MAKING MARKS

20 Aug

Babies do it, cops do it. You can’t make money betting that the stiffos in parliament do it: of course they do. It’d be the most boring job in the universe if it wasn’t for the knives everywhere. So, in between the automatic mockery and pompous answers to questions that don’t answer the question, they draw hangman figures featuring those whose backs they’ve targeted. We all do it. Make marks that is.

Children all, are artists. So says Picasso and many agree. Kids love to draw.  Hundreds of sheets. Crap mostly. Some make marks that aren’t crap. And some will persist in making marks, will indeed strive to make better and better marks, in the quest for who knows what. If the world doesn’t do too much damage they might grow up and be that elusive thing: the true artist.

I don’t claim to be a true artist. Truly that’s for others to decide. But I have been spending each day and many hours making marks almost a whole year now.  Pictures.  This, I didn’t see coming.  I have not drawn continuously since I was a child.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. At times I carried about a  few hundred pages of good A5 paper, did this and that, usually in black ink.  Careless scratches amongst random quotes and brain-farts. If I’ve lost a hundred of these rambling booklets I’m not surprised.

None of it was serious. I had long ago given up the idea of being a ‘painter’ for lack of confidence and the sad fact that such no longer seemed to exist. If you wanted to draw you did comics or (dwindling) advertising. You became a designer of t-shirts. If you wanted to be an ‘artist’ it appeared you had to do something inscrutable that did not seem to involve drawing except perhaps as an engineer does.

Of these, only comics appealed. By then I’d given up superheroes in favour of the American underground: Crumb, Bagge, Spiegelman, Hernandez Bros and a cast of thousands. That, I could see myself doing. But ideas never came. I had doubts that I could fit into the mainstream comic world: that I hadn’t good enough technique; that I was unable to just pump it out, day-after-day, over years; that I’d find superheroes boring.

So I drew for pleasure at times, trashing the results eventually. It was only as I approached my thirtieth birthday that I did anything I thought approximated my idea of a proper painting, a picture that at once expresses something of the world and the soul of s/he that did it, blending together.  Still I put them aside, kept ’em for years and threw them away. This time I hadn’t drawn for a good while.

It  started the summer before last. I was reading in a coffee shop and became aware that someone was looking at me. And wow!But I knew she was wrong for me because she was perfect. Her stare was unabashed and demanding. I looked away. My monk’s life made it impossible to conduct any kind of romance and I’d forsaken casual sex.

But she was perfect, it looked like she had her own make-up artist. Her suit looked cut to fit by a hip tailor. Petite, delicate, she had big blue Patsy Kensit eyes.  Truly beautiful but also physically perfect, not the same thing at all. And she was sexy. But because of these things, all of them together, I wasn’t really into her. Women who are perfect, I can’t live with as I’m not and wouldn’t want to be.

I couldn’t ignore her either so I started to draw her. She was sitting at an adjacent table and kept attempting to register sustained eye contact. This made things difficult. I drew quickly and had a stylized something, a feasible and pleasing likeness, marked on paper in a few moments. But she was impatient. After three or four exchanges, she left. I finished as soon as she was gone,  happy that she’d split. I wanted to keep the drawing.

After that I took to it on a daily basis. I drew from photographs of naked women. My monk’s life had meant celibacy so naturally one can make Freudian assumptions. But nudes I drew. Sometimes one in a day, often three, occasionally more. And this went on for months. Finally about a year or so ago I had a strange few days the details of which I won’t discuss in public. But partially due to the events, I reached a certain point: a style. With a single picture I knew I had something to say (and something to sell). And I knew what these would be.

But that’s for other posts. Since that time I have laboured daily and produced some 113 drawings. Paintings actually. The work is created according to the fundamental method of the Western Old Masters. First a cartoon and then layers of pigment but on paper.  I do not use oil paint. I use the media available to me in the 21st century the same way.

The method is Western, the product is more akin to Ukiyo-E and other Japanese printmaking traditions. And because of modern technology, my inability to meet the standards of the Japanese master woodblock printers is immaterial. Instantaneous mass production is at my fingertips. Scan ’em, print ’em. Have your pictures and sell them too.

The style is simple, I draw Western human figures, Eastern landscapes; the colours are up to the music I’m listening to.

There’s been a lot of it: Beethoven, Chopin, Prokoviev, Elgar and Orf; Blonde Redhead, Hank Williams, Frank Zappa, West Side Story, Abbey Road, Voulez-Vous, James Reyne, Malcolm Middleton, Broken Records, Fats Waller, Caroline O’Connor, Gil Scott-Heron, the Bee Gees, the Lovin’ Spoonful and a big shout out to Ozlocos and Urthboy. The Australians have me falling in love with Hip Hop again.

I’m finished now. I finished on Sunday the 15th of August at ten minutes to six. What words describe the trip I went thru? It feels to me as if I’m a marionette in someone else’s show. Does the marionette write the puppeteer’s memoirs? So should I speculate as to why? I’m not sure. Today I look at the stuff fresh. I haven’t seen it for a few days and it pleases me.  It pleases me to the core. That’s all.

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