I hadn't worked on this drawing since Christmas break. I decided to change the title. Originally, the drawing was called “Life/Art” but that felt supremely artsy-fartsy, so I scrapped it. I jumped back in and played and rediscovered some new ideas I'd like to share with you.
This drawing goes through two different thought stages. The first stage (back around Christmas break) was that I wanted to say that the inanimate object in the drawing-- in this case, the coffee cup at the bottom left-- was just as important as the dancer on the stage, or the girl watching the dancer on the stage in the wings. To clarify: the object in a scene, book, play, movie or in life can be just as compelling as a character's choices depending upon what's happening in the scene. Or maybe that the little things can have just as much meaning as the big things.
The second stage of the drawing is more interesting to me. It's about the watcher, the little girl, and the juxtaposition between the little girl and the woman dancing on stage. A sub-title for the drawing could be “The Dancer and The Dance.” I like this title better, however: “Watching It Happen.”
The little girl is off-stage, veiled in the shadows, watching the dancer-- this graceful, beautiful dancer on stage. Maybe the little girl is watching her dance teacher, maybe her mother, or maybe her older, future self. The little girl is waiting in the wings, hiding behind the ladder... We don't know if she's ready to take to the stage either or if she's going to run away, back further into the shadows of the theatre. “Do I dance or not?” We don't know. Then I thought, there's more going on here... When you're in an inspired state, you essentially become "the watcher." You fall into the innocence that I wanted to capture in the watcher, watching the dancer dance. When you're “in state” (deeply connected to your subject), you have heightened awareness, and you watch “it” unfold... you watch it happen. Some artists (or performers or speakers), will describe the execution work as an "out of body experience." You always want to throw a rock at these people when you hear that, except when it happens to you, then you understand that expression, and you get the luxury of saying to yourself, "Dude... that was like an out of body experience." It can happen. It's a great thing when it does. It's magic. And that magic can occur whether that's listening to a phenomenal rock concert or participating in some kind of great life-changing workshop or falling in love or getting married... peak experiences. You're utterly fascinated and enthralled by what is happening. You'd easily lock yourself in a library to immerse yourself more in the subject. And so you become the watcher. You're innocently looking at something. I believe we have to be more fascinated than judgmental. (Not that “judgement” or strong, biased opinions don't have their place.) If I can approach anything with "intended innocence," that is, to put myself into my subject with the fasciation of a child looking at something completely unobjectively, wanting, or waiting, to know how to feel about something... that is the ultimate measure of willingness in approaching the “canvas.” That is the absolute desired state to create, along on the lines of what Picasso was talking about, I think.
I just googled three juicy quotes from Picasso talking about that desired state of innocence. Let 'er rip, Pablo:
“It takes a very long time to become young.”
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
Approaching the work like a child isn't always that easy. In fact, it takes enormous conditioning to be "open." It means to open up the floodgates of all our five senses, and to allow all our different ideas to step into a great gathering place so that hopefully we can experience the world with the same immediacy and wonder that an infant might see the world. Man, talk about creative, emotional calisthenics! "Painting like a child..." maybe not necessarily in terms of clumsy execution on the canvas or the stage, but the mental mindset. Open. Wondering. Loose. Isn't it worth it? It's so worth it.
To become the watcher. And to experience watching it happen.