week 34: different vocabularies

In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 34.

nun34What a strange process: The light and shade of a cheekbone, a book spine, a shoelace taken in by the eye to spark the brain. One spark then another, like a game of telephone down to the wrist and index finger. And from that mix of muscle memory and new muscle knowledge flows the ink. Then the ink sits in its own line of light and shade on a flat piece of paper.

By the time I finished high school, I knew I wanted to be a writer, maybe a photographer too. Every other creative expression I tried along the way was set aside because I wasn’t as good at them and therefore didn’t need them. I’d dabbled in all sorts of things: half-hearted piano, disillusioned acting, bad singing and bad guitar and that one really bad night of really bad drumming. There’d been a single two-hour dance class that left me immobile from unprecedented exertion and stacks of canvases and sketchbooks that got shoved to the back of a closet at the age of nineteen.

Fuck it. I didn’t need that stuff anyway. I had language.

I still have language. And I still enjoy taking photos. But if it’s more about the process than the product maybe I need a bit of that other stuff too. If it’s more about seeing than making, if it’s more about playing, then why dismiss all those other vocabularies?

The drawings I’ve been doing these last few days look a lot like the ones I did as a teen, minus the hormonal angst and weepy desperation. I fill each flimsy note card with a drawing from a photo or something within my line of sight. I’m not bothering yet with feats of imagination. That will come later, maybe, once I draw more elbows and noses and once I learn something, anything, about shading and proportion and foreshortening.

Or maybe I wont bother with any of that. Because I’ve been here before. I start to think I need a class, a special space, a mentor to teach me the grammar of these languages. Not necessarily. Not if it’s an excuse.

So maybe I’ll just enjoy the weirdness of object to eye to brain to hand to pen to paper. And I’ll do it only as long as it’s fun. And when I’m done with ink, I’ll find paint. Or I’ll make a dance the exact length of time it takes for the espresso to bubble up through the moka pot. Or I’ll sit down behind the drum kit in the basement and make some fantastic noise, just me and the washing machine.

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