining shapes and lines, but using only two colors. E.L Doctorow said once, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you”. Sometimes I really fixate on my making my work perfect, not trusting the creative process. This is such great advice!
Patterns and rhythm are often present in my work, harkening back to days when I studied music formally. This drawing project has allowed me to embrace all the experiences that define who I am: sometimes geometrically inclined, sometimes not, sometimes bold and sometimes not.
Another Lamott quote that I love, “Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you’re trying to paper train. You don’t drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor’s yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper”. A different way of looking at the idea of being fully present in what you’re doing.
In the penultimate drawing, collage and ink, I began to feel more playful, while still keeping things simple and not overly busy.
This last one feels like a summation of a few things that are important to me as an artist: bringing beauty into this world while creating evocative work, and simplifying the gesture so the essence is felt. Finding time to sit quietly, to observe, process and create is even more important than before.