Sunday night was an experience that I’ll never remember. I’ve tried to write a process post about the work I did on Sunday, but the details have become fuzzy to me and a bit inextricable from Monday’s process.
I do remember that I spent several hours* obsessing over getting the plant’s pot drawn absolutely perfectly. That’s not wildly unreasonable: spending last week drawing next to Julia and watching her chair come together so wonderfully after she spent most of the week getting the seat right probably influenced my desire to get the base of this drawing drawn the way I want it first. Also, having spent the last few sessions erasing and re-drawing every part of my chair made the notion of having a few lines that I knew were already the way I wanted them very appealing. I had very high standards for what amounted to a few simple curved lines, and my drawing wasn’t getting close to meeting my standards for them.
This was making me anxious about my ability to complete the assignment on time. We were supposed to draw an organic object—not an organic object’s home and parts of its semi-wilted green onion roommate. I was getting the worst headache and I was unhappy with how my drawing was going. Even when I could get the angles of the pot to match what I saw using the string technique, I didn’t like what I was seeing.
I had intended to commit myself to spending all day in my apartment until the basil was drawn, but I was frustrated. I knew that my perfectionism was hindering the process of drawing, so I finally left my apartment for 20 minutes around 7:30. When I returned, I finally noticed that my apartment strongly smelled of natural gas, and I finally realized that the headaches, chest pain, and other symptoms I’d had that day were probably not entirely due to working on the plant pot.
The next few hours are harder to summarize—I spent about 9 hours in the ER, feeling cold, frustrated, and fairly certain that the ice machine in one of the waiting areas actually was off-center and tilted and I wasn’t just seeing it that way. I got home well after sunrise, assured myself that my apartment had aired out, and slept until it was time to go to class.
Today (Monday) was our last full class period of drawing the chair. I’m unsure as to whether it’s because I was in a somewhat altered state from exhaustion and lingering effects of the gas leak, or if it was an effect of taking the weekend off from the chair, but I felt like I was seeing the chair differently. The width of the top of the chair was thinner than I’d drawn it, and there was a taper in the legs of the chair that I hadn’t seen at all last week.
One of the techniques that Professor Ruby emphasized this class session was using the string or a straight-edged object to create a vertical plumb line in order to compare it with a line. My perspective on the chair has a lot of lines that appear to be perfectly vertical or horizontal, but they’re at a very slight angle. I hadn’t seen this at all until I used the plumb lines. I struggled with drawing this in a way that wasn’t too exaggerated, and eventually I left a few notes to myself on how the chair drawing should be revised (slashes in the correct direction near the too-vertical lines) and went home.
After class, I sat down and worked on the basil again for half an hour, feeling a little more clear-headed but still tired. I realized that my plant’s pot wasn’t that bad; it just didn’t look like a symbolized plant pot and I hadn’t liked that on Sunday. I made a few minor corrections to the pot, and began drawing the stems of the basil. It wasn’t much, but I could have an idea of where the plant was growing. Knowing that the placement of the stems was in a position to be perfected, I could have faith that I would find where they belonged and finish.
This experience emphasized to me just how much of visual thinking requires that you be able to radically accept what your senses are telling you, instead of clinging to what you should be perceiving or thinking. My senses were telling me that I needed a break from the basil drawing because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to work, but I ignored them until the results were near-catastrophic because I thought I should be working a certain way at a specific rate. I know what a terra cotta plant pot or a wooden chair should look like, but when I’m sitting and drawing it, I don’t see it as it should be, I see it as the light is hitting my eyes. I can’t create a realistic drawing from “shoulds.”
As Professor Ruby’s brother’s acting coach says, you should never should on yourself.
*My notebook says that I spent 5 ½ hours broken up into 3 sessions over the course of the morning and afternoon, but I don’t fully trust my accounting on Sunday.