First off, congrats to newly-minted-father Jimmy pictured above! Facebook can be a real time suck, and sometimes it gets depressing, but I am always glad to hear of good things happening to friends/acquaintances. It can certainly brighten a morning. And jokes. I always love a good joke.
And so it continues, this project I began one late night sitting bored in front of the computer and wondering what to draw. No one had posted a single delicious looking dish, new print in progress, cute baby picture or titilating announcement in hours, so I began doodling their profile pictures while I waited.
I’ve been working on a lot of other drawings in between this project, such as some coffee illustrations and a bunch of doodles from the museums we visited in Chicago and random drawings of Mom and Sue that I will post soon.
These past two weeks, I have been thinking on that eternal question, “What makes a good drawing?.” I asked the same question of the high school students taking my 2-day life drawing class at the Summer Art Workshop we taught at last week. It is one of those rhetorical questions that leads to new experiences, new ways of seeing, and lots of blank stares.
It is also a good question to ask myself during this project. I am often embarrassed by these very quick drawings (and my terrible scanner). But I know also that many of them turn out better for being done quickly, and I am developing a new sort of abbreviated language that I haven’t fully explored yet. I am a fan of graphic novels/sequential art, “comics,” if you will. I especially love the likes of Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, Marjane Sartrapi, R. Crumb and Alison Bechdel. I often use Scott McCloud‘s Understanding Comics as a teaching tool in 2D Design. And I continue to find new inspirations, such as my recent explorations of Winshluss: What to Expect When You’re Expectorating.
Despite being a fan, I have never been attracted to my own attempts at “graphic” drawing. “Cartoon” never seemed to mix well with my chicken scratch doodling. But I am enjoying the humor my distortions bring to these little drawings. An accidentally over-emphasized chin, sleepy eye, slack jaw, ghost beard, or goofy grin makes me giggle while I draw them, and I hope you see that in the work, as well.
A few days ago, we saw a great exhibit about the cave drawings at Lascaux at the Field Museum in Chicago. I noticed again how eloquently the animal figures were drawn. The ancient artists appeared to draw smoothly from negative to positive space without skipping a beat. Their contours were elegantly calligraphic, yet somehow highly specific.
The drawings made me think of all the preconceptions we have today when we approach our first drawing class/instruction. This is a subject I bring up for discussion on the first day of the drawing courses I teach, and it is a topic I continue to ponder in my own work. I have noticed that the older I get, the less I am drawn towards absolute photographic realism in works of art and the more I appreciate the mistakes, distortions, and abstractions from reality.
This is not to say that I don’t emphasize accuracy in the work of my students–I demand it–for I feel that it is, generally speaking, a sort of pre-condition for self-aware explorations into the absurd, abstracted or non-objective. The cliche of “learn the rules before you break them.” And besides, why not aim for perfection? The defeat is delicious, and perhaps one of the best gifts you can get.
I never was the best at creating hyper-realistic representations of the world by hand (nor completely in love with the vast majority of them, despite my respect for the artists who had the skill and took the time to create them) but there was certainly a time I longed for the skills to create these visions. Now I am at a point in my development where I truly feel I can draw anything I desire. Perhaps not the first, second, third, or thirtieth time, but I know that I have the skill set and dedication to produce whatever I want whichever way I wish to–even if it takes me months or years to reach my desired result. Alongside this, my love of the quirky, misshapen, failed attempts and discards of process have begun to enchant me even more than the goals I set out to accomplish.
It is a Shakesperean triumph of defeat that I begin to appreciate the flotsam and jetsam of my projects when I have just learned to sail the ship. I don’t even know if that metaphor is even really correct, but I’m going with it for now. Let’s just say that the irony is what I love about it. Somehow it is also fitting that I am reading Don Quixote right now. The absurdist quest of art making in our particular age…
In any case, here are a few more images from my most recent Facebook Profile Picture Drawings. I’ve linked to the other posts at the end if you want to check them out. I’m up to #145 of 939 and counting…. am actually up to a total of 944 friends now. I hope to complete the project by the end of the summer.
I’ve accidentally drawn Emily Minnie twice now… I thought my system of memory would work (and looking back through my sketchbook to double check when unsure), but as I’m breaking into the mid-hundreds now and several weeks of work, I have begun to forget whom I’ve already drawn. To resolve this issue, I’ve started a database.
I think the 2nd attempt is better. It’s interesting to me how much variation there is in the quality of the doodles depending on time of day, my mood, how tired or distracted I am, and a hoard of other factors.
More Facebook Drawings:
- 939 Drawings: My Facebook Friends’ Profile Pictures in Watercolor & Ink
- Part II of 939 Drawings: My Facebook Friends’ Profile Pictures in Watercolor & Ink
- Part III of 939 Drawings: Charles Beneke, You Asked for It
- Part IV of 939 Drawings: My Facebook Friends’ Profile Pictures in Watercolor & Ink