By Billy Mavreas
From Vol. 3 No. 1, 2004
Writing with pen on paper in a slow, deliberate manner acquaints the writer with the basics of cartooning, sacred geometry, design and the possible origins of language. The options for most writers are dots and strokes. Strokes can be either straight lines or curved ones. These few variables may be recombined to set off any number of associations. Check it out. Writing and drawing stem from the same behaviour, and each can encode and refer to the other. Comics get sublime at this point.
One can say that the lines on paper most people generate are letterish or numberish, even wordish. Lots of people jot things down on paper: phone numbers, directions, etc. if not journal entries and poems. One hears “I can’t draw” much more often than “I can’t write” or “I can’t scribble” or “presently I am having some difficulty making lines on paper.” People who tend to say “I can’t write” refer to blocks in story or poem composition rather than literacy itself. They also tend to write.
Lots of people who say they can’t draw certainly “can” doodle. Recycling boxes under reception desks filled with old notes inked over by cube forests or daisy chains appear in most every work place. Get all the “naive art” fetishists rummaging, looking for the true voice of genius so invisible in the art schools. You, receptionist! You are the new vanguard!
This doodling, often composed of patterns, geometrics, repeated shapes, symbols, etc., if done in a slow and deliberate manner, acquaints the doodler with the basics of ritual. (See “On Ritual,” pending.)
The “drawing” referred to by the “I can’t draw” people is a nebulous creature. People have been known to gape in wonder at sheets of foolscap charged with scribbly ballpoint lines. Others easily scoff at the work of master technicians. Those who do draw regularly know the options inherent in pen meets paper. They know through experience that the field of options called ink on paper or board or canvas or napkin, is deep and rich and brimming with potential.
Drawers might measure their own work against the work of others. They may sense frustration, self-consciousness, ineptitude, pride, etc., in regards to their drawing. They may map elaborate trajectories joining their practice with their imagined potential. They may place themselves in vast structures relating to schools of art and traditions. They may redefine their relationship to drawing once every few months, if not daily. Some may even on occasion pronounce that they can’t draw, or will stop, or will get a real job, etc.
Drawing depends, usually, on making lines on paper. It has been proven time and again that hands are not necessarily required to do this. “Can’t Drawers” seem to have an interesting conception of our nebulous creature and of their own abilities/ inabilities/ disabilities. I am prone to redefining “can’t drawers” as “don’t drawers.” People who don’t draw regularly enough to observe changes in their drawing resort to some cheap statement about how they can’t draw, dooming ‘drawing’ to some qualitative hinterland. “Being born with it” certainly undermines the years of practice some have devoted to drawing.
People who do keep track of their growth vis a vis drawing often marvel at the efficacious psychological tool/ mirror they are nurturing. This soft technology is available to all.
One drawer may draw just like tapping toes or vibrating off a caffeine high. Another drawer may scratch slow and plodding, each line seen in the head way before it shows up on paper. People who don’t draw, oddly enough and funny that, won’t develop their relationship to drawing.
If one doesn’t draw and one actually wants to, one simply has to grab some shitty scrap of paper and some ubiquitous device like a pencil, crayon, etc. No excuses about “materials,” thank you very much. Worry about that if you plan to live forever. One must then make lines, slowly or quickly, short or long, connected or all over the page, whatever. One can make lines, dots, shapes, patches of darkness on the paper. Scribble, doodle, trace, look and represent, close ones’ eyes and go all kooky. One can do so in secret if need be. So many options, eh? If one gets hung up on instant results and notions of success, all one needs to do is get blind drunk at some opening and diss the bastards who actually get things done, perfect or not. Remember, “Contemporary Art” is chock full of can’t/ don’t drawers making the scene. And (sigh) that’s okay.
Drawing itself has been enjoying a vogue as of late. Drawings are popping up in art shows of all places. One doesn’t have to have mastered the craft of drawing to self-identify as a drawer. One doesn’t have to self-identify as a drawer to draw, either. May the good lord and lady save us all if everyone who ever skied walked around all puffed up proclaiming to all and sundry that they ARE skiers. A consideration of E-prime (English sans the ‘is’ of identity) helps in such cases.
One would be wise to continue drawing if one likes it. If one doesn’t like doing it, one can relax about the whole don’t/can’t thing. Many people can’t/don’t do lots of things. Like make music or run or build cities. Most everyone drew as kids. Some stopped drawing and pushed other pursuits. Others continued drawing their one favorite drawing. Others didn’t stop at all and kept drawing new things. One can usually start anything whenever one wills to.
Why the hell am I going on like this? It’s kinda sad but I want to write.