Posts Tagged ‘art’

I am someone for whom the internet was invented. My friends have told me so. It has to do with my generally insatiable curiosity and the ability to ferret out the bits of life’s ephemera, the stuff that amuses and illuminates and unifies our lives. I am a scholar in the loosest sense of the word but no less so than one with a formal doctorate. Of course, internet surfing – or “research” as it is sometimes derisively called in our house – has turned us all into masters of the ephemeral, but it also has become a giant time-suck as well. Such is the double-edged sword of knowledge.

On one of my ventures into the wilds of the internet I came upon a tumblr blog that did a daily upload of the scans made from the journals of artist Keith Haring. I could try to summarize Haring’s life, style, and his impact on the art world, but that’s what the internet is for, and others have already done that. I subscribed to Haring’s journal feed because the archive handling his journals were uploading pages chronologically from Haring was a teen and I was curious to see if there was a moment when you could see an artist emerge. I wanted to know because I have a back-burnered project to write about a teen artist coming into their own and I was hoping to limn some sense of what it looked like from within.

There was a lot of earnest trying-to-be-an-artist type entries, and while I recognized the truth in this from my own life – those early days when everything is so deep and so full of meaning, as if you were the first to have these thoughts – what I wanted was the moment when the trying became simply being. This, I knew, was what I wanted to capture, the narrative moments that rang true without all the sturm und drang attached. Sometimes capturing the truth means editing out the whole truth. Then this past week the beginnings of a new journal were posted and I felt like I’d found the emotional core of what I was looking for.


Haring had written this on the inside front cover, and it encapsulates not only the inculcation of a life deliberately set on understanding the process of creating, but it so underscores the experience of the reader and the writer and the event. Haring isn’t likely the first to articulate this idea but his youthful phrasing was what I was looking for, and his use of a box as a metaphor was exactly what I’d hoped to find. He elaborates on the first page of the journal proper


We experience “art” as a result of many factors outside of the actual “art” itself.

Are all of the factors part of the “art experience” itself?

Three years after Haring had written these words I was coming to a very similar understanding though through a different lens. I had encountered Koestler’s theory of bisociation at the same time that I discovered the Dadaist art movement and suddenly it was as if the creative world started making a whole lot more sense. But I didn’t keep a journal (foolish me) and it was stumbling onto Haring’s that helped me understand what I had been wrestling with in this shelved project.

But beyond my personal searching Haring underscores what makes books a distinct storytelling medium that has survived, and thrive, despite the development of television, movies, and other narrative distractions. Other media control the speed at which the story is told but the book allows for an individual, personal, and perfectly tailored experience. Naturally time can be controlled within all storytelling – it can be condensed, expanded, telescoped, and otherwise manipulated – the the experience of that time, that’s the ability to look inside the “box” and decide when it’s time to move along. When you look at a painting or a photo and are amassing the thousand or so words the picture paints you are composing the page that places that experience, that moment, in a box of memory. Likewise, reading a book allows the reader to take in the information at their own speed before defining the memory box in which it is kept.

So while casually looking for an attempt to capture the feel of a young artist making sense of the creative process I managed to find some comfort that working in the written word isn’t the pointless exercise it can sometimes feel like. Especially when the idea of finding an audience is still in a distant “someday,” a box full of time for another day.

Read Full Post »

stick figures

When people hear I once taught art their first response, no matter what age, was “Oh, I can’t draw.  I can’t even draw a stick figure.”

Let me get this out of the way up front: If you feel that way, then the educational system has done an excellent job of beating your innate creativity out of you.

Small children don’t need to be taught how to draw or create, just set them down with some materials and they go at it.  People who grew up to be brilliant scientists, doctors, lawyers, people who work at gas stations and mini marts, people who groom dogs and fight fires, everyone started out at the same place in life messing around with finger paints and gluing bits of paper down and giving it a name, a story, giving it life.  As our education progresses the time allotted for art continues to get cut and eventually gets folded into a sociogram for a social studies unit, a cover for a book report and finally, when the system has completely beaten the art out of you, doodles on the cover of your binder.  It ceases to be a valuable and legitimate subject worthy of exploration

If you spent the same amount of time in your life drawing as you did reading you might be surprised at how good an artist you really are.  The problem is, there’s no value in art, so there’s no point.

My point today is that I recently saw that they have repackaged some of the Ed Emberley Drawing Books thematically — currently a Halloween book caught my eye.  In looking through at the way he teaches young artists how to build stick people, animals and common objects step by step from little boxes and stems I realize that there is no earthly reason why adults cannot learn to at least master Emberley’s stick figures.  There is no harm (and no shame) is taking ten minutes a day to sit down and explore the visual, to revel in creating amusing little drawings for ourselves, to joyfully confuse the left- and right-brain functions, to play.

Play.  Let’s all go out and play.

Read Full Post »