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Failure in Figure Drawing? Memory and Mystery

By October 25, 2019July 16th, 2020Drawing, Figures

Failure in Figure Drawing

Failure in figure drawing can be a result of mislaid expectations. Beyond the appearance of the subject lies mystery, memory and beauty.

Failure of Expectations: Beyond Appearances

ghost drawing, vision figure drawing pen and ink

“Ghost/Vision”. ©Michelle Arnold Paine. Click to Shop. Walnut Ink on Paper 5.25″ x 6″

In many senses this drawing “Ghost” is a failed drawing. There is no solidity, the contour lines show evidence of having changed several times. The substance of the figure (the darkness of the ink) has no boundaries and has bled out into the background…

At the same time these are all the qualities you would expect to find in a ghost figure, aren’t they? I love how this drawing shows the path of the process, the journey of my perception as I sat before the figure. The vision of what I saw there is not, in fact, the reality of the person who sat before me. It is NOT solid, it is only a few blobs of ink on a page.

This drawing manifests the tension between reality and memory that we all experience. A failure of a drawing? Or a failure of my expectations? In the flow of the ink I found something I hadn’t been looking for – a drawing about memory and process that I could not have foreseen.

walnut ink figure drawing memory

“Overgrown” Inktober day 14. Click to Purchase

Mystery and Representation

In the drawing “Overgrown” the ink oversteps its boundaries. It changes path and then changes path again, leaking out both sides of the contour lines like the ivy that used to cover our Massachusetts bungalow. The line between “house” and “garden” (or in this case “figure” and “background”) becomes blurred by the ink tentacles which travel of their own accord, making rivulets like waves on the sand. It is a reminder that, despite my best efforts, whatever art I make is really nothing but dark stains of ink on paper. I can never truly re-create what I see before me in the model…

As much as I try, no drawing no matter how skilled, can ever truly represent the person I have before me. They are a unique, mysterious, fathomless creation of God, and all I have is a pen and paper. If the goal is perfection, in some senses all drawings are failures. I can only capture one piece of the truth about that person, never her entirety.