I am not-drawing

I am not-drawing these last few months.

These are the few sketches that have slipped through.  On holiday, I had some hours walking the Devon clifftops on my own, not-drawing, looking at the size and shapes of eroded rocks, their highlights and shadows, and the kestrel plummeting down the cliff face and skimming the beach.  Eventually I stopped not-drawing in pen and conte crayon.

Some days earlier at Tintagel castle, I stopped not-drawing for a while looking down into the rocky bay.

A girl, about 7, called Charlotte, came to watch (with parents).  I suggested to her that the way to draw was just to believe you can, look and feel, and put the marks on the paper that seem right.  I gave her my pad, graphite stick and crayons and she drew.

Today my son went to a youth drama group in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, giving me 90 minutes to wander the empty streets not-drawing the varied buildings in the drizzle.  I drifted to St Paul’s Church and not-drew the gnarled trees in the graveyard.  I called in at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and viewed their Next Wave final exhibition.  I was taken by Clare Pentlow‘s paper cut sculpture, made of waves of small projections which could carry data like an old printout from a Sangar sequence Yasmin Bowle‘s etched metal plates showing a formative images of gender stereotyped roles from the 1960s with pattern instructions for restrictive corsetry.  The intimacy of Emily Sparkes‘ painting I Sleep contrasted with her frankly disturbing pastiche of EH Shepard’s drawings, HUIINY.  I think she also painted my favourite piece Froot, which is nowhere referenced on the internet, in which pieces of fruit are painted in a picture encyclopedia format, described in corrupted text speech in terms showing increasingly bizarre anthropomorphism.

In the last fifteen minutes before returning to the theatre, I found myself not not-drawing in a small pad in ink and raindrops.

12 responses to “I am not-drawing

    • Thanks
      I realise you’ve given me space in the comments on your art on your blog to talk about my drawing, or not-drawing. That’s kind. Thanks. I’m pasting here what I said there. I fear that not-drawing is to not drawing what taking-time-to-reflect-and-think-as-an-artist is to just-not-being-an-artist. A fine line… but I think the not-drawing might make a difference.
      By not-drawing I mean I do take the materials with me everywhere and look at subjects as if for drawing, but I don’t draw. It’s not deliberate and I’m trying to understand this myself.

  1. I think it’s a good idea to take time for reflection, sometimes when I focus on drawing all the time, I end up losing sight of what I am drawing because I am so focused on the process. Does that make sense?

    • It does. I found myself just not drawing and could not see why. I carry the materials with me but don’t sketch. I’ve reorganised my little art room to clear out non art junk, but don’t make art at home. So gradually I’ve tried to turn not drawing into not-drawing as a way back in.

      • That’s a really good approach, clear out the creative blockage by sort of not focusing on it. I went through a similar period earlier this year and tried experimental work and different techniques to no avail. Then I took a photo of someone from below and did a digital drawing and it was so much fun I did a whole lot, for fun, and that took the pressure off and got the old creative juices flowing again.

    • Thanks
      But these drawings are the total amount I’ve done since June.
      I’m not complaining but trying to think through what I am doing with respect to art if anything, so of course, this is what I’m writing about on my blog.

      • I’ve had long periods, even years, of not doing anything painting or art-wise; just found the whole business nauseating and meaningless. I still struggle with such thoughts. But I enjoyed looking at your drawings and your reading you words / thoughts about life, etc.. Best wishes to you, Peter

  2. It is a strange phenomenon.

    Thank you for your post. I think you have coined a wonderful phrase in ‘not drawing’.

    I have been through a similar time that began over a year ago. Several things lay behind the start of it but I still can’t put my finger on the exact reason really.

    I have only just returned to not ‘not drawing’ around May this year.

    I have come across a number of people who have been through similar experiences lately, which intrigues me. Why now? I don’t know the answer but it’s an odd coincidence.

    I’m not sure if this is good advice for you or not, but in the end, I did exactly what you are doing, ie allowed myself not to draw. Just took the pressure off and looked.

    I kept materials to hand, cleared out a great deal and only ‘not drew’ when I felt I could.

    I would also plan times to ‘not draw’ and go out with that absolute intention. ‘I will go to … and I will not be drawing today’ It felt quite liberating!

    I also stopped using social media. Being nagged to post was especially damaging, ‘… followers haven’t heard from you in a while’ … etc I felt under pressure.

    Now I post when I want to and don’t look at other people’s feeds for very long.

    There is an organisation called Arts Anonymous https://www.artsanonymous.org/about-a-r-t-s/ which offers a 12 step process to follow. It may not be right for you but perhaps worth a look? Julia Cameron’s, ‘The Artist’s Way’ may be useful too. I have a copy I could send to you – email me if you would like that.

    I think though that ‘not drawing’ may well be your tool; it seems to have been mine… I will let you know.

    ‘All things must pass’ as George Harrison said.

    My best wishes to you as ever, Maxine

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