Trust the Mess #doodle


2012-03-06 #1296

Back around 1993 I taught a drawing class that met in the gorgeous
wreck of a studio that was also my home in Baltimore. One of my
students, a bona fide poet, was struggling with the concept of gesture
drawings. For those who are not familiar, gesture drawings are very
fast sketches typically made through observation of a live model who
takes very short poses. The point is to not get hung up on the
details, but to just try to capture the essential elements of the pose
– the weight, the balance, a feel for the model’s movement. This
student, the poet, was frustrated because he was trying to work too
carefully, starting with outer shape and trying to build the drawing
by moving from one fine detail to the next. No matter how fast he
tried to work it would never be fast enough to keep up with a model
who changed her pose every 30 seconds or less.

I told him to let go of the details and to look at the whole, and then
to just get his hand moving on the page – thinking more about making
marks that moved through the form rather than carefully dabbing around
it. I also took away his pencil and gave him a fat piece of soft
charcoal to use for the drawing. He complained that it was too messy.
That’s when I said, “trust the mess” and it was his breakthrough
moment. From that night forward his work began to open up and he grew
more confident in his ability. A few months later he sent me a small
booklet of poems he had published and I was delighted to discover that
on the back cover were the words “trust the mess.”

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