In some earlier post, I may have already written a bit about the backstory to my Daily Drawings Project. But for the sake of examining the whole arc of the project, please bear with me. Almost two years ago, I found an Instagram post by Lisa Espenmiller in which she was posting as part of the 100 Days in My Sketchbook Project. Daily drawings had been one of those unattainable pursuits for me. I often say that I had a desire to make drawings on a daily basis from the time of graduate school, but I think that desire probably goes back 25 years when I discovered my passion for painting in university.
I had often tried to self start Daily Drawings over those 25 years, but with no more success than failed attempts to go to the gym on a regular basis. I also think that I was very self-judgemental about the drawings that I was making during those attempts. When this 100 Days in My Sketchbook Project came across my view, I decided that I would give daily drawing another try. This time, I used my daily practice of social media to my advantage by incorporating the daily post of my drawings into that well established daily practice. On July 1st, 2015, this is the drawing that I made.
I was surprised by this drawing and remember thinking how I wanted to expand this motif into a larger series. Subsequent days in the first week were less successful, but regardless, they were posted on social media.
This was an attempt at a blind Memory Walks drawing which I used the blind contour drawing technique for inspiration. I reverted back to the Memory Walks on this day because I was lost in terms of what to draw.
The first week was the hardest in terms of keeping my inner critics at bay. There were often inner voices competing and conflicting for the content and quality of the drawing. And then about a week later, I made this drawing.
It was with this drawing that things changed for me. Two reasons. The first being that I have always been drawn to works with repetitive and microscopic motifs and often thought that this type of work was not in me. Yes, my work is often repetitive, but rarely had it been microscopic. This drawing was the first indication for me that it might, in fact, be within me. The second reason was that I found myself focused on the act of drawing rather than the results of drawing. The mark making which I have always enjoyed became enough for me. Certainly, the end result of the drawing was a treat to see, but I was no longer worried so much about what it was. The closest analogy I can use to describe this feeling is when I am reading a novel and I am not looking at the page number to see how many pages I have read in how long or calculating how many pages are left in the novel. I am reading for the sheer act of reading.
The 100 Days in My Sketchbook Project ended on October 29, 2015. In reality, the 100 days actually took me 121 days – it was not always a smooth road, but I did finish the project. As I was busy with my Memory Walks project, I found myself making most of these drawings during commutes and moments of waiting – a practice that continues to this day. After four months with this project, drawing became incorporated into my daily practice. I continued making these drawings with the intent that they would serve as explorations into mark making that I could incorporate into other projects. The drawings were a practice that would be simply for myself.
Things changed towards the end of the summer of 2016 when I was offered a solo exhibition at hasu no hana in which these drawings would be the main focus. It was an unexpected surprise. I had imagined that larger drawings that were inspired from these A5 drawings could be conceived for exhibtions, but until that point, I had not considered these A5 size drawings for exhibition. With this exhibition “My Everyday Life”, the Daily Drawings Project was used as a framework for connecting various aspects of my studio practice. All my drawings from 2016 were displayed on one wall of the gallery space.
This is just portion of the wall of drawings. The layout of the drawings is a basic calendar format where the rows consist of the months going from top to bottom. The columns are the days of the month going from left to right. The gaps you see between the drawings are days in which I did not make a drawing. I was a bit hesitant about displaying the drawings this way and I wanted to fill in the gaps with ephemera or works from other aspects of my studio practice. However, I recalled seeing On Kawara’s retrospective at the Guggenheim three years ago and how he also had gaps in this Date Paintings as well as other projects he pursued. In addition, these gaps also serve as indicators of other activities in my life whether it be in the studio or otherwise personal.
Discussions with Kazue Fukuma, director of hasu no hana, led to the idea of juxtaposing my Memory Walks Project with these daily drawings. The result can be seen in this installation shot.
For this exhibition, I installed all my Memory Walks drawings from June 2016 and they were installed to line up with the row of drawings for June 2016. It was the first attempt to reflect upon the relationship between these two projects. Over the course of the two weeks of “My Everyday Life”, I had regular discussions with Kazue Fukuma about the relationship between these two projects, more specifically, seeing the two projects as a conversation between conscious and unconscious memory.
The Daily Drawings have no preconceived form. I get up in the morning and when I find a moment, usually on the train, I pull out my drawing paper, choose a pen, and make a mark. Usually I am listening to music, although the last few months, it has been podcasts when I make mark. From the initial mark, the drawing grows organically as I respond to the initial mark and growing form. Sometimes the drawing is finished in one session, while other times it takes two sessions or longer. The length of time is never pre-determined. That decision is usually made close the end of the drawing session.
One of the reasons that I enjoy this project is because it taps into the more intuitive side of my creative process. My studio practice has long been based on conceiving an idea, creating a framework to express the idea, and then making the work based on that framework, often with little variation from the initial framework. The drawings allow me the chance of unexpected discoveries and accidents. I also think it makes me more open to conceiving and receiving new approaches to my other projects.
I risk jumping ahead in the timeline, but I will say that I have come to see the conscious and unconscious memory dichotomy as oversimplified. It is a got entry point into the concept of this inquiry, but at the same time, I have come to realize that the two projects exist on opposite sides of the unconscious and conscious memory scale. However, they are not at opposite ends, but rather a weighted blend of those two types of memories.
At the close of “My Everyday Life”, I was given two new opportunities to push the exploration of my daily drawings and I will discuss those in Parts 2 and 3.