That seems like a pretty stupid question, I know. Everyone knows what a drawing is. But I dobut that is true. I don’t think most people know what a drawing is because most people have never made a drawing.
In my thought, I make a distinction between drawings and sketches. Most people keep sketchbooks (most people who do that kind of thing, anyway). I keep drawingbooks not sketchbooks. I’m not knocking the sketchbooks, I just want to make distinctions. In my mind, sketches are quick, disposable things that are in the service of something else. Maybe the artist is working out a problem, making preliminaries for a larger work, or maybe just killing time. Who knows. Drawings are something else altogether.
Just yesterday I talked to a friend. A friend who is in possession of a drawing of mine. You see, I made a drawing on linoleum for him to cut out and print (see here). It has taken him a long time. Anyway, I told him that seeing that drawing come back to me after he had been working on it was like seeing a child after having sent him out to live in the world on his own. He comes back looking similar, but with more experience. This is one way of looking at a drawing, I suppose.
Many of my drawings take a very long time to make. I labor over them. I talk to them and I listen to what they say back to me. There is a constant dialogue going on between me and the drawing (if I’m doing it right). Here’s the way it works; the guy doing the drawing (me) starts off with some harebrained scheme for an image and starts making marks. Then the drawing starts to take shape. STARTS to take shape. It’s important at this point that I step back and look at this protean mess I’ve made and try to see what is happening. What does the drawing need to be complete? What is happening (quite apart from my intentions) with the drawing? Are there new directions that are being suggested by the confluence of lines and colors? Ideally, I pay attention to all of these things – I listen to the drawing.
Drawings beget drawings. Good drawings are fertile things; they suggest, whisper to the artist new dierctions that he had not considered before. They aren’t preparatory for anything else, they are complete in themselves. They are complete like a man and a woman are complete in a marriage. They deisre to reproduce themselves. New drawings in the future will be in conversation with the old drawings, they will inform each other and interpret each other. They will also work on the artist and change him. He will love his drawings. Not in the sense that he thinks they look super cool, but in the sense that a piece of him has been put into them and that piece has taken on a life of its own.