Exhibitionist.

I have an art show going on display in November.

It’s not really that big a deal, it’s just a dozen or so pen and ink drawings going up at a local coffee shop.  But it’s a very big deal to me.

This is going to be the first time I’ve hung anything since I was a junior in high school, which is so long ago that I don’t like to think about it.  I don’t draw for a living; I draw because it makes me feel all peaceful inside when I get something right.  Usually I draw something, and then scan or photograph it for the amusement of my friends, and then it gets shuffled around from spot to spot in my apartment until it’s thrown away.

The thought of showing some work terrified me, so I set it up.  I started working on it late last year, and now here I am with some hunks of illustrator’s board and a dozen pencil sketches, and a fistful of pens.

It’s a shop that I have a relationship with, otherwise I would never have had the opportunity to show anything.  I don’t even have a portfolio for Christ’s sake.

What I’m going to be putting up is a series of pen and ink figure drawings.  The focus is the expressive nature and unique mobility of the human form.  The drawings will be black and white only.  I may decide to do some brushwork, but at the present time they are intended to just be line drawings.  The figures will be nude; it’s the only way to see the parts of the body that I want to highlight most.  The drawings will be without identity; gendered but not sexualized.

It’s not going to be anything terribly interesting.  Rodin and Picasso, two of my very favorites, did figure work so tortured and twisted that the positioning of the figures was itself an abstraction of a representative form… this is not what I’ll be doing.  I’m just not good enough for that kind of work.  That’s what a lot of people don’t seem to understand about abstraction… in order to do it well, you need to have the basics first.

And this show will be the basics.

This scares me.  As long as people don’t know that you’re an artist, they won’t expect art from you.  Once you let on that you’re an artist, everyone takes a sort of superficial interest, and you have to prove your worth.

Part of my whole plan for getting by socially is to foster low expectations.  That way you always thrill people.

I’m not like other artists.  I don’t enjoy sitting around and discussing dead white men.  I can discuss theory and technique, I suppose… but this stuff doesn’t really hold my interest.  I don’t care about most poetry or philosophy… and I’m just not educated enough to hang with that crowd.

I just want to poke my finger into my brain until something comes out, and hopefully go a little deeper each time.

I guess that gets into why this is so terrifying to me… I was talking to my brother about it, and he said, “well, if the show isn’t good, nothing bad happens.”

This is incorrect.  The idea of art, of being an artist, is a part of my identity.  It’s perhaps not a part of my public presentation, but it’s a part of who I am. And failing at this so late in the game would force me to question that.  Which means potential existential misery, the reinforcement of ego, and a period of time spent dedicated to the rebuilding process.  That’s not something I really have the time or the energy for.

I guess it would be better to know either way, but finding out in such a public setting is horrifying.

You see, my friends always tell me that I’m good at x, and talented with y, but you never really test your mettle until you perform for strangers.  Your strangers have no context, they don’t know you, and they have no incentive to be kind to you.  If you can’t provoke some kind of reaction in those folks, you have failed.

I’m also on a bit of a schedule, and between ten missing sketches and my unfortunately timed brain injury, that schedule is a bit tight.  I’ve had this one drawing that has been sitting on my table for the last two weeks inspiring feelings of dread, because it wasn’t right.  The proportions were off, and since it contains multiple figures and the relation of those figures to one another is actually important, it was a difficult thing to touch.

Tonight, I stopped staring and fretting, and just started working.  And it’s fixed.  Well, the worst of the problems are fixed, at least, and now I can plunge forward.  The feeling isn’t something that I can communicate… it’s like a feeling of release of tension, tinged with wonder and joy.  I feel a little bit dizzy and warm about it, it’s that strong a reaction.  I am free of the tyranny of this thing.  It just goes to show that sometimes a problem is beyond brain work; sometimes you just need work work.

Enough, I have to get back to it.  If I pull this off, I will provide photos in a future post.

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Author: adrennan

An artist and writer in Bellingham, Washington.

One thought on “Exhibitionist.”

  1. It’s a step ahead! It’s the first step to being known as an artist! I mean, I know you as an artist, but I’m one person! And I’m the person standing behind you, super proud of you for putting yourself out there. 🙂

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