It’s been years. I don’t really know what happened, but perhaps getting my first tattoo (and wanting another one) suddenly gave me the desire to draw again. Oh but for heaven’s sake, I don’t know where to start. Up until grad school, I hadn’t picked up a pencil to write in years, let alone to draw. There are images in my head that beg to be made real. But their complexity and sophistication overwhelm me, and every time I pick up a pencil, I draw a blank. Start small, I tell myself… but how small? I draw stupid little things, and they are neither what I want to draw nor anywhere close to, in Bruce Lee’s words, “honestly expressing myself.” They are contrived and hackish, and I don’t care.
I follow a bunch of illustrators on instagram in hopes that by watching their hands, I would somehow find my way again, because if I am good at anything at all, it is imitation. Their artwork is ethereal, hopeful, funny, awkward, serious, sensual, joyous. And then as I watch them perform on pen and paper, it unleashes a different type of monster.
When I was a child, drawing was a familiar art space I inhabited. My father was an artist, and I looked up to my father. So I drew too. His art — sometimes brutally realistic, sometimes soft and whimsical, but always passionate and evocative — drew his daughter to pencil and paper. It was his instruction that ultimately pushed her away. “If something isn’t good, it just isn’t good, and I cannot let you accept it any other way.” My best, childish masterpieces were always corrected, always intermediate sketches to be improved on and learned from. Where I thought there was an end, there was just another obstacle to overcome. Eventually, I could see my own flaws and deficiencies, not just in technique but also in my core vision, and my internalization of Dad’s critiques started to take on a life of its own. One day, I stopped drawing. And fast forward a decade or more, and it's been years since I've doodled with a pencil.
I understand now as an adult that any pursuit toward mastery is far more complex than this, and that the journey is always long and arduous, but there can be moments of great satisfaction where you stop in your journey and think, “I’ve actually made it pretty far. Tomorrow I’ll be on my way again, but I’m pretty happy with where I am right now.”
This is true of all of my pursuits.
I live a life where I am an idiot in every dimension — at work, at school, in training… and now in hobbies, as I strive to regain my lost voice.
I don’t just draw to physically conceive my art onto paper. I draw because… I honestly can’t remember the last time I had to exert the patience required to fill in each blade of grass across a pictorial landscape. When was the last time I didn't take the easy way out? The most efficient way, rather...
When was the last time I needed to “relax in the pain?"
I mean, besides when I was learning taichi.
It's been a while.