Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nest of thoughts

Oh no, a post lacking photos! How dull! Very Livejournal-ish, let me spare you the effort:

TLDR: I'm really bad at drawing backgrounds/landscapes. I need to practice, but that sounds like work. Ugh.


When we were younger, my mother would frequently reference the idea of doors closing with age. Opportunities lost as time passed. I would never be a Olympic gymnist. I would never be a ballerina. It isn't always age that closes a door, often it's intent. I'll never be a poet, I'll never be a chemist, I'll never be an economist. This idea has always stayed with me.

There aren't many things that have passed me by that I honestly regret going. Sure, I wish I was athletic enough to be a circus performer, but that's not a realistic interest. I mention this, because I'm dwelling lately on whether my ability to "level up" at drawing has passed me by.

Most things are a matter of will, so why don't I just "try harder"? The problem I'm facing these days is I'm blanking on how to draw backgrounds. I simply have no idea what to put there. I know in a vague hand-waving way what I want to see, but the technical execution of pen hitting paper (or screen) escapes me.

I enjoy analogies and parallels, especially across my interest. Quilting and algorithms strike me as similar. To me, drawing is similar to data structures. It's the distilling and modeling of reality into this other medium. Failure to sketch landscapes/environments/backgrounds then translates into... what? Perhaps it's like you're describing a problem and don't know how to model it. It's not that I can't figure out the steps, it's that I can't figure out the very thing itself. Like I didn't know about a map or linked list or something.

Unlike the many things that I'm not good at, I'm finding this to be increasingly distressing. The lovely tabletop game I'm in has some delightful descriptions in it and I can easily "see" a scene. I know, as the description unfolds, what's there and my mental image remains consistent throughout the scene and often across sessions. But what am I seeing if I can't sketch it? I'm so confused.

Suko, one of the players, has taken to making audio recordings of the sessions which she then transcribes to everyone's delight and benefit. It's a monstrous outgrowth of her perviously daunting activity of taking notes during the session and then writing them up. Aside from rapturous joy, these transcripts also bring a sense of despair. I now, better than ever, can reflect on the descriptions given and then hold my pen at the ready, doing nothing. A lovely example from the last session:

They walk through the tunnel out onto a gently rolling hillock. On one side we see stretched before us, low buildings made of stone and metal roofs. The moon is hanging over them. It is sort of magical.

It flows into another hillock, over which hangs the other moon. At the top of that hillock are two people, backlit by the moon, sitting and holding hands.

And to the left, starting slowly at first but then growing to a veritable mound, nay, a hill, nay a mount...of bones. Bleached white and gleaming in the moonlight. Skulls. Femurs. Ribcages.

I totally know what that looks like. Except I apparently don't because I've tried twice now to frame the shot and end up with some really weak squiggles.

In a pervious game I sat and watched a fellow player sketch out the dramatic scene we were playing out right then and there. I can't recall a time in recent history where I felt such a intense stabbing, burning feeling of envy. It's been over three years and I still dwell on it.

The worst part is that I think I know what I need to do. Am I going to fail simply because I can't bring myself to take the correct actions? Possibly. In order to draw scenes and backgrounds for my characters, I need to be able to draw scenes and backgrounds without characters, which means I need to practice just drawing landscapes (and cityscapes, and interiors).

I hate landscapes. I mean, I can sort of appreciate an illustration or photo of a landscape (I don't *actually* hate them, the way I do poetry. Ugh, poetry...) but they're really quite booooring. Have you seen my photography compared to Adam's? All my shots have subjects right there in them, front and center (more like 2/3rds to the right) where as Adam's are sweeping shots of things far away. Buildings or a hill or a subject-less city-scape. It's his thing, our travel photos benifit from the mixture of our contributions.

Practice makes perfect. Drawing landscapes sounds like a pile of homework. I haven't done homework in nearly 10 years. Am I willing to put in the practice to get better? I hope so. I worry though.

I'm going to go buy a book tomorrow of landscapes and attempt to sketch from it-- finding digital references is just another avoidance tactic I've found. I really, really, really hope I find the strength to focus and work on this. Right now it sounds comparable to chewing glass.