100 Days of Something: 63

Came across this little article in The New Yorker yesterday – about the changes that occur in the body and brain while drawing. Calming down, being present to life. Those are aspects I fully relate to.

A different mental space from the one one inhabits when occupied with words. The pull of getting things done can be strong though. I did a quick sketch this morning (am always surprised by the way my ears open up when drawing) but ended up spending most of the day busy with code.

101 Words – 088

The exercise of writing these notes every day is in part an exercise in getting more in touch with what it is that is actually going on in my mind. An attempt to identify what it is my thoughts are milling around (over and above navigating the events of the day). That may seem trivial, but when it comes to putting thought-fields into words can sometimes turn out to require some degree of effort.

Attempting to draw something is a great way of getting to see aspects of it one would normally brush over. The same with thoughts and words.

101 Words – 068

I’ve noted analogies with tracing and typography in my search for models when using speech melody transcriptions as the basis for pieces of music. Another aspect, which touches on tracing as an approach, is the use of projections – in the case of drawings either using a camera obscura or the more portable camera lucida. Hockney’s thesis is that these devices enabled artists to make drawings that would be difficult to “eyeball”. One might argue that Janáček’s speech melody notations were “earballed” and that it is only with current technology that we finally have the means at hand for accurately depicting speech.

101 Words – 067

I noted some time back how I found it useful to make an analogy between speech melodies and typography – that speech melody transcriptions might be formed in a way analogous to the shaping of typefaces out of origins in handwritten lettering. Another analogy that might be made, given the strong element of reduction, is between transcriptions and tracing. Andy Warhol made a number drawings, including portraits of Hockney, by tracing over projections of photographs. David Hockney draws attention to some of them in his book Secret Knowledge, pointing out that Warhol’s skill lay in “knowing which lines were the most important.”

101 Words – 066

I was doing some sketching yesterday and noticed how my ears opened up during the process. A specific kind of awareness of the environment. Of course my ears are taking in sounds all the time – I’m not getting run over by a car when crossing the street – but the activity of drawing apparently cleared out enough thoughts to make space for a different kind of aural awareness. Stress is the quickest way to shut down that kind of listening, I’ve noticed. Turns out to be a good test – the mind tends to present those levels as better than they actually are.

101 Words – 042

I wasn’t in Oslo for the Matmos/Ashley performance, but looking through the festival booklet a photograph of Messiaen notating birdsong under the foliage of a large tree did catch my eye. A beautiful photograph that conveys something of the act of listening, I made an oil painting of it while taking art classes many years ago. Looking at it again reminded me that Messiaen, in answer to my question of there being an equivalent to sketching in music, took some steps in this direction – even though those notations, incorporated into large works, were never really presented as small standalone pieces.

101 Words – 014

This evening on the way home, while waiting for a pizza, I had a few minutes to grab a much needed espresso and make a 3-minute sketch. Nothing fancy, just a quick record of those moments. I thought I’d give writing a text in the same manner a go. Not too many edits or rearrangements – just a letting the words flow and accepting the (imperfect) shapes that arise. There’s something to the directness of it that provides a pleasure of its own.

Now, later in the evening, red lights from a distant tower wink at me through my workroom window.

101 Words – 010

This afternoon I stopped on the bridge to make a quick sketch of the tracks that I pass each day on my way to work and back. My father-in-law stood on that same bridge as a child waiting for the steam trains to pass and envelop him in smoke. There’s still some kind of charm in those old machines, there’s one that passes close to our apartment each Sunday sounding the most beautiful whistle. All I was treated to on the bridge though were pungent diesel fumes.

In the foliage beside the tracks police with dogs searching for something.

101 Words – 009

My favourite discovery looking through contributions to the TGD/Elle Luna 100-Day Project, has been Enrique BarriosFaces from El Paso. Drawn on matchbooks photographed against the background of the various tables on which they have been sketched, they also include short stories in which the (often tragic) semi-fictional destinies of the characters portrayed are told.

Barrios describes the time-out of making these daily drawings as his “little mental yoga”. That reminds me of Luis Mendo: “You find yourself more in the moment, closer to yourself, more relaxed and less anxious, much happier than before you started drawing”.

101 Words – 005

Somewhat like making a drawing, these texts have my attention while I’m working on them. I do however often have an idea of what the text will be about, a seed before I sit down to actually write. That’s not the case today. I’ve started writing without knowing where the letters will lead. There are a number of things I could write about, but I’m not up for any opinions, connections, or insights today.

The whitespace of a Cezanne canvas, blank and at the same time not.
Through the window the sound of a conversation and distant traffic on the tarmac.