The refuge of the drawn line

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Blue, clothed I (A3 charcoal 2016)

There is no Chinese curse that goes, ‘May you live in interesting times’, probably because it’s meaningless. We may imagine that the current rise of populist right-wing politicians would qualify, but is it worse than living during World War II, or Stalin’s Russia, or anywhere during the medieval period?

In our own personal sphere, things are always ‘interesting’ in the sense meant by the bogus Chinese curse. Without the lows, as they say, how would we enjoy the highs? We are complex creatures in a world buzzing with activity and sensation – it couldn’t be anything else.

Yesterday I returned to work after a short illness. Inevitably there were the crises, deadlines and demands that pile up while you’re away from your emails. Although I’d had a delightful weekend – lunch with a dear friend on Saturday followed by a visit to the Edward Ardizzone retrospective in London, some therapeutic leaf-raking on Sunday – by the end of the day I felt like my head was full of chattering birds. Two hours of life drawing and a 15 minute meditation at home did the trick: soon the avian throng were quietly sleeping on their perches again!

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Blue, clothed II (A3 pencil 2016)

At the moment life seems to offer me an intriguing opportunity with the right hand and slap me on the back of the head with the left. Through all of this, there is the refuge of the drawn line. As long as there is time to sit, switch on Astral Weeks and draw dogs or quinces or Carly Simon’s imaginary friends, adversity can be defeated. It’s a privilege, I know.

And if the drawing goes wrong or the quinces don’t live up to their promise then I have the advice of my good friend and author, Bálint Varga: ‘Insecurity and dissatisfaction with one’s work is part and parcel of being an artist. It would be tragic if you were perfectly happy with what you are doing: you would have no incentive to search and experiment further.’

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22 thoughts on “The refuge of the drawn line

  1. Image: female figure [probably me] semi-constantly pacing floor with back of hand [seemingly] plastered to forehead, muttering, nattering, moaning and groaning “woe is me woe is me” to the walls, the cat, the dog. Repeatedly. I do (too) lead a tragic life and find great satisfaction in the sound of the pencil sharpener…and carry on.

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  2. Thanks. I needed to hear that. I draw a few faces every day and I routinely hate every one of them. I cannot seem to get face right. I have hope that one fine day I’ll draw something I like. It has not happened yet. Your drawings, on the other hand, are a wonder. I like the quinces, but your people are very good. Now I have to look up “Astral Weeks.”

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  3. I am on a roller coaster of emotions with the world. Art is a refuge, absolutely. But I’m more angry than anything else. On many levels. I do not feel oppressed (yet, anyway).
    We have quinces in NYC. I’m sure you could find any fruit or vegetable here, somewhere. As Steve Earle sings, “living in a city of immigrants…”

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    • It’s very easy to be platitudinous about anger but there are times when it just had to be. For some bizarre reason I seem to have adopted the philosophy of the Mark Rylance character in “Bridge of Spies” as my own: I find myself asking myself, Would it help? I don’t usually take life lessons from Hollywood but that does seem to work. That and the feel of pencil on paper.

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  4. Thanks for sharing these drawings and some of your life experiences at the moment Michael, I do admire how you express the form and the weight of a subject with your line, there’s always such an energy in your work. Definitely a time to keep doing the things you love at the moment. All the best, Phil

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