Article published in Living Now Magazine, December 2008
The primary theme of this article is really about the untapped potential, the creative power and the incredible diversity of language inherent in the average person. I approach this in the context of drawing. It’s that issue of individual difference (of experience) that often never gets a look in. Most people’s ‘mark-making’, their ‘real’ language, in fact their actual creative being often lies submerged in their subconscious, like a brilliant coral reef, never visited or seen. Within the dynamic drawing forum, I assist people to make that dive.
Have you ever wanted to draw but somehow never had the confidence?
Have you ever been told that you were ‘hopeless at drawing’ or ‘didn’t have the ability’, that you were ‘untalented’, that what you drew was ‘laughable’ or that you couldn’t get it ‘in perspective’ or the best you could do was ‘stick figures’. Does this ring any bells with you?
Imagine now a situation where you are given the opportunity, in a non-hierarchical setting, to explore your visual territory and to embrace your identity in a really meaningful way where there are no hoops you’ve got to jump through, where you are welcome exactly as you are…… as a legitimate, unique and phenomenal soul.
Dynamic drawing setting gives you exactly that permission. You self recognise…… you begin to remember who you were (when the dream first started). The ‘head noise’ ends and suddenly something picks you up and moves you forwards. What you thought was in front of you is now suddenly behind you. Something is set in motion. You are in a state of abandonment. You have entered a state of grace.
Most people unfortunately have been given the ‘flat earth’ version of drawing and have never really been informed about what it really means to draw….. so the vast stellar poetry of the soul is oft never lit, nor the whale ever seen. And that is sad because so much brilliant possibility remains untapped. The rock poet Patti Smith (OK) said ‘art will be compulsive or art will not be at all’.
In a sense, drawing has been hijacked by what could only be loosely called the ‘mainstream’ (the academy, advertising, commerce / gallery elitism etc.) In a world that is becoming increasingly ‘named and samed’, there is an increasing devaluation of the individual. Art, just like farming (monoculture), is increasingly in the hands of investors, dealers and multi nationals. There is little tolerance of art on a one to one basis and yet now there is a greater need than ever for individual acceptance and understanding.
What this creates is a huge schism between that broad mass of people and those sitting at the top of the heap ie. the ‘name artists’, the ‘gallery stable’ etc., in the face of which most people become bewildered and overwhelmed. But the tragedy is most people never even question this because most of us have been banged over the head by this since the year dot. But this is a far cry from the awesome mysteries that really powerful work has historically possessed. The real tragedy is just how many people are then thrown into the ‘I’m not an artist’ basket. Well, LET ME SAY RIGHT NOW…….. THIS IS NOT TRUE!
There are masses of people out there with deep, original, undeveloped and quite unique sensitivities. I’ve witnessed this over and over again during my years of facilitation. Given half a chance, most people can produce really exceptional work. Ironically, it is this issue of originality – this striking issue of difference – that has distinguished the ordinary in art from the extraordinary. It is from this very base (the exotic or unusual) that really great art has emerged, not from some academic mould.
The work in dynamic drawing has always been about asking questions and establishing dialogues……..IT IS IN THIS STATE OF IRREGULARITY, THIS STATE OF AMBIGUITY THAT THE BEST ART EMERGES. IN THE ‘HISTORY OF ART’ THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A ‘PROPER’ OR ‘NORMAL’ WAY TO DRAW BUT AN EMERGENT WISDOM OF ‘STRIKING DIFFERENCE’…….. IRREGULARITY RULES!
omehow, the idea of illustration has been mistaken for all that drawing is!
This sense of departure of ‘returning home’ to your original identity, to ‘who you really are’, rather than being told how you should draw, is crucial to developing a healthy creativity.
You can’t ignore the extra brilliant possibilities of the so called ‘ordinary’ person…. nobody is boring! Within every person sleeps an angel waiting to be awoken. The march of the ordinary soul into the great roaring silence can be witnessed when ordinary people are given a voice and those voices together make a choir.
Each individual has a story to tell. It is extraordinary individuals that make up the history of art. People’s unexpected abilities and hidden potential and what they have to offer continue to astound and surprise me. Drawing is a visual yoga as much as breathing is life. To draw fully, you need to breathe deeply and consciously.
It is a tragedy to see how many people have been constructed, creatively robbed, shamed, isolated or fractured by the mainstream media, that is the academic version of drawing, because drawing when you distill the word, pure drawing – as we have discovered – dwells, lives and breathes within the ‘art of difference’. Different individuals putting their hand up and saying ‘this is how it is for me, this is the way I translate my experience, these are my stories. These are the kind of claims I make on reality. These are the kind of images and narratives that I need to do to tell you what my movie is about’….. no shame.
So when you are drawing you are having returned to you / given back literally what is yours and putting your signature to it. You are collecting what belongs to you. So, for someone to frown upon, mock or somehow close down or devalue you for that, is really destructive because it is from this kind of diverse base that really strong work develops. It is one of the great ironies of art history (and it has happened repeatedly) that ground-breaking work has been initially howled down, laughed at or savaged by the status quo because people at the time could not comprehend the new and classical originality of the language.
