Recently I was sorting through old portfolios of my artwork, viewing drawings I has not looked at in decades. It is fascinating to look at work one did many years ago, for it is easy to forget or not comprehend growth over time.
I came across this early pencil self-portrait. It had been a homework assignment, to do a drawing while observing your face in the mirror, carefully explaining the turns of the face and the forms of the features. The point was not to create a likeness, but to create a work that looked believable in its solidity and forms.
I was frustrated as I worked through the assignment, erasing over and over to get the lines and shapes placed properly, and to describe the complexity of the three-dimensionality. After about 20 hours of work, it happened. Or I should say it happened. It was a magical moment I would strive for every time thereafter drawing a portrait: that instant when it felt as though the portrait was looking back at me, as though it had a presence of its own. It was a moment when the drawing transcended the fact that it was pencil marks on a piece of paper. The drawing came to life. It was me looking back at myself.
When I came across this drawing a few weeks ago, I re-lived that magical moment once again, and a flood of emotion came over me as I recalled that subtle turn of perception that changed everything. Drawing would never be the same. From then on, I wanted to feel the amazement and deep satisfaction of sensing that my work had an energy and force all its own.
I would try again and again, and I often did not succeed. And, yet, sometimes I did. That first magical moment was enough to sustain my efforts, always knowing that it was possible albeit elusive, throughout my formal education and then into a professional career. I discovered that with time, effort, knowledge, extreme care, thoughtfulness, and sincerity of intention, the frequency of the sense that my creation could convey a presence increased. People sometimes remark at a person’s talent, but I have come to suspect that perhaps what is an inborn inclination towards a pursuit is greatly nurtured and elevated with a lot of effort and hard work.
More than a likeness, more than a fine or pretty picture, more than technical competency, what continued to interest me was the process of exploration in search of the inner spirit reflected outwardly. As a creator and one sensitive to the observed and the felt, this process has remained endlessly fascinating. Where do you find your own magic moments?