It feels incredibly selfish to go to The Huntington and devote myself to my art. I had to remind myself today that I spent thirty years working for the benefit of others. Yesterday I stopped by a fabric store in a lower income neighborhood, the very neighborhood I lived in for eleven years. As I got out of the car, a young woman was dragging her toddler boy by the wrist; he was weeping and staggering along, walking on his tiptoes. A girl of about three was expected to keep up, coaxed along through sharp, repeated commands. I felt sad for all three: the young woman obviously under stress and unable to meet the needs of her babies; the boy, not even out of diapers; and the little girl who had a toughness bordering on defiance – she’ll have trouble when she gets to school. I spent years trying to make a difference for children and teens from that kind of environment, and I know the kind of energy it takes, an energy I no longer have. I was sobered to think how quickly I moved away from the pulse of poverty.
Once I arrived in front of the statue I was drawing, all guilt evaporated, and I was again caught up in the delight of shape and form and light. I drew to a symphony of bird song and water sprinklers. Later, after lunch, I began a drawing of a huge old grape vine. I want to capture its strength and the power of life that surges through its giant, twisted limbs. When I look hard at the complexity of such a plant, I feel its endurance, which gives me a joy for life that extends beyond humans and their sordid messes. It is a necessary, spiritual experience to connect with life through nature.
I worry that we are in a fragile place as a society right now, and still too complacent. If we are not careful, we will not have the peace or the means to enjoy this amazing and beautiful earth we live on.
As for the drawings themselves, well, there is work to be done. What I see and what comes out on paper are sometimes two different things. There is the seeing of energy and movement and the solidness of form; those battle with proportion and size relationships. I want the form, but not at the expense of the feeling. It is a delicate balance. And a plant which may look deceptively simple can be just as complex and challenging as the human form.