on drawing a flower
Updated: May 22, 2020
In the absence of a job, I’ve been drawing more than I have since I was a child. A friend recently asked me what types of creation and artistic release I have been doing in pandemic time and, oddly, I am practicing all the art forms I don’t typically do professionally. Drawing, writing, playing music and singing. I have been indulging in being creative just for doing its sake, just for the simple pleasure of expression, and it's been lovely. Art for art's sake is a luxury for most artists who are trying to work professionally.
I never considered myself a visually artistic person. I’m one of those people when asked to draw makes a face and goes “oh no I couldn’t, everything I draw looks like a 4 year old made it” (which I currently retract as an insult, as every time I look at something my 4 year old nephew made I realize how complex and beautiful it is, and that it’s not bad art just because I don’t get it. He gets it, and that’s what matters, really.)
I’ve returned to visual art these days, because one only has so much energy to send resumes and cover letters into the void, and it’s something I can do while listening to music or a podcast and without looking at a screen. Since I’m new-ish to this art form, I’ve been finding drawings I see on the internet to see if I can recreate them and in this practice I've learned a lot about what visual artists are actually doing when making something. I learned that drawing an image can mean drawing a bunch of random shapes and lines that don’t feel that related to each other until the end. When you are placing all of these lines and shapes you aren’t always thinking I’m drawing a flower and may not even have the image of a full flower in your head. You’re thinking this is the relation of this squiggle of a leaf with this curve of a petal, this object is behind or above this one, this part is darker than that part. Then, once you’ve squiggled and curved and lined enough, you sit back and you’ve drawn a full picture of a flower. And it looks like a flower, which is the thing that blows my mind. I almost don’t believe when I am doing it that all these random shapes are actually going to turn into something real. But then, I’m proved wrong, because I stop drawing and I have made a fucking good looking flower.
We’re discouraged from nonlinear paths. You are encouraged to go to primary and secondary school until you go to college for something, then you get a job in that field, maybe you get a graduate degree to make more money or be certified in something, achieve job security, make as much money as possible, and you have succeeded. A lot of people live their lives this way because it makes sense to them, and that is amazing. This is not how I have lived my life. Sort of on purpose, but mostly because it’s not how my brain works. My life has been random lines and curves. A job here, a place there, a project here. Coffee to mental health to academia to art to teaching to traveling to consulting to this to that. It gets harder and harder to answer the question other adults ask, to estimate my worth, “what do you you do?” They furrow their brows and give a tight smile in response to what is normally a fairly complicated answer. I have not followed the rules, and that must mean it’s because I’m not competent enough to. Or, does it mean I’m so competent I don’t need to be fed my next step? In any case, these days I can’t see anything but random squiggles. I’m not sure where it’s all leading. I can't see the flower.
And that is SCARY my dudes.
A lot of times my pattern does feel random and reckless. I take a meeting or make a piece of art or take a contract or or teach a class or participate in something and they don’t feel connected to each other. But every once in a while, ever so briefly, I can see that they are part of a bigger image, a bigger purpose and life’s work that does connect all the parts. Every once in a while a bunch of things I am doing intersect in an amazing way, or I get a lot of positive feedback all at once, and I see that the flower is there, waiting to be added onto by another line, another curve. Waiting to be made more beautiful.
So if you are like me, and you choose your life based on the next most interesting or most fulfilling thing or the next question you have, rather than the next logical point in a straight line, I know it is often more stressful than gratifying and that it’s hard to tell which direction is the “right” one. I know that the world would have you believe this means you are a "jack of all trades and master of none" and that you hop around because you lack discipline and focus. Those of us that squiggle know that what this actually means is that we are not only jacks of all trades, but masters of living a full, varied, and adventurous life. And I hope you can take solace in the thought that I am pretty sure at some point you will sit back and say to yourself whoa, that’s a fucking good looking flower.
Also, if you're not drawing anything these days and if you're just breathing and coping and doing the dishes and trying not to fall off the face of the earth, that is okay too. All drawings have negative space. Also, we're in a fucking global pandemic. So do what you need to in order to stay human and safe. And remember that there are an infinite amount of ways to live your live, and the only person yours has to make sense to - is you.