Single frame animation created for the show D R A W I N G O B S E S S I V E curated by I Z Z I E K L I N G L E S and A M A N A D A M A N I T A C H at the Vermillion Gallery in Seattle WA in 2010. Music by M A R K W A G N E R, read by N E E L A Q U A G L I O L A.
On my first day of school, aged 6, I turned up happily to this place of learning in my brand new apron and big blue bow. In fact I had only just learned how to fold the flat ends of my necktie to turn them into a big shiny bow. On the other hand I was already quite proficient in my writing, having competed with my elder sister in forming the perfect little circles and loops of the letters of the alphabet, all the way from A to Z. I was a shy child and didn’t like adult attention, and most of my first day at school ran smoothly on that account, until the lady I understood to be my teacher finally looked over my shoulder to note, not that i was quite the handy writer, as i imagined she would, but, to my horror, to tell me off for holding my pencil the wrong way. I didn’t like to disappoint adults and rarely found myself in that predicament. I tried to ignore her and wished her to go away. Instead she sat next to me and made me hold my pencil in a most uncomfortable arthritic grip and waited silently for me to conform. Surprisingly i put my head down and stubbornly defied her instructions. I decided that i knew best and that from then on this interfering old lady could teach me nothing and I went on holding my pencil the way I always did, clutched firmly in my fist like a knife.
This small act of scholastic rebellion triggered the beginning of my love of the pencil as an object. I loved the way i could press it down on a clear piece of paper and see lines appear like magic. I spent hours practicing calligraphy or colouring pages of precious old books i found in my parents’ library.
These days I am more concerned with loosing those lines and spend most of my working days striving for those contour strokes to disappear, for the surface of my drawings to morph from lines into shadows and for the images to smudge, not for the careless touch of a greasy finger but by the purest interlacing of the finest strokes.
Some days, i stretch my legs and visit the local art supply shop. I walk in and like to quickly establish that i am not the casual customer who buys a pencil without much thinking. I do like the shop assistant to realize i am no novice when it comes to pencils. In fact i would LOVE to tell them quite directly that there are a lot - and I mean A LOT - of things I might not know, but on this little art tool, if they don't mind, I am an expert!
Well, as i said, i am too shy for that too, i am also well aware that to others this fact is of no consequence. But still I try, more subtly, to pose a question that might give the unsuspecting salesman a little clue. I will ask purposely for a rare lead like a 2B for a 0.35 size click pencil and wait. I know what they are going to say: namely that they don’t do that small size in a 2B because it would break and blah blah blah… Well i know that too, of course, but I also know that they used to make them at some point, and that you can still find them sometimes. And in fact i know that in the right person's hand they DO NOT BRAKE, and that of course it does depend on the make, as some makes are slightly softer than others. If the situation permits it, i can expand on this subject a little more, and air my doubt that gradings are actually made up, that an H is not always the same, and that this applies even more so to the family of the Bs, where grading is, to say the least, a random notion. It changes depending on the manufacturer, but also on the weather. Drawing on a very hot day can be challenging, as it takes a while to re-adjust to the increased softness of the lead. Not to speak of the grip, which will inevitably slide with sweat! I do say all this spiel with some humility, i may add, because my main concern is not to feel in some way more special than my fellow art-shop punters, but to finally find a kindred soul - somebody who belongs to MY club. To this day i have found none.
Drawing does not induce companionship. As a pastime, it is a boring one, that fills time but entertains little. And while you might think that in executing this mindless repetitive manual task you should be able at the same time to do other things with your brain, you couldn't be more wrong. While drawing, time is suspended and moves not forward but in a circular motion. But once you get past the initial insecurity, and past the next phase, which is the pleasure of exercising your skill, and finally past the boredom that is a consequence of the skill and that envelopes you like a familiar landscape, you can sometimes arrive at the sweet and wistful state of being lost. It is the closest i’ve ever been to reaching a spiritual trance and my only route back to youthful play, where reality transcends itself and everything finally makes sense. That’s really when i feel a little special.
So let me hold my pencil as I please...