April, oh April. What happened?
Well, I spent quite a bit of my creative energy on making some reduction lino prints, the results of which you see here. What you won’t miss though is that there are far fewer artworks than days. I completely lost it in April (art-every-day-wise!). For some reason, it became really hard to keep to a routine and I frequently found myself at the end of the day without having drawn anything and, rather than getting out pen and paper, instead I shrugged my shoulders and said “Oh well, it’s not the end of the world.”
Rather than give up though, I’ve called April a dud and got back into it in May.
I was asked to make a list of the ten things I’d do in the “best of all possible worlds.”
The examples given were things like … In the best of all possible worlds I’d find time every day for exercise, In the best of all possible worlds I’d be slim and healthy, in the best of all possible worlds I’d be successful at work.
I made a start and followed suite with my first couple of responses before realising that my imagination was severely limited if, given all possibilities within the laws of physics, the best possible world I could come up with was one which was exactly the same but I was thinner.
So what could the best of all possible worlds look like?
- In the best of all possible worlds, we could cultivate fantastic gardens full of flowers and fruit, with beautiful sculptures, on every street.
- Everyone, everywhere would have clean, safe water to drink and wash in.
- Artists and musicians and scholars would be free to do what they’re good at and what they love without worrying about paying rent.
- There would be an abundant supply of fresh good food for everyone.
- We could build breathtaking structures to live, work and play in – and we wouldn’t be able to tell which was which.
- In the best of all possible worlds, anyone who wants to learn. can.
- In the best of all possible worlds, the only limit is imagination.
What does your version of the best of all possible worlds look like?
I spent quite a while in February composing the final image in the gallery above – the yellow and grey one. It’s a reduction lino print in five colours, the print size is 30cm square. I created it for an exhibition at the Holy Biscuit in Newcastle, responding to the phrase “your deeds don’t define you,” and this is a visualisation of what grace looks like.
All the lines in it are hand carved and in the carving they begin to undulate as the next line responds to the one before. This is a metaphor for living a life one day at a time where the events and actions shape us. That shape can be interrupted though, either by our own conscious decision or by major events in our life, and as we allow grace to shape us we emerge into the light, a complex and beautiful being.
New nephews, new puppies and visits to family around the country have meant that I’ve slipped behind posting these updates. Some of these I drew while my nephew was sleeping and when I look at them, they remind me of him and that quiet soft time of new life stirring. There is something in the rhythm of brand new life that seems sacred. It’s tiring and can be difficult, but in the simple rhythm of sleeping, waking, feeding and comforting, it’s hard to think that life should ever be anything else or that you might ever do anything more profound.
Last year I visited the labyrinth in George Square in Edinburgh. A labyrinth is like a maze but there are no confusing options, just one long, meandering path from the outside to the centre. You take the path slowly and use it as a metaphor for a spiritual journey (except in my experience spiritual journeys have been more like mazes – confusing, alienating and with surprises round every corner). This labyrinth is simply laid out in the brickwork, no raised hedges or walls, just a path to follow that’s a slightly different colour to the ground around it. I was very good on my walk into the centre of the labyrinth, following the path carefully and slowly. On the way out, however, I felt the need to cross the lines, run wildly across parts of it and deliberately trod on the edges.
Following the labyrinth in is a similar experience to making some of these drawings. All I’m concerned about is the next step, and once I’ve made the rules for each drawing, created the structure of the design, then all I need concern myself with is the next step. It’s peaceful and the end results become complex and beautiful.
However, sometimes I feel the need to tread on some lines and run wildly across the page. I guess that to allow the pictures to evolve, there needs to be some risk taking and some rule breaking – it doesn’t have to be much, but enough to remind me that rules are manmade constructs and they should be challenged now and again.
