I am using a black ink pen to draw blind-contour head-and-shoulder portraits of people. I really enjoy the blind-contour art form and haven't practiced it as much as I used to. (And as with anything, the more you practice, the better you get; the converse is also true.) Blind-contour drawing exemplifies Paul Klee's statement that "drawing is taking a line for a walk". Drawing any kind of portrait is demanding, and offers an unusual way to communicate with people; the up-close focus required by the blind-contour style ups the ante. Additionally, the seeming simplicity of this type of drawing belies its depth. This Sketchbook Project will be a time of re-discovery and new discovery for me.
(I wrote the above on 6/7/17, when I signed up for the Sketchbook Project. I wrote what's below on 4/25/18, when I finished the Project.)
This project has been much more difficult than I thought it would be.
As can be seen from the dates on my drawings, I stalled out a couple months before the end of the year, and it was another few months before I could pick up my pen and finish. In addition, the quality of my final 3 drawings is … poor. I had been making progress, I thought, in developing my own a distinctive blind-contour style, but I seemed to revert.
Here’s what I think happened. I realized that I wanted to draw 2 people I no longer could – my parents. You see, this project has taken place as I am still in deep grief over the decline and deaths of both Mom and Dad. What I have learned about grief (and believe me, I am in pre-pre-K; the rest of my life will be spent earning my PhD), is that it is nothing like what anyone tells you. You can’t begin to comprehend it unless you have suffered. It doesn’t come it stages so that you can move from one to another and feel like you are making progress to some goal of what …. Them not being dead? Good luck with that. No, grief is circular and repetitive and brutal and sneaky. When you are fooled into enjoying what you think is a little respite, it comes back with even more viciousness. I believe that, because I began the Sketchbook Project during one of these periods of respite, as the active grief flowed back, my commitment to the Project deteriorated.
One of the rules I made for myself for this Sketchbook was to draw from life. Sines rules are made to be broken, especially the ones I make for myself, I decided to draw Mom and Dad from the last 2 I-Phone photos I took of them. You can see the results at the end of the Sketchbook … truly, these are not drawings from life. And I finished with my self-portrait, which embodies grief and is, in fact, from life.
Another reason the Project was difficult is that I never felt that I overcame my subjects' self-consciousness about being drawn in this blind-contour style. Most of these people (friends and family members all) had never head of blind-contour, so I had to repeat my explanation over and over. I felt I got stale and my attitude subtly affected my subjects. And then I would freeze up ever-so-slightly and get self-conscious too. This caused me to rush my work, not waiting to prolong what could easily become very uncomfortable. Also, tho everyone was a good sport, I think most really did expect a “real” drawing of themselves to emerge.
Some good comes from everything. Years from now, or even next year, I will be able to look at kind of a map of my grief during the 10 months I worked on the Sketchbook Project. In addition, I have re-committed myself to the use of lines in my drawing. And to blind-contour drawing. Portraits? Maybe not so much.
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