Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Linking to this to Make Sure Dan Meyer Doesn't Miss It

John Siracusa:

Drawing what you actually see—that is, drawing the plastic bull that's in front of you rather than the simplified, idealized image of a bull that's in your head—is something that does not come naturally to most people, let alone children. At its root, my gift was not the ability to draw what I saw. Rather, it was the ability to look at what I had drawn thus far and understand what was wrong with it.

While other children were satisfied with their loosely connected conglomerations of orbs and sticks, I saw something that bore little resemblance to its subject. And so, in my own work, I attempted to make the necessary corrections. When that failed, as it inevitably did, I started over. Again and again and again, each time making minor improvements, but all the while still seeing all the many ways that I had failed to persuade my body produce the correct line or apply the appropriate coloring.

By my early teens, the truth of it was staring at me from the walls of my room, covered not with original artwork but with slavish reproductions of other works. Copying completed two-dimensional images played perfectly to my actual strengths. It was a trick. All that praise for my work and all those expectations for my future career in art were simply misattributions of my talent.

I was like Wolverine, whose superpower is not his nigh-indestructible skeleton or super-sharp claws, but rather his body's ability to heal, which made his surgical augmentation possible, and which allows those metal claws to repeatedly pierce his hands without causing permanent injury.


The drawbacks are obvious. Knowing what's wrong with something (or thinking that you do, which, for the purposes of this discussion, should be considered the same thing) does a fat lot of good if you lack the skills to correct it. And thinking that you know what's wrong with everything requires significant impulse control if you want to avoid pissing off everyone you meet.

But much worse than that, it means that everything you ever create appears to you as an accumulation of defeats. "Here's where I gave up trying to get that part right and moved on to the next part." Because at every turn, it's apparent to you exactly how poorly executed your work-in-progress is, and how far short it will inevitably fall when completed. But surrender you must, at each step of the process, because the alternative is to never complete anything—or to never start at all.

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