The Best Advice: Draw.

March 17, 2014 |

Q: What is the Best Advice You Ever Got from Another Artist?

A: Draw.

When I think about a single important sliver of information that I obtained from another artist, I realize that I got it from a plethora of amazing artists that have greatly influenced my practice – whether they know it or not.  So, let’s give credit where credit is due: Rochelle Feinstein, Sam Messer and Carroll Dunham.

Prior to obtaining my MFA, I really wasn’t much of a drawer.  I suffered through foundation drawing classes in undergrad and tried to find more fun in it through other courses, but it never stuck with me- I never felt like I owned my drawings.  I felt like they owned me, and it didn’t feel good. It was like I was always speaking a foreign language without the verbs! I wanted more feeling!

When I was making work to apply to grad school – let’s get real – I was making paintings full of color- color has always been my strength and I was sticking to it.  When I realized I had to make drawings to bring along to the interview, my solution was to “draw” with eyeshadow and lipstick and…paint.  Drawing is an open-ended term.  But it was like I was hiding from myself psychologically.  Why wouldn’t I just confront my one artistic fear?


The first drawing I made that I can remember that I really liked was the most simple and complex drawing I could imagine: it was a pencil drawing on computer paper.  But this drawing was a composite of EVERYTHING, derived from a timeline of my life (both public and private).  To make something that is still so important to me out of something as dumb as a pencil and crappy computer paper was and still is miraculous to me!  Materials can often be excuses- constantly hunting for the right thing to draw with, the right paper to draw on- it’s far more simple than that.  You have to find yourself to draw.

After that, it felt like I needed to prove I could draw, and in turn, I would prove that I could confront myself and what was important and meaningful to me in my practice.  Sam Messer had me drawing on the wall, literally.  With charcoal.  I’ll admit- it brought me to tears.  This may sound fun to some, reminiscent of being a bad kid drawing on the living room wall.  But for me, the dry chalky charcoal coating my nostrils, smearing on my legs was not redeeming itself.  However, when I looked back at what I had done- a drawing of whatever I wanted on the wall, coming together in a bizarre mural accented by interjections by my peers, I found that I could have fun, relate my body to lines, and let go.


The final installment of drawing encouragement that I received in academia- and the final push that I needed to become an artist that could truly consider drawing an integral part of their practice- was receiving one simple piece of advice from Carroll Dunham in a drawing workshop with my peers.

The simple phrase: Drawing Without Resistance.

There was probably a lot said before that and after that- but this simple three-word phrase turned on a light switch in my mind.  Suddenly I had no regrets!  Suddenly I felt like I was allowed to do whatever I wanted.  Why did I think I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do before that?  Well, probably because I was tormented by negative feedback that I just wasn’t doing it correctly.  But now, being given this simple allowance that I could do whatever I wanted, I felt so empowered!  If simply putting pencil to paper was right, how could I ever be wrong?

The hardest part is starting, whether it is drawing or writing or even exercising.  I’m working on constantly starting these three things- and I always feel like I’ve gotten through the hardest part already once I’ve gotten past the first mark, word, or step.

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