This week I want to finally start writing about art in general and my art specifically. I guess it could be my New Year’s resolution but it’s only a coincidence that I came to this conclusion so close the the start of a new year. Though it’s tough to figure out where to start. I’ve made a lot of art over the years. All different kinds. I think writing about it will help me and others to see the threads that runs through it. At least that’s what I hope to accomplish. That and making it interesting.

I’ve decided the only place I could start was with drawing. I’m big on definitions so the first thing I’ll try to do is define what drawing is. I’m also big on trying to find the simplest definition for a concept. I think understanding comes with simplicity and from that complexity is easier to make sense of. The simplest definition I can come up with for drawing is “Putting lines on paper in an interesting way”. Sure it can be lines on other surfaces too and sure “Interesting” can be a subjective word but I’m going with “Interesting” having context rather than being subjective. Plus it’s still the simplest definition I can think of. Feel free to come up with your own if you don’t like mine. It’s not easy.

I’m starting with drawing because it is usually not an end but a means. Often drawing is done in the service of a finished piece of art and isn’t a finished work itself. That’s not always the case but the vast majority of my drawings are the first steps in the process of making art. That’s why I’m beginning with it. My definition of drawing “Putting lines on paper in an interesting way” is actually an advanced definition. I could never have thought of drawing that way when I was starting out. When a person is first learning to draw it’s all about drawing something. Anything. A nude figure, a dinosaur, airplanes, a building, a super-hero, a cat, or whatever else the drawing is about portraying the thing you’re drawing. If you’re drawing a horse you want people to know it’s a horse. That’s what matters. “In an interesting way” barely even exists at that point except as a vague and far off concept. Learning to draw is a long process and making things interesting isn’t always in the early steps of learning.

To illustrate this point I’ve pulled one of my old sketchbooks off the shelf and scanned a drawing from my college days. This is probably from Fall 1987. The hardbound black sketchbooks I bought back in those days were definitely a good idea. I don’t use those particular ones anymore but none of these old drawings would exist if I didn’t draw them in a book. As individual pieces of paper they would have long disappeared. They’re not very good and I’m sure I would have lost track of them or thrown them out but it’s easy to keep a book. Books, in general, have value to me so It’s tough to just throw them away. Hence I still have this sketchbook named “Snow”. I did and still do name my sketchbooks by closing my eyes, opening a dictionary, and pointing to a word. That’s how in 1987 this one became “Snow”. My latest one is named “Host”. They’re not always four letter words. I swear. “Snow” is pretty battered since I carried it around a lot but I reinforced it with duct tape way back then and those black hardbound books are pretty rugged to begin with.

This page is dominated by me trying to figure out how to draw some hands. There are a few of them on the page and it looks like I was trying out various gestures. The drawings aren’t very interesting except in context of me working on figuring things out. It looks like these were done for a comic strip I used to make back then. One character carried a saxophone and I don’t think I’ve ever drawn a sax except then. I can tell that the large hand on the page was drawn by looking at my own hand in the mirror. That would be the only way I could get the level of realism in the drawing. I couldn’t draw that out of my head. This was also the days before digital photography and internet images searches made finding reference of hands or anything else easy to find so I kept a mirror in my studio at college. All the drawings on this page were about trying to draw something.

It’s important to point out that because I say this drawing isn’t very interesting doesn’t mean it’s not a drawing. It’s just not a very successful drawing. I find that when it comes to art people often have a hard time with definitions. They’re expected to be binary. They want to know if something is art or isn’t art. The concept that something can be bad or mediocre art escapes a lot people. They’ve been taught that all art is good so if something is bad it must not be art. That’s not true. There is good art, bad art, and everything in between.

With my page of drawing of hands I tried to put lines on paper in an interesting way but in the context of all the other drawing I and others have done I didn’t really succeed at the interesting part. Maybe I though it was good back then but it’s really mediocre student art. That’s its context. If a person’s context is that theses are the only drawings they have ever seen than they could be very interesting to that person. It could be that this is the greatest art that they have ever seen. But show that person drawings of the great masters and context puts my hand drawing right back into the dull category. Now I think I have to dig up something good to show. I’ll be back.