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The blankness

By: Raymund Fernandez October 28,2015 - 02:39 AM

It’s 9:30 and the story still has to take shape in his head. His head is not blank. Indeed, it is filled with too many things. It is the blank space he has to put there before the words will come to him.

Writing, like drawing and the playing of music, begins here, from a silent, pristine, blankness: Which is why the first and most important part of the act of drawing is a contemplation of the primary beauty of the empty paper.

In a way, the paper must come to life for him, before he can make it come to life for anyone else. There is a bit of metaphysics here, of course. The good drawing is always a dialogue between the artist and the paper. The good artist does not impose on the paper; he must cajole, woo, entice, even seduce the paper into yielding forth the art. And yet, he finds how in most instances, his students do not really even see the paper at all.

After every studio session, he asks his students to put their drawings at the front of the studio room so they might watch their works. And then he grades the works. Unless absolutely necessary as in the end of the semester, his grades are never numeric. Instead, he talks about the drawings, always beginning with the positive assessments then moving on to how the works may be improved.

This week, he found how the backgrounds of the drawings were all rather awful. This told him his students were starting their drawings from a picture in their heads. They did not see the paper in the way a good artist should see the paper: as blank, breathing space.

The blankness must, of course, mirror a blankness in the artist’s head.

He finds this blankness is important, because after many years of teaching, he has come to realize how art students seem to operate as if from a formula inside their heads. And these formulas can be rather ridiculous; such as that the line of the eyes must be one half of the line of the face and all that. It is important for him to tell his students to forget all these, as experience has told him they do not really help and serve only to distract the students from actually seeing the object, the paper, and everything else.

He is not saying that the rules matter not at all. What he is saying is that the rules should come with the act of drawing, not in front of it. And so he tells his students: Forget the rules. Forget whatever he, the teacher, has taught them. Forget he is even here.

He explains further how they already know everything they need to know about making a good drawing. Everything they really need to know they already learned when they were little children.

They know exactly what a good drawing feels like. The feeling of a good drawing is what they are in pursuit of. Forget proportion. Forget techniques. All these should come naturally. Don’t think.

Drawing is not any sort of thinking they have grown used to. Just start from the blankness of the paper and a blankness in your head. Do not be afraid of this blankness.

He was reminded of this lesson on blankness by Elias, his youngest son. Twelve year old Elias performed late last week on the piano for his school’s end-of-semester program. He did very well as his father expected. They had played music together and Elias has nerves of steel. He feels fear, but it never affects him as it once affected his father, the man writing this.

But in recalling this experience, Elias recounted how right before playing, his mind went blank and it took him a bit of a time before finding the key he would be playing in. Only when he started playing did everything come back to him.

The father, watching a bit nervously from the audience, knew this only after everything. What he saw was how Elias played quite so flawlessly the simple piece he had to play. He made a note to encourage him to keep practicing and playing. And please, to smile a little when he plays; otherwise, he will come out looking like a Russian: which, of course, is not at all a bad thing. But a little smile never hurts.

But in the end, he was reminded of the importance of the blankness, the same blankness from which these words come.

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TAGS: art, Artist, creativity, drawing

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