Thursday, July 15, 2010

With Drawn

I pick up my pencil to draw...and put it down again. Because to pick up a pencil I need an eraser—I can’t put a line down unless know I can erase it. I can only speak with certainty those lines that I know I can obliterate.

My thin graphite line is wandering, feeling around the outside of my imagination, afraid to poke into or describe it with certainty. To describe with certainty is to commit, and that’s terrifying, because that line might be the wrong line. That wandering grey shade that held promise within its wooden cocoon could fall flat once expressed. Lying there, naked and exposed on the paper, it may want to cover itself and wish itself into another position. It may scream to be back in its comfort zone just a quarter inch to the right, or cry for the lost potential as a line with an entirely different vanishing point. Putting down the wrong line means building a false, distorted structure on the paper of my mind, creating a grotesque nightmare-scape instead of the world I intended to imagine and describe.

The wrong line then becomes all I can think about, dominating my eyes and my head and my hand until it is all I can see, and I can draw nothing else. The line that was once mine but suddenly is no more, screams about the once white surface of the page, darkening and creating chaos, trying to digging into itself for cover, and crossing over itself, in its frantic directionless-ness. Under its weight, the paper crumbles under and into my hand, and flies away, to join a hundred of its kind, wasted for want of an eraser, lost, and abandoned.

So I need my eraser. For the power to create, in me, only exists if it walks hand-in hand with the power to destroy.

The eraser is power. It eliminates uncertainty, through its magical promise of redoing. Through the grace of its forgiveness, I find confidence. Where my line was frenetic,and searching, now it is daring. Where once it was lost, now it is exploring, and trailblazing, into territory that is new, yet familiar. My pencil is transformed from a mindlessly wandering divining rod, dousing for some hint of creativity, into Harry Potters hand selected wand, casting spells that I only vaguely and second handedly connected to.

Amazingly, having the eraser means using the eraser less. Like a child who cannot sleep without his pacifier-it is not to be used throughout the night, but as a periodic touchstone of security, allowing me to drift off me to where it is safe and secure, and familiar, yet as mysterious as a dream not yet dreamt.

One day I may have the line that is confident without the promise of erasure. One day I may recognize the eraser for what it is; the false confidence of Dumbo’s magic feather, or worse, the hidden double-edged sword of the monkey’s paw. But until then, I need my eraser.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Hi Marc!

I felt prompted to Google you after seeing your name in the credits of the just-release Winter World trade collection and found this and your main website.

I was just going to drop an e-mail, but read this and had to respond.

My (better) art teachers directed me to draw with a pen instead of a pencil as often as possible. Partly to break us from the crutch of the eraser, but to force us to be bold even in the presence of mistakes already committed to the paper.

Same lesson, different path to teaching it.