Sunday, 19 February 2012
Like the previous image, this drawing would probably have been begun sometime in 2005, or 2006; I remember that I began working on it after my withdrawal from Winchester School of Art. However, it remained unresolved until January of this year; some six years later.
From time to time I take all of the unframed drawings from the boxes in which they are stored, and scrutinise them closely. I decide whether or not to keep them. This process is distinct from the episodes of blind destruction which I visit upon my work in less considered moments.
The drawing above had been on my mind for some months; I couldn't quite bring myself to destroy it, neither could I bring it to a close. Each time I looked at it, I was uneasy, possessed of the desire to resolve it, yet lacking the confidence to do so, unsure of its merits, and perhaps remembering the somewhat noncommittal reactions that had been evident on showing it to some others when I had only just begun working on it. ( How sensitized one becomes to the responses of others, how eager to please, and how much one suffers when approval is not forthcoming! )
In January, having taken the drawing from one of the boxes, I laid it on the floor in the back bedroom, where the boxes of drawings are kept, so that I could look upon it every day on entering the room. One day, I took courage, and removed the drawing downstairs, placing it on the end of the table at which I work when I am able ( alas, not the same carved and inlaid table that was the focus of creative life at the lodge, and at which my partner researched and wrote one of his books, but a modest foursquare construction with draw- leaf plastic top, patterned to look like wood grain) in order to attempt to revise it.
I found that I was quaking with nervousness; the pencil trembled between my fingers; I was conscious of mild palpitations and an uncomfortably dry mouth. The first marks that I made were more or less invisible; it was difficult to direct the pencil with any degree of certainty. I would touch the graphite tip to the surface of the paper hesitantly, unsure of how to proceed, anxious to take the drawing beyond its tentative beginnings, yet worried that I might unwittingly sabotage it.
After a while, I was able to relax, finding comfort in making short, light strokes on the paper, beginning to enjoy the sensation of drawing, the bite of the graphite against the soft, yielding cotton paper, the repetitive, unhurried movements of my hand and fingers. I worked for maybe an hour (it seemed far longer) before being able to decide that the drawing was 'finished', and at least a month elapsed before I felt confident enough to photograph it, and embrace it into the suite of cloud formation drawings, begun so many years ago, in such different circumstances.
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Another survivor from the suite of cloud formation drawings, most of which I destroyed not long after their making. This drawing would have been made in 2005, or 2006. I remember that I begun it whilst studying for an MPhil/PhD at Winchester School of Art, shortly before I was obliged to withdraw from my course, as I hadn't been able to secure the necessary funding to continue. With hindsight, I feel that I would have needed to have vastly extended and developed my practice in order to have gained my degree. At the time, I felt confused, bewildered and desperately unsure of how to proceed, yet was possessed of a curious belief in the cloud drawings, and there is no doubt in my mind that I gained therapeutically from making them. Why then destroy them? Subject to a devastating loss of self esteem, and the most profound self doubt, I became convinced that they were worthless. Excessively in need of approbation from another person to assuage these excrutiating feelings, I could not supply the reassurance required to persuade myself that the drawings had some merit, neither could I distinguish the successful drawings among the many that I produced. It is only with the greatest difficulty that I manage to refrain from destroying all of the work that I make.
I have eleven framed drawings, and perhaps five more that I should like to frame, thereby allowing them to pass safely from the danger zone wherein destruction takes place, and perhaps that tiny number of drawings is all that I shall leave behind me. Yet I continue to research possible drawing papers in the hope that I may be able to begin to work again, (my favourite being a wonderfully receptive printmaking paper made by St Cuthberts Mill of Somerset), and I continue to purchase it, laying the sheets carefully in the large, shallow, lidded boxes where I store unframed drawings.
The boxes are kept in the back bedroom of the house; a chaste, pale, white curtained room in which are also stored boxes of vintage jigsaw puzzles, boxes of possessions as yet unpacked from the time of removal to Somerset, a typewriter, a slide projector and two chests of drawers one of which contains scrap paper and small unframed drawings, the other, my collection of silk blouses, scarves and other precious items of clothing. ( I keep wrapped bars of scented soap amongst the clothes; thus the room itself is fragranced, as well as the clothes, which release a wonderful aroma of rose, honeysuckle and sandlewood when they are shaken out). The only other furniture in the room is a needle- work box of a fine, dark, reddish wood, perhaps mahogany, or rosewood, made by an amateur hand during the years of the second world war ( there is a date inscribed on the underside of the box), and a gold painted Lloyd Loom chair, the gold somewhat dulled and worn, upon which rest two pink floral cushions, and, draped over the back, a black crotchet work shawl. The chair is drawn up by the window, and positioned close to the boxes of drawings, which occupy a corner of the room. It is my habit to sit for long periods of time in this chair, staring out of the window at the countryside beyond the outer reaches of the town, watching the little birds in the back garden, and gazing at the sky. Often, I open the lids of the boxes where the drawings and new paper are kept, and sit with them, as it were, having retrieved a particular drawing from beneath the others to look at, in order to attempt to evaluate it, to place it both within the context of my own practice, and within the broader context of contemporary practice.
The drawings that I have had framed are also kept in this room, stacked against the wall, adjacent to the boxes. They are still swathed in sheets of plastic bubble wrap, and for the most part are placed so that each image faces inwards towards its partner. At present, however, one faces outwards, a drawing entitled calm mountain drawing, or mons quies; I can see it quite well through the bubble wrap. Fot the present, at least, I am able to find some degree of the reassurance I so sorely needed during the making of the cloud drawings when I look upon it. Of all the drawings that I have made, and destroyed over the last few years, it is perhaps the one I like the most, the one in whose presence I can relax, a little.
These periods of contemplation are vital to my well being, although on a bad day, I am as likely to cram the lid back on the box of drawings in dismay, despising myself for my lack of creativity, and mediocrity. I frequently feel that I shall never make work again; certainly I have not an idea for a work in my mind. I always want to draw like someone else, someone else's work is always of greater value than my own; I have lost sight of my own practice in the confusion of feelings that overwhelms me when I experience the work of others. Perhaps a period of self imposed isolation is called for; perhaps I should withold myself from research for a while, forget about art, allow myself a breathing space during which perhaps I will be able to recover something of the spirit in which I made the cloud formation drawing shown above.