By seventh grade I could scratch out a Peanuts character; now that would be Spiderman or anime, Disney, Pixar. That kind of graphic confidence and mimicry passed for drawing in grade school and high school. Copying and drawing aren’t the same thing. I didn’t know that, so drawing looked like magic to me.
High above lower Broadway, I learned to draw in my freshman year at NYU. I followed the contour of I-don’t-know-what until my eye slowed to meet my hand, which had slowed to pace my eye. I was in it. Based not on the task or subject or skill but an immersive experience of unhurried looking. A whole world opened up.,
I was the only one in the class to fill the Jumbo Sketch Pad with 100 pages of object drawings, each touching three sides of the page. I captured everything in my apartment from the keys to breakfast.
My second phase started eight years later as I taught myself to draw. I worked in an Italian restaurant on Union Square and at the end of a lunch shift, I caught a cable car over the hill where I spent the hours until my studio opened drawing. Every puzzle in my life landed on those pages: coworkers, roommates, lovers, enemies, fellow riders on the bus. I drew tableware and waiters and friends and colleagues and myself over and over and over again. They say in learning to draw, “The first hundred don’t count.” It’s more like the first thousand. Which is a relief, and it’s supposed to be. It is supposed to let you do it for a long time before you look at what you have done.
I tried every tool: crow quill pen nibs taped to pencils, bamboo stalks carved to a point. A friend gave me her tired sable brushes, the hairs glued into clumps like arthritic hands. These were the best. The biggest Rapidiograph laid out a flat 1/8” ribbon of a line or perfect dot, but if I dragged it fast across textured paper it skipped. I just drew, drew, drew. It didn’t matter what. I started with anything, but pretty quickly that anything turned into the anything that interested me. Which as it turns out, is subject. I discovered that 15 minutes a day is a legitimate practice. By the end of a week or two, it was 30 minutes, and not long after, hours.Read More
The materials I bought weren’t necessarily the ones I wanted to use. I like big fat greasy pencils. I wouldn’t use a 4H to stab an enemy. I liked pastels for a while but could only use the cheap ones. Gouache is my friend. I won’t shade with dry media.
I just kept moving towards what was appealing and the drawings became themselves.
There is an idea that artists are supposed to know what they are doing. In Japan artists asked me, “What is your intention?” I have very little intention. My hand tells me what’s worth doing by what it leaves on the page.