I am so tired from today’s drawing class, I don’t think I can stand to do more than bullet-point this entry, but the entry must be made.
Spikes versus breadth
This weekend Erik and I drove back to the South Bay for Shra’s birthday dinner. I was in a fabulous mood from seeing Dana and in anticipation of Huy’s visit, and I was excited to see the family and happy to be on the road with Erik. On our way to the dinner, I had a thought and we started talking about it. I have long known that my mind and interest tend to breadth as opposed to depth; I am more knowledgeable than anyone I know when it comes to lots of different topics (that is to say, I am more conversant in more things), but unlike many of my peers, I am unable to summon expertise on any one particular topic. As I say, I’ve long known this, and it’s often brought me shame and despair, because most of the people we tend to know about are people who have depth, and not necessarily breadth, of knowledge — what the Enron book calls “guys with spikes.” For a long time, I thought that because I’m not a spiky person, I couldn’t be good at anything; I didn’t realize that what my breadth calls for is a paving of my own path. This dovetails neatly with the insights in the Bateson book. Spiky people can easily find success because the traditional path is designed for spikes — people who have technical brilliance in one or more fields, but who may or may not be good at anything else or able to connect their skill to other fields — whereas those of us who don’t fit neatly into a spiky mold are all different, because each or our breadths encompasses different things. As a non-spiky person, I should look for role models in people like Lynda Barry, to whom neat labels aren’t easily applied (is she a cartoonist? writer? visual artist? she’s actually a terrible cartoonist in the sense of making cute drawings, but she writes extraordinarily beautiful stories and includes wonderful, poignant collages in her books), whose work is wildly original in part simply because it transcends normal boundaries of genre and discipline. This is an exciting thought, a liberating thought, and also an intimidatingly undeniable confirmation that my only true path is of my own forging.
It has also just occurred to me that the tendency toward breadth may also naturally explain our (mine, Lynda Barry’s, Julia Cameron’s, etc) interest in collage: the taking of peculiar things from disparate sources and combining them into one seamless whole. Oh, that we can be reduced to so blatant a piece of psychology!
On the way back from the dinner, my head hurt, so I took off my glasses. Wow! Suddenly my vision was filled with sparkling circles of light, and the dark highway became a beautiful place. I have no idea about the science behind this, but somehow when my glasses are off my eyes render streetlights and headlights as concentric ovals composed of dots of light. These move and dance and twinkle. I am still trying to figure out how to depict this visually. If only I could paint, I’m sure I could manage it, but I’m not sure I’d be able to draw it without making a preliminary sketch — and it’s a funny subject because I can’t possibly sketch it from life. I can’t see to sketch in the dark and without my glasses, and if I put my glasses back on the view changes back into its normal quotidian self. A quandary.
I also discovered that my mind wandered nicely when I took off my glasses; it followed its own lines of thought and was not fettered by my usual analytical brain; it was like being in a waking dream. I don’t know if this is because taking away my sight helps me tap into my less linear thought processes (not so self-importantly adult and analytical), or whether I was just extremely tired (which I was), and blurring my vision helped me fall into a halfway dream state.
At any rate, while I was glasses-less, I started thinking about the wonderful Japanese chests I’d seen at Hana Antiques, and it occurred to me that it would be very pleasant to build my own elaborate wonderland-y cabinet, and cover it with collagey decoupage. From this I developed an extensive, highly pleasurable daydream about exhibiting my work at Alphonse Berber Gallery and thereby becoming so known as an artist that my friends and family are awed by my fame, leading to eventual New York Times recognition as “the brilliantly, imaginatively protean artist Lisa Hsia, who first made her name with exquisitely decoupaged antique furniture.” At this point my head was hurting (differently, now) from having no glasses on, so I put them back on, and in the cold light of actually being able to see, I started to wonder: (a) wouldn’t decoupaging an antique tansu be a travesty, and (b) what am I supposed to make furniture out of; I’m no carpenter and I really can’t be learning carpentry on top of everything else, and (c) won’t a decoupaged chest just look really hideous and craftsy-kitschy? My reignited left brain would have completely killed the idea, but that my right brain was still hanging on to the glorious feeling the original concept gave me. So, following the wisdom of The Muse and Julia Cameron, I’ve decided that the best thing to do is to just give my idea a whirl and see what happens. And why not! Decoupage is fun, absorbing, and cheap. Consequently, I’m amassing magazines and have begun Xacto-ing out clippings, and will soon pay Blick a visit to get decoupage medium and tools. I’ll try decoupaging my dollhouse first (which, yes, I also need to sand and build in the first place), and if that looks promising, I’ll see what I can do in the way of getting cheap used furniture. It’s a fun thing to be messing around with while I’m attacking my other, more “serious,” projects.