Gary was standing outside when I pulled up in the van and parked out the back at the Phoenix. He was smoking a roll up. I made a comment about having given up that morning and therefore not hanging about as I stumbled passed with all my gear. I came back out after dumping it all on the desk and said I was sure I could handle it and we swapped anecdotes about preferences for roll-ups over cigarettes.
A most excellent class. Low key and very inspiring. Gary showed us some of his work. Paintings he’d done nearly 5 years ago and drawings from the last few weeks. He has a dry sense of humour and denies any intentional meaning behind his quite dark bold images often of girls, birds and wolves. He says he gets bored easily and he paints quickly and freely from his imagination. His images are informed by lots of observational drawing.
We had a good long stretch of time to get on with our own work and I really got a lot from hearing him talk about his way of working without self censorship. I decided to do the same and just let myself do whatever came next.
To see Gary Goodman’s work
I got to thinking about this recently after I initiated a facebook chat with someone from school. A boy (now a man – obviously) whom I haven’t heard about for over 25 years.
He had an impact on my life at a specific time, unbeknownst to him! From the crucial age of 13 until pretty much the day I left sixth form, he dominated lots of my thinking. And that is because he was the first person I was ever, ‘in love with’ and thus the object of many daydreams, wistful thinkings, and doodlings on notebooks; “me and blah blah…forever” etc. etc. Now, he won’t know this, and doesn’t even need to know it, it’s of no concern. However, he remains relevant to me as he is part of my story. He is one of those people that figured in my journey through life.
I started to think right back to various people who have figured – in primary school; teachers and other kids, through secondary school, random people who were in my early life, some for a short time perhaps or at a particularly key time – but whom I can remember really clearly. I thought about individuals I really wish hadn’t figured and how I cannot erase them – because they are also there in my story with a role to play.
There are so many people who have a small or fleeting part to play in making us who we are – I am thinking here about our youthful selves – perhaps before the age of 18. They leave their traces on our psyches; hauntings of an earlier us grappling with our exciting, overwhelming, scary, bemusing life adventures.
If you contacted any one of them maybe with a little card to say, “just wanted to thank you for all the contributions you made to life”! – how could you do that without sounding weird, desperate, or like you must have just hit the big time in a therapy session or worse? If you heard from someone out of the blue that you hadn’t thought about in years – what’s the first thing you would think?
I used to find the idea of contacting people from my past very cringe worthy and totally uncool – but maybe it’s my age and spending too much time with a small child on my own – but I think I am well up for making contact with people I have know and hearing all about how life has been for them. I am pretty sure that by a certain age (and that must be round about 40) one realises that life is life (la la la la la!) and for everyone no matter how great their particular dreams may have been, no matter how high the ladders they were going to climb – they have probably come to rest at a place that is not that dissimilar from the next good persons. Life is much of a muchness in the end and we get older. We have that in common. Our dreams and aspirations are not that different and the knocks that life has sent us will no doubt ring true for others we have known.
What do we think about getting in touch with say, 5 key people from your life before the age of 20. Would you do it – would you thank them for their contributions to your life – or would ‘thank you’ be the last thing on your mind?
Are you in part just an amalgamation of all the people you have ever known and things you have ever done? In which case the least you could do is say ‘thanks’?
This is going to be my next big art project – I am going to do this. Anyone want to join me? I am going to write down everything I can remember about 5 different people – and I am going to say ‘thank you’! Something tells me I might be alone in thinking this is a good idea for a project?
Last week I started to play a wonderful CD given to me by my friend Jo. A compilation of interesting, rhythmic Parisian, African, South American, ambient sounds. So good infact, that every single track is even better than the one before … which is totally fantastic! Winni and I had a great time dancing around the bedroom with plenty of facial gestures to accompany our moves. I also discovered that I can in fact lie down on the sofa and Winni will very happily carry on dancing or start drawing and that I can perhaps also just relax and supervise from a reclining position. This is tempting (of course?!).
At one point while I lay there watching her dance, marvelling at her rhythm and freedom of movement and the beautiful shapes she made in the space around her – I wondered about how I might capture that image and the feeling. I also chastised myself for not just being present and tried harder to ‘be in the moment’! Then, I just couldn’t help myself and… I got my mobile phone out and tried to take some pictures. But, my phone is on its last legs (there is a delay of about 3 seconds on the camera), and Winni is not particularly up for being photographed – why should she be! So I ended up with 8 completely blurred shots of her dancing.
The next day, at sleep time, which is when I sometimes get my hour or two to do something – I was sitting looking at a blank piece of fabriano paper. I had taped it up on my old drawing board which we recently moved from the bedroom where it has been ignored for some time to the sitting room where it will no doubt still get ignored but maybe not completely. I was thinking how nice it would be to start a painting or drawing if only I could think of something to work from. And then I remembered that I myself have said it’s ok to work from photos on more than one occasion – “so”… I thought, “why not work from photos? – anything. As long as it gets you started!”
I jumped up from my seat, trying not to think about it too much in case the thinking stopped the doing – got out my charcoals and with the phone in my left hand and a drawing implement in my right I started moving my right hand across the page – I flicked through the photos of Winni dancing and kept moving from one to another resting on each for a moment and making a mark in response to it on the paper. And then starting again. At some point I got paint out and did the same thing, working quickly across seven figures. Winni had on a wonderful stripy, long dress (sent by her great Aunty Tricia) and I used the colour in the dress to focus on making the shapes of her dancing. All blurred images but enough to get the sense of a figure and of movement.
High points were… really feeling her dancing and being transported back to the moment of watching her. Trying to capture the line of her neck and thinking how well I know that delicate neck; how it looks, feels, smells. I know that little leg and arm etc. etc. It was amazing to feel so engaged and alive with the subject and the process of making marks. Low points were really feeling the rustiness in my looking and my ability to make my implements do what I want them to do, to make the line curve in such a way as to suggest a tummy to make the shadow in the fabric suggest a swish of the skirt. etc. etc. But that’s all OK and to be expected.
Later that same evening I was sitting with Mike and Bill, they were playing chess and I was looking at my work on the drawing board. I had an intense little private moment about the whole process I had been through and… it was good. I wondered if this is what artists experience when they feel a compulsion to paint or draw. I can see I am trying to express so much in that little piece in front of me.
I have since reflected that if this was my main way of finding a voice and working out my thoughts and feelings I too would ‘need’ it – but that actually I tend to do most of my working out verbally via conversation. So, I am processing all the time in my head and with others. It could be that the process of painting and drawing gives me space to take my personal reflections more deeply and that it will be more satisfying doing it alone rather than with others – I don’t know. The point is that I understand I am driven to communicate and I do it all the time – but its mainly verbal or written. The visual is less likely to get a look in. I guess I tend to revert to what I feel comfortable with – stay safe.
Drawing and painting the images of a child dancing has given me a renewed sense that I am infact a real beginner. I am learning a new language and I just experienced a moment of actually dreaming in French as it were. And… it felt good.
As I sat at the dining table and started to share my thoughts with my company who were deep into their chess game and therefore not that willing to go there – I was gagging for the opportunity to talk it all through with someone and to pull apart the little journey I had just been on – I wanted to talk to another artist and find out about their experience. I needed the refuge of an analytical conversation – because this is where I am comfortable and this is where I can trust my understanding.
It was a very good thing to be left with these thoughts and feelings and to just keep looking at my little painting. I feel naive but this is all true for me where I am at right now.
We went into the bedroom tonight and Winni pointed at the music and said “put on mummy” and I pressed play and she smiled and we started dancing!
Any thoughts anyone? Why do you make art?…or perhaps more importantly if you aren’t making any at the moment – What’s stopping you? Is it important to find a process? Something to refer to when it’s hard to get going?
experience reality, take photos, capture, draw and paint from photos, look, work out, recreate, reflect…?