Week 2 has been generally less satisfying than week 1. I guess that’s always the case with developing rituals, as they remain the same, our approach to them fluctuates. Sometimes they are a joy, other times a chore. Not that these felt like a chore, just that as the pace of life picks up it’s easier to rush them, and by rushing, make mistakes. Also, I think it’s around this time that the questioning sets in, what am I doing this for? what benefit is it? My carefully thought through ideas about seeing evolution in design over weeks and months falter as I worry it’s in its second week it’s already too repetitive or, conversely, that my drawings are too safe and consistent and I should branch out more.
If my theory holds true, those feelings should dissipate over the next couple of weeks and I’ll really start seeing if there is meaning in the ritual and in the resulting art.
I have been fascinated by ritual recently* and decided to create a ritual of a small, simple drawing every morning. Others have often found value in simple rituals of prayer or meditation and I’ve found the idea compelling but never made it work for me. This is my attempt to find a comfortable ritual in which I find meaning and value in patterns which repeat and evolve over days and weeks and to daily create space for the kind of peace and purpose that accompanies drawing for me. I find my thoughts being drawn to many topics but rarely those that make me anxious. I find worry and flow aren’t good companions, and one will always oust the other. I find God present during those times and I become aware of the world in new ways. I want to see what happens to me as a person if I incorporate such time as a daily ritual. Will it change me? Will I generally become more peace-filled and less anxious? It’s too early to say yet but I’ve been enjoying the drawing!
Occasionally I may make a video as I did this week and share some of those thoughts with the world.
*Asking questions like – how are ritual and habit related? Are rituals necessary for individual and society to function well? How do we create meaningful rites of passage? etc.
This is a little 4 inch square drawing on heavyweight paper. I’ve made a little video of me drawing it in order to introduce my new every day project. Last year I made something most days, often it was art, but other times I wrote poetry or other things (and yes, some days I forgot!). This year I’m going to draw, paint or print something every day that I can post to instagram because that’s what people seemed to appreciate from my creative efforts last year. I’m using the same size for all my artwork to keep things consistent.
I’ve been doing a fair few drawings and prints in a similar style, that I’m calling ’emergence’ because the art emerges from the process of creating it. I’m hoping that doing a small drawing each day will allow those ideas to evolve slowly in a natural organic way and you’ll be able to see the development of them if you’re interested in following along.
Here’s my process video of this 1st January drawing, with my narration of the thought process behind it. You won’t get a video every day because it’s taken a lot longer to make the video than it did to do the drawing. It’s all been filmed and edited on my phone – isn’t technology brilliant!
Art every day 2016 from Lou Davis on Vimeo.
I’ve been trying my hand at reduction lino printing for this year’s Christmas Cards.
Reduction printing is where you carve out the first colour that you want to print, in this case the cyan, then when you’ve taken as many prints as you want (plus a few spare in case of mistakes!) you carve back into the same block for the next colour. You can use as many colours as you like for this process, but because it was the first time I’d tried it, I thought I’d stick with two.
It goes without saying that I’ve been humming the hymn a lot. All the way through making the cards, writing them, posting them I’ve been singing ‘peace on earth and mercy mild …’ etc.
May the sun of righteousness bring light and life to you all this Christmas.
I have always admired the artists whose work can be identified from a single glance because they have a consistent visual language that follows through no matter what medium they are working in. This year I have been trying (mostly failing – but trying nonetheless) to create regularly, daily. Some of this creativity has been in art, sometimes in writing, the results of which have been poetry for performances and occasional longer pieces that will hopefully one day become a book. In my art, I have been sporadic and visually all over the place. In recent months though, I think I may be getting closer to really honing in on a visual style that is all mine. Of course, there are influences from folk I admire but in print and drawing and painting, I believe I’m getting more consistent and original.
Here’s some recent work in a variety of media so you can see what I mean. I think there is an obvious style that follows through in all the work even though the images are a mixture of print and drawing techniques. Many of these are the results of the emergence drawings I did and blogged about previously. I’m now thinking of how to develop that in the new year as I’m going to develop more work about rituals and rites of passage.
Collagraph with Chine Colle