Tommy Kane – An Excuse to Draw
So recently I picked up Tommy Kane’s An Excuse to Draw, as a treat for myself as I reached 400 days in a row sketching, and painting. I showed the start of the process on instagram but the randomness of my skill level changes daily and is still very frustrating.
I probably wouldn’t have shared this book but there was something I discovered with the first few pages that really hit home with me.
There is no single defining moment. There is no single episode. It was as if I was born ad suddenly I was in fear of most everything and everyone… When I say fear, I don’t mean as a kid I was afraid of the dark or spiders. I’m talking about debilitating, panic attack, social anxiety fear. The kind of fear that creates depression and ruins people’s lives. As I get older, it affects me in a million ways.
As I read the introduction tears run down my cheeks as I recognise myself in those words. Like him discovering art I discovered ceramics and have used that to hide behind over the last decade, it doesn’t always work and some weeks are harder than others.
This feeling of fear is one of the reasons I pulled myself off of social media, I just couldn’t cope any more. The fear of actually having to be social and talk to other people. The fact everything I post feels fake and not good enough. I only really feel calm in the act of making everything else enables the fear to overwhelm.
I have been aware of Tommy Kane’s work for a few years, since discovering Danny Gregory and borrowing his books from the local library. I always felt like my drawings were too stiff and aspired to something a bit looser like Tommy’s drawings.
I love not only the cross hatching on the building but also the marks with pencil crayons in the sky and trees. It reminds me of my one year on an illustration course and the tutor with his very sharp and hard pencil crayons slowly building up tone and colour with simple cross hatching.
I was pleased to see he had a tutorial and how he cross hatches in his work. So I decided to try my own attempts at pen and pencil crayon cross hatching.
I think next time I will just build up in pencil crayon and leave out the pen work, and work a little bigger than the A5 segment on an A4 piece of paper.
It sounds like you are figuring things out. I know what it’s like having those feelings of self doubt. Is it good enough? Could it be better?
The thing to decide is who has the authority to tell you. Who is positioned to make that call whether you are measuring up or failing? So part of the story has to also be in what way you are aiming. Are you doing something specifically meant to be intelligible to some other person and in a specific way? Is the point of what you are doing that it will be understood as this rather than that?
Because being an artist means that we have a choice. Do we put others as the deciders of our value or is what they have to say even relevant? This is the difference between our attempts to *communicate* and merely expressing ourselves. And while it is noble and generous trying to communicate, to frame your work in ways that matter to others, it is not the only thing we do, and it is not the only thing that matters.
Sometimes, for instance, you want to say something new. And by new I mean that the rules for interpreting it may not have been fully written. You don’t yet *know* how others are supposed to make sense of it, because what you are presenting them is *unprecedented*.
So the choice we face as artists and as human beings is whether our own value is only something that gets measured by other people’s standards or whether we have *the*right* to make our own judgments independently. And the fact that you are not understood or even valued by others *is*not*evidence* that you are somehow necessarily a fraud or a failure. Other people don’t get you. It’s what they do. And the key is accepting that outsiders will continue to get it wrong.
Being misunderstood is not as much a sign of your own inadequacy as it is of the inadequacy of others. You can learn to be at peace with that. You can learn that far from their barbs and slings being the righteous condemnation you deserve, they can be forgiven their bewilderment. We need to learn to forgive ourselves for not being understood and forgive others for not understanding us.
Or so it seems to me…..