Thinking again about effort. All the drawings I’ve invested time and work in– often, more than I care to remember– before realizing they’re past going anywhere good. Easy to see those abandonded efforts as at least largely wasted; easy to be frustrated, angry at my inefficiency. What’s learned, retained, will find its way into subsequent projects, and that’s something. But it never seems enough.
An early collector of my drawings once told me, “It’s nice to see something someone put some work into.” Yeah. Me too.
Of course, there’s the other side of that coin: Working the life right out of a drawing. Most of the drawings I’ve abandoned have died of overworking. Bad choices that have to do with direction are often correctable. Failing to recognize when something’s as good as I’ll be able to make it is a call I have more trouble making. And by the time I realize my mistake, it’s often hard to undo the damage I’ve done.
Sometimes the best, most lively work is the quickest. I admire painters who can capture the essence of a landscape or likeness very quickly. I wish I could work like that. Keep from getting sidetracked, making wrong turns.
But then, those turnings are why I draw. Without those explorations, whatever discoveries they lead to– some productive, some not so much– there’d just be way too many tiny little marks. Overreaching, falling short is disappointing. But much less is tedium.
The challenge remains the same: To consistently recognize that point when whatever I’m working on, part or whole, is as good as I can make it. When it’s time to dismiss further possibilities, attempts to make this or that just a little better. Time to leave well enough alone.
Sometimes there’s nothing to show for the time, the work, and if I’ve learned anything, I don’t know what. I made the effort, that’s all. And that has to be enough.