Do you find that when you doodle, you draw the same thing over and over?
My mother says that she vividly remembers my grandmother drawing dancing ladies absentmindedly when she would talk on the phone. Different versions of the same figure: dancing ladies.
Automatism: the short version is, there’s a great untapped resource within our own subconscious, and we can work to express it through automatic drawing or automatic writing by attempting to free ourselves from the conscious. The constraints of the “conscious” are the constraints of grammar, syntax, the rules of composition, or the censorship through moral or social judgment, etc.
One of the aforelinked websites informs me that “Automatic Drawing is a kind of yoga for artists.” (ah, intriguing).
So, sure, I don’t fully buy it. When it comes to an ideology of creativity, I’d rather look out into the world than into my own subconscious. Don’t get me wrong; I value self-understanding, but I don’t think I’m the source of all creation.
Which brings me to the subject of doodling! I posted yesterday with some snapshots of my class notes, on days when I feel like jazzing up the typeface of my title. But the vast majority of my doodles (images below) tend to be based on the female figure.
Wait. Let’s unpack that last statement.
I draw women’s bodies (?!)
I feel more than a little conflicted about this. When I put a pen to paper, what “feels natural” is to draw the female figure. But if Sociology, Women’s Studies, Gender Theory, Queer Studies, (and so on and so forth) have taught us anything, it’s that just because something “feels natural,” does not mean that it is natural. For example, how about the fact that male artists have been glorifying and objectifying women’s bodies for thousands of years? Or that the majority of nudes in an art museum will inevitably be of women, but you’ll be hard pressed to find equivalents for the male figure? or that when I open my textbook on “the nude,” most of the pages are of women? Needless to say, it seems likely that, as an artist, naked women have been pressed into my subconscious for years.
But I won’t deny that I find women beautiful, as humans and as bodies. And I produce better art when I focus on a subject that draws me in more easily. So how about the fact that most of the female figures that I draw tend to adhere to a normative standard of beauty? Sure, I go through phases of drawing “fat women,” or non-normative looking women– but in general, I draw slender figures, graceful figures, attractive poses. Some of this can be attributed to a self-image; I know my own [fairly slender] body best, so it’s easier to draw body types like my own. But a lot of it can be attributed to the images that penetrate my consciousness every day. Every sign, photograph, commercial, painting, TV show, (and so on and so forth) produces an aestheticized feminine body that is inevitably reflected on the page.
So, here’s what I’ve been drawing so far. And my challenge for the rest of the semester is to branch the fuck out.