Saturday, December 29, 2007

Naipaul: a creative moment

That afternoon, in the front room of the house, where the furniture was old but cared for, I looked for the first time for weeks at the typescript of the book I had tried to get started on in Victoria, the sequence about freedom and loss. I found it better than I had during the writing. I even saw the sentence where it had come alive – a sentence written out of concentration, from within the mood created by the words. That critical creative moment had been missed by me in Victoria, perhaps because of my anxiety about what was to follow in the writing; and perhaps as well because of my anxiety about what was to follow Victoria.

Now, recognizing the validity of that good sentence, I surrendered to the pictures the words created, the other pictures they trailed. I summoned up again, and sank back into, the mood of Africa, the mood out of which the sentence had been written. I heard – or created – snatches of dialogue from different stages of my story; this particular story in the sequence was full of dialogue. I made brief notes. And it was only when I came back from the mood or came out of the concentration that I understood how far away I had been.

-- V.S. Naipaul, in The Enigma of Arrival, 1987

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Water, water

This was an effort to draw ripples on a pool. I see it as a drawing even though it's in paint and in colour, because I was trying to work out the forms and shapes of the ripples (which were in constant movement). I have yet to find a satisfactory definition for drawing that includes this kind of situation, but I most certainly felt I was drawing with the brush while doing this little piece (oil on linen, about 7" x 5").

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Drawing movement

Charcoal on paper, approx 20 x 16"

Why not? No harm trying. One needs plenty of cheap paper such as newsprint, and a drawing tool such as charcoal that moves easily over the paper and leaves a good dark mark. The model performed a repetitive movement in one place, such as turning to one side and back, or sweeping (pretending to). After a while I put a sheet of tracing paper over the scribbled figure and continued to draw while the model continued to move.

It might seem daft. It’s hard to draw a thing when it’s still, let alone when it’s moving. But strangely enough, the results weren’t all that bad. Of course the drawings are only scribbles. I wasn’t looking for perfection, just an idea of what the person was doing. On the positive side, the fact that the model was moving made me freer and braver and less finicky about detail. I ended up with quite a few ideas from a series of drawings of this kind.

And it sort of broke a spell. Since this series I’ve been trying many more moving things, such as ripples on water and animals at the zoo. It doesn't matter if they turn out a mess, just one good scribble in a batch is enough to make me happy.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The best I can do

Impatiens, study, black and white Conté on brown paper, about 18 x 9"

How do I know something is the best I can do? This might sound like an excuse, but it’s not – everything can’t be “best”.

But that’s not what I meant to say. What I was thinking is . . . when I start to do something, it has a better chance if my intention is simple and clear. Not a great vague thing like “best I can do” (though that too, in a corner of my mind), but something much less ambitious. In a still life it might be . . . correct observation. The act of correct observation. When the going gets rough if I can remember to run this through my mind it nearly always helps.