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I was late in learning to draw. I didn't really sketch, paint or draw as a kid. My entire visual output up to the end of high school was a stapler that I drew in a fit of Spanish 3 boredom. That all changed during my first semester of college when I was shut out of a biology class; they were trying to make me take Chem first, and being an even more stubborn person that am I now, I flipped them the bird and signed up for intro to drawing. Game over on the career in science.


As an artist I was really bad, monumentally bad. It was hard, but I was hooked. I even, after about two weeks in the class, asked my professor if someone could major in studio art without having any prior experience. He looked at me, and having seen my work so far, paused, and asked if I had any other interests. I kept at it. I got addicted to seeing into things, seeing deeper than the surface of an object, discovering relationships, form, light, space, color and gesture that I didn't even know existed before I put pencil to paper. I still keep a quote I got from my old painting teacher in my studio and on my desktop that sums up painting or drawing for me, and at the best of times, design: Cennino Cennini (15th century Italian painter) "This is an occupation known as painting, which calls for imagination, and skill of hand, in order to discover things not seen, hiding themselves under the shadow of natural objects, and to fix them with the hand, presenting to plain sight what does not actually exist."

I think better with a pen, pencil, or brush in my hand. I remember more. It focuses me. I observe more acutely. I free associate better. And it is still hard. Maddeningly hard. Sometimes I look at what I am doing and think that I have learned nothing; the drawing knows when I"m not totally focused, it knows when I'm not paying attention, or doing a half-assed job, or if my ideas and observations are trite. But occasionally it all works, and that makes everything worthwhile.


Now I draw to figure out formal visual relationships, to burn my observations into my brain as only drawing can; I draw for pleasure and to challenge myself; I draw to see what bizarre thing is lurking near my brain stem wanting to be freed; I draw for friends and I draw to think; I draw real things and I draw from imagination. I draw because there is a direct, mysterious, connection between my brain and my hand. I draw because when I'm focusing on what is actually in front of me all preconceived notions go away. The making of marks forces me to see beneath the surface, to ignore all that I thought I knew before and to look hard with fresh eyes. Something unexpected always happens in the mess that comes, and if I am concentrating enough sometimes I even recognize it in time to preserve it, and it feeds me.

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