For those with whom I have not yet discussed this, I had a bit of a drawing-related adventure. I started drawing with my left hand instead of my right. I’ve been functionally right-handed my whole life, so it was a bit of a shock.
For a while, I was doing little abstract drawings, switching from right to left and back again, so I suppose it wasn’t a completely new thing. But those are abstracts (as in, they can be hideously messy and no one will really know because, hey!, abstract! I meant for it to be like that, really!). My heart is in the physical world around me, though, so I also inwardly referred to the abstracts as my “nonsense drawings”, a term both comforting and derogatory.
So there I was at life-drawing, all set to go, graphite on the right, when my left side tensed up painfully. It was very distracting. No amount of stretching or wiggling could convince it to unwind, so I decided to try involving it in the process rather than ignoring it. The graphite went over to the left, and off I went, feeling a bit like I’d put my shoes on backwards. That was to be expected. But, my left side quickly loosened, and as that happened, the awkwardness was replaced by an unmistakable sense of flow.
Do you know the sense of flow? I hope you do, or that you soon will. It is quite simply one of the best parts of being alive. It’s not restricted to the arts, I think it can come up in many active and passive states. I’ve heard athletes and acupuncturists refer to it as “the zone”. To sum it up in language is tricky, so bear with me while I stumble around a little. For me it is an intense feeling of connectedness, that the elements I usually lean on to separate “me” from “that” aren’t needed anymore and fall away. Then everything moves like water. For artists, the work that we are doing seems to already exist, and our participation is more as a midwife than a creator. It is a state of complete humility and perfection, and it doesn’t give a fig about any of my descriptions of it.
Ah! Here is what I mean, beautifully put, from one Virginia Woolf: “It…makes us aware that these attempts to say ‘I am this, I am that’, which we make, coming together, like separated parts of one body and soul, are false. Something has been left out from fear. Something has been altered, from vanity. We have tried to accentuate differences. From the desire to be separate we have laid stress upon our faults, and what is particular to us. But there is a chain whirling round, round, in a steel-blue circle beneath.” She wrote about flow a lot, actually, often accompanied by water imagery. Which puts an odd spin on her suicide by drowning. But, I digress…
So along with the treat of a nice bit of flow, I’ve had this odd disorientation at the thought of unearthing a whole new layer of myself, in my mid-30’s of all times. The drawings I’ve done are a lot better than I would’ve expected from my non-dominant hand. They have in them the qualities inherent in a flow experience, and that’s a pretty big plus. But if I’m really left-handed, what else is in there trying to get out? I mean, could I be secretly Japanese? It’s just odd, is what I’m saying. I thought I knew myself pretty darn well, and it turns out I’ve been keeping secrets.
I made one frightened attempt to return to the known shelter of my right hand, and that was an important lesson in how a car must feel when it stalls. It was awful. The drawing I produced is an angry bit of atrociousness. (There I was, thinking to myself, ‘and this will be so much easier, and it’ll be beautiful and I’ll put it on my wall!’- ha ha ha. Whenever I start picturing where I’m going to hang something, I’m done for. I am no longer drawing or painting, I am now decorating, and the picture is not slow in pointing that out to me.) My right hand has a tiny little drill sergeant living in it now. Was he always there? Well, he’s pissed off, and he wants to know exactly what the plan is, and art just doesn’t work that way. He’s gotta go.