Why Drawings?

When I completed my first semester as an undergrad at the Rhode Island School of Design, I had to chose a major. RISD has many interesting majors to choose from, how could I possibly know if I would enjoy film and animation, industrial design, apparel, etc… without ever having taken a class relating to those fields? So I asked myself, what have a I enjoyed the most during my one semester? The answer was drawing. However, of all the majors that RISD offers, drawing was not one of them. So, I ended up in illustration for a semester, as that seemed closest to drawing. It was an unhappy semester which was discouraging after the thrill of the freshman foundation program. By the next semester I was a sculpture major, which was a better match. My junior year was spent studying in Rome where I kept an elaborate sketchbook, learned black and white film photography, made some sculpture, but mainly absorbed as much as I could. Of all that I did during that year, it was the drawings in my sketchbook I felt the most proud of and connected to. Post graduation, I didn’t find it easy to continue making sculpture, although I was building and designing sets, props and puppets for the youth theater I was working for. I explored printmaking and eventually got a graduate degree from the Hartford Art School where I learned all about relief printing, monoprints, etching and lithography. Printmaking seemed like a way to make drawings, but have them be “real art.” Somewhere along the way, I had become convinced that drawings could not be final works, and were instead only a way to work through ideas or make studies.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the work of Leslie Snipes, who I met when she was hired by the Wesleyan Art Department in 2003. Her drawings at that time were imaginary landscapes completely built of meticulous placed graphite lines. Subsequently,  I learned about Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings and got a book on the drawings of Louise Bourgeois. I gradually became aware of many artists who were using drawing as a beginning and an end. As a result, when I found myself for the first time with my own studio in January of 2010, I thought about what I wanted to do in the space and determined that I wanted to draw, not as a study for a sculpture or a print, but purely for the love of it. I tacked big sheets of paper to the walls and just started making marks. Two years later I am still following the same process, and enjoying the process of making art more than at any other point in my life.

Drawing is immediate gratification. The direct action of making marks is deeply pleasurable. The feeling of dragging charcoal across paper is sensual and profound. I am intrigued by the residue left behind after erasing as much as marks themselves. While I enjoy drawing from life, I see that activity as simply a means to make beautiful marks. In my own work, I use marks as the inspiration to create illusion of form and space.

I find it strange that as an undergraduate at RISD, there was such an emphasis on drawing as a foundation skill but only as a means to an end. I now see drawing as both means and end, and am quite relieved and happy to have come to this conclusion.