The Heart of the Matter

Today I’m sharing another page from my 100-Day Creative Project Sketchbook of neurographic art.  This means that I’ll also be sharing — again — a few of my frustrations with this art form. I do find it interesting, but even though it’s fairly simple and requires no actual drawing skill, I am personally finding it to be artistically challenging.

Now, keep in mind, I came to art with a lot of disadvantages. My art education as a child was limited.  Not once did I ever receive even the slightest encouragement for any attempt I made at creating visual art. It was simply reinforced to me — over and over again — that I was not an artist. I was nothing more than a messy, clumsy child who could barely stay in the lines when coloring. Let me sum it up quickly by saying that as a child, I did not have a single positive “art experience”.

It wasn’t until 2015 — at retirement age — that I had courage enough to say, “Well, I guess I need to learn to draw.” Even then, you know, I didn’t believe it was possible. Now, while I’ve learned the basics, and I’ve learned to paint, as well, I’m still “bound in to saucy doubts and fears” — another of my favorite Shakespearean quotes, this one from Macbeth

Not to be overly dramatic here, but in some ways, perhaps my experiences with art could be deemed tragic. Is it any wonder, really, that I do find it hard at times to shake off my doubts? For me, art has always been about “am I doing it right?” I am working on this, and I’ve made tremendous strides over the past year. I’m truly coming to see that there is no “right” or “wrong” with art, yet whenever I try something new, two things happen immediately:

  1. I worry obsessively about whether I’m doing it right.
  2. I compare what I’m doing to what others are doing.

Remember that recent post about not being true to myself? I’m still figuring out who I am as an artist, and that makes it problematic. I can’t be myself when I don’t know who I am!

Neurographic art has been bringing a lot of these questions, these doubts, and these fears out into the open. Maybe that’s part of the transformative effect this sort of art is said to have. I’ve had to deal with a lot of frustrations since starting this 100-Day Project. Mostly it all comes down to this:

AM I DOING WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO DO?

This idea of “doing what I’m supposed to do” is truly the crux of the issue. I’m going to re-word that and say “It’s the heart of the matter.” With art, I’m never sure what to do or how to do it, and this leads me to look over the shoulders of others, not to compare my work with theirs, but in some desperate attempt to figure out just what it is I’m supposed to do! 

My frustrations really came to the surface on “Day 7” of my project. I realized that I’d skipped over Valentine’s Day. Shouldn’t I have incorporated that into my daily drawings? I wasn’t sure how or why I’d missed it. Maybe it was because my husband and I went out for a “Valentine’s” date, and I wasn’t really thinking much about art.

Anyway, on Day 7 I decided to use a Valentine theme. Better late than never, right? Of course, neurographic art isn’t about drawing so much as it is about expression. All the same, I wanted to create a few hearts. That’s how I began. But then, since the key element of neurographic art involves “rounding off any sharp edges”, I had to go back and “soften” those hearts. Some I did, some I didn’t, and all the while that question is going through my head:

AM I DOING WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO DO?

It became more and more frustrating. Were my lines thick enough? Too thick in places? Was I properly rounding, smoothing, softening all those hard edges? No? Well, who cares! I angrily started making dots. Some of them were running together. So? Who cares! I outlined some of my lines. The colors turned a bit fuzzy. Yeah? Who cares!

 

I’ve noticed that many of my mindful drawings — such as these neurographics — resemble monsters, and maybe that’s a reflection of the art monsters I faced as a child. At least they look friendly, as often as not. I’ve thought about going back and using ink to add in eyes for this monster, but, no… I’ll leave it alone.

This drawing, however, was a turning point for me with my neurographic art. I’m no longer looking around to see what anyone else is doing. I don’t care what your art looks like. I don’t care if I’m doing this right. I’m no longer worrying about what I’m supposed to be doing.

Surprisingly, this feels like a bad attitude to have. It feels much like giving up, admitting defeat, declaring myself a failure. At the same time, I know it’s a very good attitude — at least where my art is concerned. It gives me that sense of freedom I need. It empowers me to be more, not less, creative. It offers assurance that whatever I do will be good enough — as long as I do it honestly and authentically. That is to say, as long as I do it from my heart.

You know, maybe there is something to this claim of neurographic art having the power to change one’s life.

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Your heart drawing didn’t look like a monster to me; I see a bird facing left (red beak, violet head, violet heart wing, bright pink tail and yellow-y feet at the bottom.) So obviously the neurographic thing is working in that it released thoughts that are personal to you. I don’t think you’re supposed to expect to make a piece of art, just doodle in a way that enables the left brain (the very verbal critic,, dominant in most of us) to shut up shut up and allow the right brain to do its creative, spatially oriented thing. I often want to recommend the 1970s book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards, to you in case you haven’t found it. After 50 years some of the brain research she cites may be out if date, but she helped me learn to recognize the feeling of the shift to Right brain while doing art (I’m an intensely verbal and analytical thinker, so learning to make that shift in order to make art was life changing for me!) Edward’s also writes about how our school experiences tilt us toward left brain dominance. Most of us continue to learn new vocabulary throughout school, but most of us stop learning new visual skills like drawing by the time we’re 10. So a highly educated person may freeze with despair when confronted by a blank piece of paper and told to draw. We’re aware that we’re going to expose our lack of basic drawing skills. That’s why the idea of art therapy seems overwhelming and impossible to some of us. And “white page panic” affects me when keeping a daily sketchbook is suggested. Even though I can draw now! And even though I crave the bliss of handing over to my right brain for that timeless zone of painting, when my left brain becomes quiet and only offers criticism when I ask for it. Do read that book!

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    1. I’ve checked the book out before but have never read it completely through. I will make a point to do that. I’m finding that — so far — the neurographic art isn’t completely shutting off my left-brain “overthinking” tendencies, yet at the same time it’s definitely releasing a lot of right-brain intuitive and emotional responses. Since doing this “hearts” drawing, I’ve learned even more about neurographic art, and I’ve tried a few different things. It is an interesting process, and the therapeutic aspects of it have been very good for me.

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      1. I wish I had more time for reading. Right now, there are so many other interesting things to do, I don’t always read as much as I’d like.

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  2. Nice post Judith. I understand completely where you’re coming from. It sounds like that you subconsciously have this standard of what good art should look like and when your art doesn’t meet that criteria you bag it as bad art or a fail. I think we all do that. In a positive light, it is the fuel that keep us persevering and pushing ourselves further.

    But what you’re doing – exploring and experimenting – your stepping out into the unknown where you can’t predict the results, so you’re being really hard on yourself. A lot of people wouldn’t even have the balls just to jump in like that with their art.

    Like you said, you’re learning to draw and paint so you need to allow yourself the time to grow. Probably the best encouragement you could get from knowing if you’re on the right track is look at the work that you did from a few years ago. I’m sure you’ll see a difference, I know do with mine. If you see a development in your work and approach you know you its all happening for you!

    Oh yeah and NEVER compare yourself to others – we’re all on different timelines, experiences, priorities, motivations, lifestyles etc. There’s no point.

    Keep going!

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    1. Thanks. Oh, yes, I love looking back at old sketchbooks and seeing how my drawing has improved. My painting has changed for the better, too. The last year for me has been all about exploring and experimenting with art in ways I could never have done before. Each new thing I try, however, brings up a lot of those old childhood “art traumas”. I have to keep wrestling with the doubts. A lot of what I’m doing is very therapeutic, giving me a chance to really access all those emotions and let them out. It’s been a helpful process.

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  3. I’ve tried making a few neurographic drawings and like to turn them different ways to consider how how shapes have alternative meanings. So to me this has become kind of a mobile kind of art like Etch a Sketch” used to be with sand particles. My pens run out of ink too fast. That’s also one matter for a novice to consider.

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    1. It is fun to look at them from different angles. And, yes, ink can run out quickly. I’ve mostly been using Sharpies — they’re fairly inexpensive, plus I had a big box of them!

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