When I was four, or maybe five, I made drawings in crayon of a sailor who was my father gone to war. That was the first and last time I was complimented for my artistic ability. And I never got any better.
As the years passed I discovered that even a simple line was beyond me. That’s how I first became aware of the importance of the line. I couldn’t draw one. And a line is often, it seems to me, the essence of a work of art. It’s where it all begins. My lines were always clumsy and ugly and utterly lifeless.
For the last two months I’ve been looking at paintings and drawings on Facebook. I have acquired, without quite knowing how, some wonderful FB “friends” who post art every day. And so I “thumb” through 20, 30, even 40 drawings and paintings from the greats of the renaissance, the 19th and 20th centuries, and occasionally, even our current century.
My day is changed by what I’m looking at. I can’t say how, but it has to do with watching whole worlds and people emerge from a few lines and some splotches of color. Chunks of paint become skies rising up out of water. And light. My god, how does a flat, plain canvas come to be filled with light? The light fills a village street, dances in a garden, creases an apple, caresses a cheek.
And the lines, oh my, a line becomes a galloping horse, a mountain, trees shimmering in the wind, a reclining woman. You read her life on her face.
I wonder about those lines. Not too long ago at the Legion of Honor Art Museum in San Francisco I was standing in line with two women, one of whom was exclaiming over the painterly career of the other. When I talked to her−the one in the arts−she explained to me that she’d been utterly incapable of drawing until few years ago when she read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. A simple instruction from the book and she was drawing and painting. At the age of sixty, she’d learned how to make a line on paper or canvas.
Ever since then I’ve wondered. Would a simple change in cranial hemispheres make a difference? Could my ugly line get up from the page and move? Could it come to life?