Excavating the Bedside Table (for treasures)
Updated: Apr 20
People have often asked where my ideas come from, sometimes coloring their question with certain expletives. For whatever it’s worth, the truth is that all of my ideas comes from drawings I’ve done. Where those drawings come from is the question. I guess they are brain droppings, and fortunately, to me, they are odorless. They are crude, plentiful, and relatively incoherent. I do the bulk of these sketches when I am very nearly asleep, but they are not comprised of things within my field of vision. Most of these images never become a sculpture, but of those that do, they often come in clusters from a single drawing session. I suppose on
some level, I recognize when I’m onto something that should be explored. A texture, a posture, a structure might repeat within a number of images that borrow from one spark or insight.
I pile these drawings up amongst my bedside reading material, right in with the Dr. Seuss, Bill Watterson, Gary Larson and other heavies, and then when I am awake, I go back through them, sorting for images that interest me. Sometimes I find an older drawing that catches my attention anew, and I may scavenge a few ideas, or elaborate on what is already there. Typically, I work with my most recent drawings, incorporating elements of older sketches that still interest me. I think of these drawings as my visual vocabulary.
When selecting a drawing that will become a sculpture, I look at various aspects of the image. A sketch might be splashy, with a strong 2D presence, but may or may not translate easily to 3D. An image that may be less compelling as flat work, might have an intimate feel that very easily translates in the round. The striking silhouette doesn’t necessarily win out. Depending on my mood, or maybe what I’ve been feeding on recently, I may end up choosing to do a more subtle, quiet form that is less demonstrative but more intimate. Sometime a form will be compelling to me because I can imagine cradling it in my hands as if holding something rare and beautiful.
Years ago I identified one way I score my ideas as to whether they go forward. It came to me (LIKE A FLASH!) as I was digging in the garden. I found a rock that resembled a rhinoceros, and I realized that of all the rocks, only that one was something I would want to keep. It occurred to me that I react the same with man-made objects. If I was digging in the garden and found it, would I keep it? Would I run home with it like a boy with his first fish, (Yes, I did that.) or would I fling it into the bushes? Images don’t much grow on me. I want it or don’t want it. Finding that captivating thing can take some digging. Then again it can just, out of the blue, like a rock, hit me alongside the head!
I dig through my drawings, and if I don’t find that one I want to see in 3D, I create more images, and dig through them. I never go through photos or art books, or Google to find inspiration. Once I have my image, I may look for anatomical information that helps me make sense of a dog’s leg, or a muscle in the head of a horse, but not for an idea.
I know my images are not for everyone. They are not orderly, they may not be plausible, as some would prefer, but they are mine, and in order to commit to making them, they have to be compelling to me. I have to want to see them, like I wanted that rock.