In progress: Romancing The Line

iPhone picture of a drawing I made in 2008/09
[Close up iPhone photo of a framed drawing that I made in 2008 when I was last drawing regularly.]

Some short fiction/art writing I’m working on:

Before you begin to draw, you’ll need immaculately stretched, white paper. Stretch the paper by first baptizing it with water from a sponge, and then, quickly and gently, flattening it against a wall, maybe with the help of a friend who holds the top corners in place while you douse brown, gummy tape in a bucket and seal the edges of the paper to the wall, knowing that there must be no wrinkles in the white paper—those would be lines of the wrong sort. The surface of the paper should be still like the most placid of lakes. I usually go through this process at the end of my studio day—often alone, sometimes with a studio mate—with the last of the natural light that streams in through the peaked skylights. That way the paper can dry overnight, its bulges and imperfections spreading out into the flattest, cleanest of surfaces that are ready to carry significant marks and many mistakes.

I was going to say “Lake Placid,” when I mentioned the surface of lakes, but isn’t that a horror story; so maybe that kind of invokes the absolute terror of the white page? The blank that, as we all good grad students know, is never blank—really—but loaded with all of the other lines that have ever been made: Lines in the sand, cuneiform lines in clay submerged in the Nile’s banks, Richard Long’s long walks in fields that he photographed as lines, and the lines that Robert Rauschenberg erased off of De Kooning’s thick, hard, aggressive, misogynistic drawing—the thickest drawing he had tucked away, a challenge to the young Rauschenberg.

So, you’re standing in front of this piece of paper, still damp, so you can’t touch it yet with your pencil (you’d end up with a scored line but not much graphite-gray on the page). And the page has all these lines, but they are all erased and you have to figure out which ones to take the lead from—which footsteps to walk in across the desert page. You start somewhere, mid-left, top, and you trace an outline by tracing one hand up and down and around your own body, and one hand guiding the pencil. As if both hands were eyes, seeing in touch-o-vision. The lines start off tiny, repetitive, like whiskers…