I spent last New Year’s Eve alone at my drawing table, drinking whiskey and copying sea animals into my sketchbook. The idea was that I would cross the threshold of the new year doing the thing I hoped to be doing for the next 12 months.
By way of that self-fulfilling prophecy, 2014 became the year of drawing.
(Spotted garden eels copied from a wikicommons photo by Matthias Kabel)
Activity Book was a daily art ritual Zedeck and I started at the beginning of the year. Everyday, in a battered old notebook, he would give me something to draw and I would give him something to write. Pictures blossomed like flowers – some pretty, some ugly – and the rhythm of the days kept my brush moving, an antidote to my ingrained perfectionism.
I drew the places I visited: Kampung Hakka, Japan, Penang. I drew a memorial for MH370 and a hell bank note for Zedeck. At Merdekarya, I drew in front of an audience while live music played in the other room.
I drew slides for a talk I gave to college kids about my fear of drawing.
I drew grass and blew it up to a 10ft mural for Five Arts Centre.
I drew a mask-making activity sheet that 200 school kids later drew on, coloured and cut out themselves.
I copied photos and traced the drawings of old masters so my hand could taste the distant shadow of their genius. Some days I hit a wall and couldn’t face another blank page, or the bitter pill of my own mediocrity. When that happened, I quit the old masters and stared at Lynda Barry’s work instead, trying to learn a different, and perhaps deeper, mastery – that the labour of making things with your hands is its own sweet, redemptive reward; the hell with obsessing whether the results are ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
This stuff I can unambiguously say was bad though:
2014 was the death of my social life. Besides social contact from work and family commitments, I didn’t get out much, or, to be honest, at all. I turned down parties, drinks and dinners because all that drawing time had to come from somewhere. I tried to be a good neighbour, friend, girlfriend and family person, but probably failed a little at all of it.
Obsessive drawing meant sitting down for hours at a time, which made me fat and lethargic about leaving the house (and taking showers).
I spent too much wasted time online, sucking tragedy and distraction from the electronic nipple of social media.
The garden is still pathetic and weedy.
Every year, the fun fair comes to Port Dickson. On New Year’s Eve, I watched the flashing lights of the ferris wheel glow in the distance. Happy, hysterical screams of people getting spun around on mechanical rides floated over on the cool night air.
I saw the fun fair being taken down and packed up the previous year. They were moving to another town. In broad daylight, stripped of glamour, tons of equipment was moved back into shipping containers. Coils of wire and machine parts lay everywhere. The labour of it all was laid bare.
In 2015, I wish you the finding and doing of similar labour – and its reward, of joy glowing and sounding in the dark.
Happy New Year!
P.S: Before the year ended, I rebuilt my email list and sent out my first newsletter. PLEASE JOIN MY MAILING LIST by clicking here or entering your email on the sidebar to the left. The newsletter looks like this. Each one is special, with art and writing that doesn’t exist anywhere else online. No spam, ever. I’ll send them only once (or very rarely, twice) a month at most, and you can unsubscribe anytime.
More sketchbook drawings: