Thursday, April 28, 2011
Thinking about making stuff
Lately, I've been drawing with a ballpoint pen. I'd rather forgotten how expressive a tool this everyday pen is. They're everywhere, but the only thing I've done with an ordinary ballpoint pen for who-knows-how-long is fill out forms, write checks, and scribble grocery lists (and for many people, all these things are now done by computer or on PDAs).
When I was still in school, I used to doodle with a ballpoint pen in class. I'd forgotten one little flaw that even the best ballpoint pens have - they sometimes leave an unwanted blob of ink on the page.
I've got a bunch of drawings with blobs and smears on them. At first I thought I should rethink how infatuated with this ubiquitous pen I'd become. Then, I decided I liked the mark of this inherently fallible tool. I wondered if any of the computer drawing programs had some sort of filter that automatically puts smears and blobs on one's artwork. If so, they should, or perhaps not, for this is what makes human art so wonderful.
I have always been a bit mystified by photo-realistic art. What's the point, besides the craftsmanship? If one wants a photographic image, it seems to me that a camera is the best tool.
I don't understand the allure of photo-realistic portraiture in particular. The ability that a human being has to be able to capture the essence of another human being with the few lines and/or little detail is much more remarkable. What is it that one sees or senses when one does this? Frankly, even though I've done many portraits in my life, and been quite sparing in detail, I have never really known what it is that I'm "getting" that makes them work. I know it when I feel it. Others can see it. Yes, it looks like Jane or Joe or Johnny, but with that little detail, why or how can it?
I do not think a computer can do this, nor can a camera. That is one reason I like it.
When computers (and other technology) can outpace us in so many things, we need to turn to that which makes us human. Our fallibility is indeed one of these things. The blob from the pen, or the imperfect line that I render, no matter how precisely I draw, that is what shows my humanity.
I've noticed that I get the most compliments on the handknit sweaters I wear that are the least well knit, or are knit with the lowliest yarns. They say "hand made," and I think that feels as comforting as the smell of home baked apple pie.
Years ago, I saw a sci-fi movie where some folks were tattooed by laser. That day will come, and it will be a shame. Besides the human contact aspect of being tattooed, a tattoo is never perfect, and it challenges the wearer to live with its imperfection. It's a reminder, though perhaps not articulated or felt, to live with our own imperfections.
As I've been writing nearly feverishly about psychiatric topics in the last few days, I'll end this post with more about that. In 1999, Peter Kramer wrote, " Since you live only once, why not do it as a blond? Why not as a peppy blond? . . . whatever the consensus, it is psychiatrists. . . who will be considered best qualified to modify cognition and personality in useful, attractive ways."
This may seem a bit of stretch from topic to topic, but I think it is not far off. Striving to be "perfect" human beings is striving to be not human. Additionally, who decides what the model of perfection is?
In recent years we have been told that studies show we favor symmetry in facial features. Well, I do not (see Silly Things for proof). Are folks like me who find Adrien Brody attractive abnormal and in need of fixing?
I'd rather not be a perky blonde. I generally do not find perky blondes to be all that interesting. I like chipped hand painted old furniture, handmade clothes, and home cooked meals. All these things are imperfect, and absolutely perfect in their imperfection, just like human beings.
Image note: The ratty sweater made from cheap (but 100% wool) yarn that everyone loves (including me).