I’ve had some interesting feedback about the possible links between the books we like to read and how we draw. At my drawing class, struggling with the still life, I asked my two neighbours what sort of things they liked to read, and I could immediately see the connections. The careful and sensible collection of pots seemed to fit nicely with ‘Call the Midwife’, and a bold splat of shapes with ‘I’m dyslexic – I only read magazine articles’. You may be sceptical – of course we all hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see. But I also asked Neil, the tutor, and it’s not too hard to join up his current reading – Haruki Murakami, magic realism – to these paintings, is it?
Then I visited one of my favourite blogs, ‘A Sketch for the Day’, and asked the artist what sort of books he read. He quite reasonably asked me to guess: I see his sketches as very contained but full of narrative so, I went for short stories – and was right!
I was completely defeated by Norman Ackroyd though. I watched a BBC programme about him going out in a boat to sketch the northern most rocks off the Scottish coat – fantastic forms and tones, along with a great sense of space and wilderness. Watching him at work translating these sketches into a copper plate etching, it was impossible to imagine that he ever picked up a book as he was so entirely engrossed in the landscape that he was recreating in the studio.
It’s important to challenge simple theories and connections, anyway. They generate poor art, bad writing and threadbare therapy. Lives are far too complex, multidimensional, messy and unpredictable to describe in terms of simple links. One of my favourite psychoanalytic writers, the late Stephen Mitchell, talked about our lives as works of art. I don’t have the direct quote, as I lost all of my books in a house fire 18 months ago, and haven’t replaced everything. But I described it like this in my own writing –
Every stimulus or experience is fashioned and organised into a subjective world by an active organism. A self is created like any work of art, from the interplay between an imaginative process and available material such as relationships and contexts. The materials offer potential and constraints that the process must work with, but the product is more than the materials.