People see my work and think that the process of creating it is somehow fiddly – that I crawl across the surface of my paper or canvas with pencil or brush, minutely registering every tiny detail.
But there’s a world of difference between just copying what you see, and understanding what you see in your imagination and constructing it on the surface in front of you.
Everything I do starts with movement first. My drawings start out almost invisible. I am thinking about the movement sweeping through the body and how that arranges the forms from a larger perspective – the twist of the spine, the curve of the neck into the head, the grace of the limbs as they spiral out from the core movement of the ribcage and pelvis.
We are built like a solar system, with limbs like arms of stars twirling out from the centre.
I don’t draw a thing that looks like a human until I feel like I’ve got a grasp of the inner movement of the body. Then I start to put together the largest shapes, always thinking about movement, about how they fit together.
Once I have a “framework” for the body, I fall into the light. When people think I’m rendering tiny objects like moles, I’m actually not seeing any of that – all I’m seeing is light on flesh. How does the light touch the skin? How does it reveal itself on the form? And then I’m just following that delightful path wherever it may lead.
It is about broadness of vision, wholeness of vision. How do I create a drawing of this wonderfully whole person that feels wonderfully whole on the paper as well? When I’m really in the zone, it feels like the person is blossoming across the page, blooming into life. It feels like magic.
At the end of the day, it always comes back to grace, humanity and connection. Am I imbuing this drawing with grace? Is their deep humanity depicted on the page? Am I connecting with who this person is and expressing that? Am I connecting with myself and what I want to say?
In the tradition I studied, we learned what humanity looked like and what it didn’t look like. We are not made of cylinders and spheres and tubes. We are made of movement. We are made of stars, like some earthbound constellation.
We are everything organic and fluid and grounded. The human body is this conundrum, a vortex of energy held to the earth by gravity.
Drawing humans filled with life and vitality is the opposite of crawling across the page. Crawling freezes, stiffens, steals life away.
All I want to do is get as much life into it as possible.
(This was first published in my newsletter, which you can sign up for here!)