One of the many, many areas that fascinate me about going public with the drawings and paintings I’m making is the different ways people want to interact with me about them. I find it unsettling but also such an honor when people ask me questions. I’m surprised every time, too, about what starts coming out of me in response.
This is my recreation of the making of “germination.”
This winter I started getting pictures of seeds sprouting. Acorns in particular. There was something about that seriously hard exterior cracking to let out what seemed from photographs to be the most tender and delicate, but ultimately powerful, shoots really struck me. I spent some time looking at photos online. I found some neat line drawings in what I guess could be called antique books (late 1800s) online and in local libraries. I drew a few sketches or what I thought would become a drawing or series of drawings. Then life came along and I just never found my way back to them. The feelings had fizzled or morphed into other areas.
A few weeks ago I was at my parents’ place in Hunts Corner, Maine which is in the middle of the mountains. I had talked with the Starbucks manager about hanging new pictures before the school year starts (the area my pictures have been hanging usually showcases work from the arts high school nearby) and she enthusiastically encouraged me to put up new pictures. So, I had to make some.
When I got out the easel and oil pastels I was pretty sure I was going to draw flowers and hummingbirds. I was struggling with it a bit because it felt so potentially trite. Still, at some point I’m pretty sure I’ll draw/paint hummingbirds in some form or another. As I started drawing, though, I found myself drawing that acorn sprouting. I didn’t have the photos to refer to, but it didn’t feel like it mattered. I was pulled along by the contrast of the dark shell and the light and seemingly delicate but full of strength and life growth of the shoots.
As with almost everything I’ve ever made it was all about letting go of feeling like it had to be a certain way and going with what happened. Parts that I hated had to stay until they were changed because I felt how they needed to change. I couldn’t “correct” something because I didn’t know where it was going. For example, at first I couldn’t seem to work the sexuality of the images out of it for a long time and I didn’t want something overtly sexual despite the inherently sexual nature of… nature…
So the drawing started looking something like this (the photo doesn’t really capture it, but it sort of does):
I knew the shoots had to be tender light white green but that scared the crap out of me. Still, in the finished piece, the boldness of the bright (tender) shoots against the dark and foreboding or scary or earthy or however you see it rest of the thing makes me really uncomfortable. I keep wanting to go back into the drawing and tone it down. Put back in some olive tones, some bluishness, some shadows. It’s so vulnerable as it is there, so innocent and daring reaching up to the light and down into the earth. Fragile. But the drawing needed to be that way, so it stayed quite bright and light just in the area of the shoots (and the light coming in through the trees/brush/whatever it is blocking the light).
Later that afternoon I was moving in a bit of a brighter direction but couldn’t stand how it looked like the thing was sprouting forth brightness when I meant for it to be reaching or growing. Timid but brave. Just doing what it needed to do.
I love textures and tend to do most of this stuff with very melty oil pastels and my fingers. I really don’t know if I should maybe call them paintings because so much of what I do is essentially finger painting.
Here’s where I’ve layered in more texture. Added more light, too, because the whole thing just felt like one dark darkness and that’s not how the image felt to me in my mind.
I was literally working with nature. The heat of the sun was melting the pastels, the wind was blowing, etc.
The next day I was kind of stressed out because the colors I wanted to use were gone. Used up. I rifled through the pile of pieces from other drawings that I’d separated out that were mostly in the purple or lavender blue family and freakishly happened on a deep forest blue green color. It blended in a way with the browns and blacks and greyer greens so satisfyingly. I just knew I’d found something. Then I streaked it and realized how much more that felt like light in the woods. I’d been dappling and blobbing stuff, but the streaks felt more right.
After I finished the next day I put it on the grass to take a photo. I couldn’t stop touching it (working on it) though. I asked my sister-in-law to get a picture of me doing this touch up. She took a gadgillion pictures. Here are a couple.
This is it finished but not yet matted or under glass. The digital image doesn’t (for me) capture what it really looks like, but it’s close(ish).
Today I was at Starbucks and I often sit at the table just under my pictures. It’s comforting but also feels kind of ballsy. I’ve heard people comment (some nasty comments, in fact) as I was sitting there and I’ve been really glad they didn’t know the pictures were mine.
This is the same picture, taken by me with my iPhone. The photo of the picture isn’t very well framed, but I still kind of like it.
So, that’s some insight into my process.
If I had to describe “what is this drawing about,” this is what I’d say: growth, letting things go as they go, doing what just happens, tenderness and vulnerability are strength, surprising discoveries from tough exteriors, hope, light from lots and lots of darkness, and, the richness and depth of darkness being a source of good not necessarily bad.