Much of what I learned during the drawing weeks revolved around patience. A theme Icould not escape. So embraced. Patience for me is something that comes in waves. And it isn’t something I can turn on and off as I please. Within art, I am most patient with pieces I am doing because they are the pieces I want to be doing. Asking me for precision and patience with a piece of work I don’t want to be doing is like asking me to sneeze with my eyes open. This is my downfall. I know that given enough patience, a piece of work I don’t enjoy working on can become a piece of work I love. I am most delicate with pieces of work I enjoy working on, which is a blessing and a curse. I end up limiting myself to what i know. These weeks were about stepping out of the space I knew, and into a world of greater possibilities. I just needed to find the patience to be patient, and the courage to make a few mistakes along the way.
The Jerwood Drawing Prize seemed a feat beyond human capabilities. I remember seeing a photograph in a frame on the wall wondering ‘Why is this here? This surely has little to do with drawing. Perhaps there is some meaning – cryptic, subliminal, symbolic – that I’m just missing?’
Of course, it was no photograph.
Piece after piece my mouth slowly crept open in admiration, as if releasing the wonder that filled my head. I was constantly impressed by the pieces on display. The artists all definitely knew their ways around pens and pencils. It wasn’t all pens and pencils either. Several pieces were of cuttings; in one, graph paper cut so very precisely and layered, sheet after sheet, to create what looked like a small futuristic town, or an enlarged abstract chip you would find controlling an electronic device. Other cuttings included a piece with colourful spirals intertwining with each other intricately. The artwork in pencil, charcoal, paint and pastel amazed me for two reasons. The most obvious reason was the skill behind the pencil. The discipline, precision, and knowledge of the practise and the tool. Drawings of trees you can feel the texture of, people you want to wave to and landscape you want to lay on. Curtains you can feel the weight of. Ships you can feel the mass of. As well as the realist images, there were abstract pieces just as impressive. There were backsides of envelopes that were transformed into detailed patterns, graph paper that had been drawn on tiny block by tiny block, and delicate drawings built up from tiny images into large scale pieces.
The second reason behind my amazement may be more personal than a general observation. But the cleanliness of the pieces was so impressive. My work rarely stays very clean for very long and this exhibition has taught me to start rendering this. Whether its smudging my pencil without realising or working too quickly or being too careless. Unless of course it’s an intentional mess (which I have used as an excuse before). The presentation of crisp paper or canvas behind such carefully produced work showed an understanding of the importance of each piece produced. It made the relationship between the artist and his work seem more intimate, more tender. It showed care. It showed skill. It showed patience.