A new year rolls out ahead, ready for us to make our mark on it. I’ve been making fresh tracks in my studio using charcoal to draw the chatty neighborhood crows, the reclusive rabbit in the hills nearby, and the acrobatic backyard squirrel who hangs artfully from our grapevine in August, his cheeks stuffed with grapes. I made a print of each of the animals, and painted textured paper for an imaginary snowy landscape. Then I went on an adventure, mixing all these elements together. Voila! Fresh Tracks. Where are your mark making adventures taking you?
Drawing is a performance –
It is one time then and there
Of the moment
As an act of creation is.
Charcoal is a medium I’ve used for years, but never with such abandon until recently. I draw with willow and vine as well as compressed charcoals in stick and pencil form. Last year I picked up compressed chunky charcoal measuring 3” by 5/8”. That’s when the fun started.
All of the charcoals have varied tonal ranges, allow for a variety of line, and feel like an extension of my arm. This is especially true of the chunky charcoal which, because of its size, insists on grand sweeping gesture. I find myself drawing with my whole body. It feels like a dance when I draw this way.
Using various sides of the chunky charcoal, I make marks that express the movement or gesture of the subject I am drawing. Gesture drawings are done quickly without attention to detail. Precision is not the nature of gesture drawing. Capturing movement is.
Many finished drawings start as gesture drawings. The two charcoal drawings in my last blog ( Aimless Love, The Wideness and Wonder of The World) each began as a gesture drawing.
Leaving a track of the act of drawing is a story in itself; the stops, starts, and restatements (draw overs) add energy to a drawing. Whether musical or otherwise, performance is one time, then and there, of the moment*. So begin your performance: find a subject, some chunky charcoal, and make your mark.
The epiphany of the everyday: chunky charcoal.All drawings: © Constance Anderson
“Our purpose of art is to alert people to things they may have missed.” Corita Kent
Every day, I see some wonder, some epiphany in the arts and in nature
that makes me want to clap my hands, jump up and down, shout ‘oh la la’, and do something about it like draw, paint or write. Corita Kent thought that “Our purpose of art is to alert people to things they may have missed.” Kent was a visual artist but her thoughts apply to all the arts. John Cage alerted us to silence, Alvin Ailey and Lucinda Childs to the possibilities of expressive movement, Marcel Marceau to the quiet conversation, Alice Walker to the word as social action.
My interest in the interaction of word and picture comes from the influence of Corita Kent, who as a graphic artist transformed word, color, and image into visuals that were the graphical equivalent of artist Robert Rauschenberg’s layered textural collages.
When I first encountered Corita Kent as a sixth grade student she was Sister Mary Corita, a nun teaching at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles. I tagged along with my older sister to a class that taught us how to make stamps using the amen alphabet. Created by Corita, the amen alphabet capitalizes all letters except for a, m, e, and n.
Corita was the most imaginative and serious of teachers, as well as the most playful and thoughtful. I recently came upon a list of “rules” that she wrote. Here are a few of them:
- Find a place you trust and try trusting it for a while.
- General duties of a student: pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.
- General duties of a teacher: pull everything out of your students.
- Consider everything an experiment.
- Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and fail. There’s only make.
- The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch onto things.
- Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They are different processes.
- There should be new rules next week.
Corita Kent, the artist activist involved in speaking out about civil rights and the Vietnam war, eventually left the convent. She had a voice and a view which were far reaching. She invited seeing rather than merely looking. For a young girl voyaging into the world, I could not have asked for a better role model.
More information on Corita Kent: https://www.corita.org/