Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Surprise

Well, yes, not only am I a Master Baker but I am a really shitty blogger, and yes, I am aware of that. But these days I actually have a little bit more reason than usual. I've been trying to get back to drawing every day, or something close to that, in my sketchbook.

What many people don't know about me is that I was an Illustration major in college -- I have a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, which is a fine institution of some renown. I was one of those kids who was always drawing, and I think I did have some promise, but I think I was also lazy and largely squandered it. No matter -- I have no desire to take up illustration on a professional level again. But what I would like to do is get back to the point where it was fun. Once upon a time I always had a sketchbook, and the doodles flowed out of me naturally and pleasurably. Over the years sitting down to draw or paint has felt more like work, like something I feel like I should be doing. And that really kind of sucks.

Here's what I think happened:

Back when my husband and I split up in 1996 I suddenly found myself solely responsible for keeping body and soul together for both myself and an 8-year-old. Not that my ex had ever been much on co-parenting, but at least he was a second warm body and I had some mobility.

When it became just me and Gideon, I had to plan everything out, plan everything ahead. If there was going to be food on the table and clean laundry and garbage bags and school lunch, I had to plan and plot and think ten steps ahead all the time. Never a break. Before I got my own washer, laundry night meant that we had to have some kind of dinner prepared that we could come up and eat while the dryer was running and Gideon would need to be set up to bring his homework to the laundromat, and whatever needed to be bought would have had to be bought on my way home from work or better yet on my lunch hour so as to save those precious 15 minutes.

And yes, I know, lots of people's lives are like that all the time, and probably worse. Eventually he got older and I could leave him alone for little chunks of time, and he started spending more time with his dad, and I acquired a little more flexibility. But that endless planning never quite let up. There was always something that needed to be accounted for, foamcore boards for science projects and sneakers suddenly grown out of and lunch money lost... all that stuff that almost feels like nostalgia now.

The thing is, I'm still in the habit. Kid's gone from home a few years now and the only creatures really dependent on me are a dog and two cats. But I'm still always thinking thinking thinking ahead, thinking about what I'm going to wear while I'm in the shower and thinking about what I'm going to cook for dinner while I'm at work, and if I walk the dog all the way around the reservoir when I get home then what order do I make the food in so we can eat at a decent hour and I can put a load of wash in when I get home if I do it right away and Monday is recycling night and oh we're going to need more soap in the bathroom in a couple of days...

So OK, I'm a bit compulsive and on a certain level it works for me. We're fed and the animals are fed and the house is in order and the bills are paid, and I rarely get that fucked up behind-the-eight-ball feeling.

But what I've also divorced myself from is a level of spontaneity, of letting happy accidents happen, and that is fucking me up artistically.

It's one of the reasons I like writing -- I can write in my head at odd moments during the day and there it is. I can put it down on paper later. I had this particular thought sequence about 15 hours ago, and I've been looking forward all weekend to getting it down. And in fact with my writing, having something planned out gives me a framework to get started and propel myself forward in order for a little serendipity to happen.

But making art, for me, is different. For most of my life I just liked putting pen to paper to see what happened, starting in one corner of the page and doodling across it until the space was filled. Or not. It didn't matter what happened -- the joy was in the surprise.

That's what I want to get back to: The Surprise.

So I've been taking the time to just draw, draw anything, copy pictures I like, or write things down by hand and make some pretty letterforms. Whatever catches my fancy. Just to get my hand moving.
This week I've been drawing trained bears. Not to flog a really tired cliché, but -- it's all good.

In totally unrelated news, it's 38˚ and pouring rain and there are two raccoons having hot raccoon sex up in the big tree in our yard. On Thursday we had the goshawk hanging around. This place is turning into Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Kinda cool for the Bronx, though.
Oh, and I updated all the links on my sidebar to reflect what blogs I'm reading these days with any regularity and with a whole section for food links. Enjoy! Or not.

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Blogger Kitt said...

Wow! That's a fabulous bear! You definitely should be sketching more.

And thanks for the links!

12:43 AM  
Blogger nbm said...

such a good drawing. it bloody well ought to make you happy to do that. I hope we see more.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Alecto said...

That was a beautiful post and I really do understand. All of it.

Great bear!

Hot Racoon sex in The Bronx? Once upon a time I lived on the edge of Van Cortland Park and I always expected it but I don't think what I saw in the bushes were really racoons...

SVA - fabulous school.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Alecto, I live a few blocks from Van Cortlandt Park -- hence all the wildlife. We get the horny raccoons, hawks, skunks, and the ubiquitous squirrels.

Kitt and nbm -- thanks, youse guys. Life is a constant battle against my Inner Lazy Guy.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Miss T said...

Wonderful drawing--seriously!

11:45 AM  
Blogger Cara deBeer said...

oh, wow, what a great drawing. a bit like the stuff peggy fortnum drew for the Paddington books.

I completely get you on living in the future - I feel like I never stop to enjoy the present, I'm always 5 or 15 minutes ahead and when I am in the present it's because someone's suicidal or there's been a pipe burst at home, or both. so I'm around for the bad things, but not the good, so much.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Maia said...

I love that bear! Next step is to start making artwork and selling it on Etsy! Seriously. I'd love something you drew for Fang Fang's room.

Or wait - just come up and visit after she gets here so you can meet her in person and I'll give you some wine and stick a napkin and a pen in front of you and frame the results. Heh.

9:07 PM  
Blogger Leah said...

Lisa, that is one beautiful bear. I'm so happy you're doing this for yourself.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Mary-Laure said...

Lisa, this is such a gorgeous bear! I'm sure you'll like the 'Bears' book I mentioned on my blog, because it's PACKED with fantastic, often funny illustrations from old books. I can't wait ti hear what you'll think... If you like bears and animals in general, as well as ginger cookies, I think we should definitely exchange links. Let me know what you think!

2:23 PM  
Blogger Kaethe said...

Well, that constant preparation for the next thing, it's not just a single mom thing. I'm like that, too. I've also noticed recently that I rarely agree to do anything right now, no matter what it is. Give me ten minutes first, okay?

Love the bear. I would love to see many more illustrations in your blog.

You know, if someone had mentioned the possibility of raccoon sex, I might have been more interested in the great outdoors. The Spouse and I are still amused, ten years later, by the crazy owl sex outside our back door.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Levi Stahl said...

I absolutely love the bear. He looks so quiet and contained, but with hints of Fozzie Bear's uncertainty in the way he addresses his hat. Like maybe he's been sitting quietly waiting for the right moment to ask a lady he likes on a date.

Great work!

8:09 PM  

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