Sometime over the winter, Anne Warren, of the Betts Gallery here in Belfast, asked me to participate in a drawing show. I said “no.” I was working furiously on my shadowbox work and it had been a long time since I did any drawing. Anne wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I wasn’t sure what I would do, so I decided to go to an open life drawing session at Waterfall Arts. It’d been a long time since I’d done any life drawing and, frankly, I didn’t expect to enjoy myself. I also didn’t expect to do any decent drawing. Some years ago I had considered myself someone who was done with drawing and painting. To explain why would take a book, so I won’t go into that.
Well, my expectations were dashed. I came back from the first drawing session near-euphoric and the second one ecstatic. How did I forget what a joy drawing was?
I love portraiture, so I focused mainly on that during the long session poses. In between, I wanted to draw, draw from life, so I returned to the subject matter that intrigued me in the past – fruits, leaves, bits of nature. And I haven’t stopped since. I’ve been doing a drawing a day for weeks and plan on continuing for a good long time.
Observing nature and reality is a great intrigue to me, whether it is through drawing or meditation. There really isn’t that much difference between the two (when they go well). When I’m in the flow of drawing something or somebody, time moves differently. My senses are heightened.
The observing eye that I have is one that is highly flawed. I am keenly aware of this when I draw. I see double. There are no straight lines. Everything is in flux. I have believed that this is the reason I became fascinated with contour and line drawing when I was young. In addition, I didn’t (and still do not) believe that observing, describing and depicting reality is a simple act of trying to capture the image as a camera does. As Susan Sontag has written of, this way of seeing is something we have learned through photography.
I learned, through portraiture, that there is always something about a person’s face that marks who they are. It is not a scar or an crooked nose, though there are those specific things. The personality enlivens the face. It is there in a leaf or a rock or a twig, though I do not know what it is.
This is what and why I draw and paint. To capture that such-ness that is in all things; to observe and convey the mystery.
The Betts Gallery will be up from September 25th through October 24th, 2015. The opening is on Friday, September 25th at 5:00 p.m. Please join us. If you can’t join us at the opening or visit, all the drawings will eventually be up on the new drawing portfolio of this website.