Monday, December 31, 2012

Use Anything

This here is another bit of blog pilfering. I cooked it up for a website I used to write for. When I quit, it got caught in the gap - it never wound up getting posted. I was just back from Italy when I wrote it. I was thinking over what I learned, not as a human being, but as an artist.

You'll have to forgive the jarringly second-person, affirmative tone. House style. I cut some introductory fluff I've covered previously here.

--- many towns in Abruzzo, the one we stayed in was a jumble of centuries-old limestone houses, walkways, and staircases built into the side of a mountain. It is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Naturally I was inspired to make some pictures.

So I went to grab my pencils and fancy paper and, what do you know, I forgot to bring them. What did that leave me with? It left me with what I had in my pocket. Which was this:

A 59-cent blue ballpoint pen, and a Moleskine. Well, that's life. I started drawing. First I drew that which provides us with the will to live:

coffee maker, 8-20-2012

And then I started a series of drawings of the dazzling perspectives around me:

nested space, Calascio, 8-22-2012

I felt pretty good about the body of work I produced over the course of the week. I would have liked to have had better materials to work with. But I didn't, so I made the materials I had work for me. I hadn't used a blue ball point pen as a serious drawing tool in many years, and it took a few tries to relearn what it brings to the table. If you're patient with them, they really have excellent and unique properties, especially for rendering soft gradations and dark darks.

a pear, 8-24-2012

But they will also support the integrity of the flimsiest net of lines.

il toro, 8-22-2012

That's great news, but in the end, I could have had anything - a number two pencil, a crayon - one time I got stuck in Joshua Tree National Park with no drawing materials except some red wine and cigarette ashes. Fine - that's enough for art supplies.

using anything

The principle this demonstrates is that you do not need to wait on materials to start making work. And conversely, you mustn't use lack of materials as an excuse not to start your work. Wherever you have eyes to see, you will find things to look at, and you will more than likely find something to draw or paint with. Roll with the punches - use what you have handy - but above all, draw and paint. It doesn't have to be perfect, you just have to want to do it. Everything else falls into place on its own.

Happy drawing, all of you.


You can see why I would want to resuscitate this little snippet, right? I think it's a good sentiment for the end of the year. I hope to retain the spirit of it myself, next year and always, and I also hope it for you. I hope you'll have the most excellent of art supplies, but I also hope you'll use anything you can grab. Just so you're working. That's a day-to-day attitude that maintains a supple art, and one that prepares you to produce the most necessary work.

horse-cheese, so called not because it comes from horse milk, 
but because it is formed in roped sacks appropriate for slinging over the back of your horse


  1. Very interesting, thanks for sharing,

    1. No problem - thanks for taking a look, Jon!

  2. I am blown away, Daniel.
    ...and uberly grateful to you for this blog. You've just put several different things into perspective for me. Cheers!

    1. Again, thank you very much for taking the time to come over and check this out - I'm glad it helped sort some things for you, and appreciate your letting me know; that kind of reply is part of what makes writing this blog worthwhile.