For years, I was intimidated by abstraction. Then I encountered the description of Meredith Rosier’s course: Abstraction & Drawing as a “joy ride through an alternative universe to drawing a visual tale.” At that moment, intrigue conquered intimidation. I entered the “Drawing Galaxy” in 2010 and cherish my status among its inaugural explorers!
The notion of what constituted a compelling abstract image escaped me. I especially wondered how a drawing could be judged successful without representation or reference. Immediately these questions took back seat to the fascination of the journey the course proposed.
Where to begin without a figure, still life or landscape to replicate? That, of all my concerns, took precedence. Imagine my delight when seated at my drawing table with pencils and pastels at hand, I was told to close my eyes and proceed as though blind-folded. The explicit instructions to make small, medium and large marks; to switch from one pencil to another; or, to use eraser, stump or scrubbing cloth, were a welcome surprise. Amidst the realm of uncertainty that abstraction presents, I found solace in these precise instructions.
My eagerness to grasp the abstract mysteries had me attend to every word of instruction shared in our discussion circle that weekly precedes putting pencil to paper. From traditional concepts such as color and composition to surprising discussions of air, integrity and vitality, I recorded these weekly dialogues almost verbatim. Those notes ended up forming the impetus for this publication.
Often these conversations verge more into authorship than artistry. Marks have a ‘voice’ that forms a distinctive vocabulary enabling a dialogue between hand and eye. We are encouraged to listen to the drawing to determine what it is demanding. Is it saying, ‘This is what I am?’ Or instead, maybe a hint will do. Even poetry arises amidst the discussion: “Some drawings will ask different things. Some arrive quickly, some not at all; most do; muddle through!”
Never before has oddness been encouraged! What fun. A chance to see things differently and stop making sense. To ‘court’ drawings and even let the materials have their way with us. We are instructed to allow some drawings the luxury of getting to know us – to even drop the “I” and it is no longer a dialogue but rather, a direct knowing.
I imagine myself sitting at the drawing table with the metaphoric blind fold and a grab bag of tools and colors. My unconscious is invited to an uninhibited exploration. What will emerge this time from the vault of uncertainty? The drawing galaxy is ripe for discovery. Let us begin!
Joan Oliver, 2016