by Clara Lieu
The very early stages of a new project are always so exhilarating, because literally every effort is a chance to explore unknown territory. There’s an incredible freedom when you know there is no pressure to put together finished works for an exhibition.
In reviewing the first few drawings in this new series, I didn’t think I was doing enough with the tearing of the paper. Not only did I want the drawings to become much more sculptural, but I could see that I was tearing too carefully around the image. I had been hesitant to rip right through the image, probably because I was worried that I would lose the image altogether by doing so.
I am always very conscious of whether I am truly taking risks in my artwork. As an art student, I know that I held myself back a lot because I worried far too much about ending up with poor results. Consequently, I ended up with a lot of drawings that were reliably aesthetically pleasing, but that didn’t do much in terms of attempting new formats. Still, it’s one thing to know that you should take risks, and it’s another thing to actually do it. To initiate that process, I told myself that this new portrait was a “sacrificial” drawing, that I would tear right through the face to see what might happen.
I’m mostly pleased with this experiment, because I do think that the graphite drawing and tears are more fully integrated. In the previous drawings, the drawing and the rips didn’t interact very much. However, something was still missing, the drawing still looked a little too flat. I wanted even more depth and surface to work with. I realized as I was running on the treadmill last night (many artistic revelations seem to occur when I’m exercising) that what these drawings need is multiple layers of tissue paper. Layering the tissue paper makes sense, given that human skin is composed in layers.
Another part of this last drawing experiment was filming myself and speaking about my process while working on this drawing. I’ve been creating drawing tutorials for Art Prof, but the objective behind those tutorials was to teach universal drawing skills that could be applied to any artist’s individual style. The video I created to accompany this drawing experiment is quite different, in that I speak about my own specific process and artwork. I was hesitant at first about making this video, as I didn’t want people to interpret the video as a message that I think people should draw like me. Fundamentally, I believe that drawing is a very personal activity, and ultimately every artist has to forge their own approach. I was surprised that many people were very receptive to this process video on my Instagram, so it’s something I think I will do again.
In terms of the subject matter of the elderly nude, I still feel that my understanding of the subject of aging is very superficial at this point. Right now because it’s so early in this project, I’m focusing on experimenting with my format, materials, and drawing process. Once I’ve worked out these aspects to a more coherent stage, I’m going to start speaking to local nursing homes. I have absolutely no idea where that could go, and I know it will be anything but a simple task to get people in nursing homes to pose for these drawings.
This is also one of the few projects where the images came before the content, it’s much more common for me to have a subject and then to invent images to match the content. However, it’s exciting to think about the true meaning of these drawings to slowly emerge as I create the pieces.