So the big issue then becomes how do you connect with what’s yours (your core realities) ……. and I like to use this word, your ‘primary’ self? When so much of the art myth floats on an illusory cloud of glamour and production slickness, it means that you need to consciously break through this to get your feet on the ground.
And this is the hardest (and most dangerous) time for most people because it means staying with it when it seems everything you’ve ever been led to believe in or been taught seems to be crashing down around you. Those seemingly unquestionable things about quality and success are under radical challenge. It’s also the time when what you thought was ‘bad drawing’ suddenly starts to look like good drawing. It’s also the time when the voices in your head, the ‘chatter’ starts up about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and what’s the good and the bad way, what’s weird and what’s normal, real or abstract…. it can be a time when you feel your whole world is turning upside down……. because it most often is!
It’s a ‘big ask’ but if you’re going to ‘move on through’, it’s the only way…… and this is the hardest time because if you want to develop your practice, then you’ve got to stick with it and have a little faith because this is an enormous psychological battle, as it brings up all sorts of deep-seated stuff about your identity and beliefs. Your whole idea of what you perceive as visual security or real is under substantial challenge. In this particular way, it is comparable to meditation.
But this is when the realisations are being made…..because what you’re dealing with in pure drawing are essentially questions of philosophy (not how well you can draw the nose on a horse’s face). At some point, it is absolutely necessary to break from that mythical fable or tradition about what ‘art’ is and start to develop a revamped, healthier and more vibrant practice (eg. eggs get broken when you start to cook). But recognising this division within yourself, for most people, is really hard because traditional pressure (eg. through the school system, books on how to draw, gallery elitism) is just so extreme and continues throughout most people’s lives. Another example would be say the way in which the magical innocence and wisdom of children’s art is dismissed, brushed aside and subsumed by an avalanche of artificial and manufactured technique.
So when you start to make a break and learn to stand on your own two feet creatively, it generally signals confusion and upheaval……… when the ‘primary self’ goes into battle with ‘constructed self’. But it is the only way. The Mexican writer Carlos Castaneda called this ‘the last battle on earth’…… in his book ‘The Tales of Power’ …… that is the battle for the reclamation of one’s own soul. Homer talks about this in ‘The Iliad’, Dante also talks about it in ‘The Inferno’ and the French poet, Arthur Rimbaud, describes it in his famous poem ‘A Season in Hell’. Robert Johnson, the Blues singer, famously talked about it as ‘meeting the devil at the crossroads’. It’s nothing new. It’s a classical part of human experience, the epic search for your identity / your being. You are not alone.
All the major artists through time, worth their salt, have been through it (including musicians, writers, poets, prophets, visionaries etc). It’s called ‘self actualisation’ through work because if you follow the creative principle right through to its logical conclusion, then that’s what you’ve actually got, this further and further process of distillation and self realisation. ‘YOU ARE THE ONE THAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR’……. in the end it’s absurdly simple……. but so much energy is wasted on trying to be ‘acceptable’, when in the end the real power lies in HAVING THE COURAGE TO LET GO.
So, recognising this ‘crossroads’ is essentially what the dynamic drawing forum is all about. It is a quest for freedom and self recognition. Without a connective dialogue or a robust visual debate, how can someone’s language freely move or begin even to be seen. Without experimentation and a sense of wonder, how? Without an acute sense of vitality and enquiry, how? Without intuitive input, then how much of ‘you’ is really yours? What kind of drawing is it if it doesn’t have risk, sacrifice and even destruction…… you need to ask yourself what drawing actually means? You need at some point to surrender yourself and to actually witness that surrender. You need to make contact with who you are.
It just keeps coming back to that issue of the ‘crossroads’ when you realise drawing is not something external but something that is overwhelmingly internal, that radically engages you at all levels, almost ‘physically’. It is meditative, it requires your trust and the engagement of your best instincts……… you can’t control drawing. It is, in a sense, even delinquent in the way it searches out structures. You are informed ‘blindly’ or intuitively, that is where the big decisions are being made and without warning. It is phenomenal, raw and sophisticated all at the same time. You simply can’t control it intellectually or by some mythical book of rules. It will walk right over you. Your best, wisest and most inspired decisions are ‘visceral’ (energetic)…… that is, at a deeper level these events are bouncing straight off your nervous system. You are dealing with something purely intimate and it is happening at a rate of knots. It is you who is holding the mirror and you who needs to be found.
In drawing there is no separation of interest. It is intelligent to develop good working strategy, to understand what it means to put marks on paper, to understand the value in what appears to be ‘chaos’. It would be silly not to. To understand how ‘ugly’ can suddenly become ‘beautiful’. Drawing is not like selling steak knives. It is an investigation into the mystery of the world.
Buddha did not sit under the Bodhi tree and gain enlightenment in five minutes. So with drawing, it is a meditation that takes time and a ruthless process of self-examination. You can’t borrow someone else’s eyes; you’ve got to find your own reality / realities. It is through these doors you enter the sacred state of cosmogony, that state of inspiration.
Copyright Ron Curran Dec 2008