|(Color translation of) An Automatic drawing - pastel on paper - 1973, Dia Sobin|
(original drawing at the bottom of the post)
I came upon a scrapbook of old drawings of mine recently - very old, pre-art school drawings - of which the above is an example. It was a colored version (executed in pastels) of a black and white automatic drawing I did around the same time. I did a lot of automatic drawing in my pre-art school days. I liked this one because it was less abstract than the others... it was a recognizable symbol and I knew it meant something, although, at the time, I was unable to identify it. Years later I would come to the conclusion that it was a representation of Thoth, the ibis-headed Egyptian moon god of knowledge and wisdom, who was both patron of the arts and sciences as well as an important occult symbol. My teen-aged self had dipped into the collective unconscious and Thoth is what emerged.
The drawing is obviously not an example of high art. It is primitive, at best, looking like something pried off a cave wall. And, yet, therein lies its power... a vitality and immediacy that I've somehow lost along the way, and will never again recapture. But, why is this?
Because, shortly thereafter, I went to art school.
Oddly enough, even the dean of the school, upon my acceptance, expressed some doubt as to whether or not I really belonged there. He felt that I, possibly, had already found a direction and a style, and wouldn't really benefit from an art school curriculum. I wasn't sure what he meant... but he was right. I only wonder what would've happened had I not been accepted.
So, I went to art school. I think my favorite course was Contemporary Literature, where I was exposed to several poets I hadn't heard of before. In the Art History course, I learned that women, apparently, did not do art, and, therefore, did not enter its his-story. Otherwise, I can't remember ever learning a great deal. I already knew how to draw from life; I just never particularly cared to. So, drawing from life became an unpleasant task... and painting from life - those uninspired obligatory still lives of bottles, boxes, and other detritus - a true nightmare. I simply could not find my way into that painterly realm, prompting my painting instructor to point out that, although an excellent designer and colorist, I would never be a painter.
And I believed him. And, for the rest of my life, avoided wet mediums like the plague.
(Ultimately, I would turn to an electronic medium, replacing paint with pixels... but, meanwhile, years and years of creativity were lost while I floundered, unable to find my footing in the artistic arena.)
I spent less than two years at school, then quit, presumably to do "my own thing". But, it was already too late, and the "thing" kept morphing over the years (further complicated by all the day jobs I had to take to keep my body thriving) until the spirit which had produced the Thoth drawing was gone. While I still channel muses in my work, that sense of freedom and wild abandon has been constrained by the overlords of Logic and Structure, (not to mention meat-space reality)...which, in the end, is the death of true art.
The moral of this story? You be the judge. But, although I know little about the quality or modus operandi of art schools these days - keep in mind that my experience occurred in the 1970s - I think I'm qualified to say one thing: if you're a young, impressionable artist with a vision, and, haven't developed enough arrogance and true will to withstand assault, you might think twice about crossing the threshold of an art school...
... oh, yeah, and choose your day jobs wisely!
|The Original drawing - ball point pen on paper - 1973 - DS|
I decided to include the original drawing here, if only to illustrate and compare the types of artifacts which emerge in various states of consciousness. In the original drawing, more or less a "doodle" executed in the trance-like, somnambulistic state that sometimes accompanies this sort of drawing, the image which presented itself was narrow and spare; almost a warped glyph one might find in a dream. In the color version, I was in a receptive state, but was also consciously interpreting the image to express the emotional impact it had on me at the time of its discovery... that is, what it "meant" to me.
Automatic drawing was key for the Surrealist artists... something more fully explored in the future post, The Language of the Birds (and the Memory of Sound.