an obsessive anatomy

I made a decision at the beginning of high school that changed me forever. I have no regrets. The memory isn’t bitter. At the time, my choice made sense, and it still does–nonetheless, it was a strange decision to make.

From the near-beginning of my life until ninth grade, my foci were drumming, writing, and visual art. I think drawing was the first, it had always been, I’d always done it. Writing came not long after. (I had to learn to enjoy books first, but once my hunger for narrative started in third grade, feeding myself was a quick and natural progression.) Drumming took longer–in fifth grade I started band as a percussionist, but didn’t connect with it in that innate gut-kindling inescapable magnetism till the summer before ninth grade, when I began studying the drum set.

I can’t pinpoint the existential moment I started drawing, but I know when I stopped: high school. This goes back to the choice I began with. Two weeks before high school began, there was band camp. The day it was supposed to start I was wavering: I could continue with music and let it become my own personal, friendly parasite (I’d heard stories of high school band and its tyranny)–or, I could quit, and focus on visual art. (At the time, I had aims of going into character design.)

My mom neatly dispatched my indecision. Her solution: attend a day of band camp, test the waters, choose. I tested the water, chose the drums–and for the most part, turned my back on visual art.

I’m not sure why. It’s not that I thought my percussive center was already folding, that I was groping desperately for anything that might save it–because it wasn’t folding. On the contrary; it was lifting its head. Sniffing the air. But still. Why side with a medium I’d loved only a year, when visual art had been with me almost my whole life? The simple answer is that band was a hel of a lot of fun (probably mostly because it was actually pre-, percussionists-only, band camp). And, undoubtedly, my…interest in a certain unnamed instrumentalist (who I had no doubt would be continuing band) had something to do with it, as well.

My other answer: I’d found my musical heart (metal) a year before, and already knew I wanted a band of my own. Alas, I wasn’t a stellar drummer (still working on that, always will be), and I knew I needed help. Band, and its percussionist director, could be that help.

End-story: I gave up drawing. I kept doodling on my paper edges, but the intensity was gone. I stopped filling sketches, I stopped trying. This lasted for years–a decade, I just realized, looking at the calendar. I was fourteen at the time. I’m twenty four now.

In June, I started drawing again. Not scribbles; not copious, repetitious and embarrassingly sloppy eyeballs. I began drawing with intent. Studying anatomy and form and movement–distilling and stilling it all as I focused on the lines I was making, learning to be dissatisfied again, to see my failures once again, learning shove through them and find even more, because that’s how you get better, you know. That span of lost time has the potential to sicken and frustrate me (just think how much better I’d be now if I’d kept at it), but I won’t let it, and it just doesn’t. I did plenty during that time, and I’m glad for it, and the way I went forth. I wrote and drummed demonically, and now I have a published book, published stories and poems. I have a band (multiple bands) to call my own.

One thing I remembered vaguely about drawing, but didn’t really truly recall, was how obsessive I can get about it. I’m driven and (paradoxically) singular in all things, but with visual art, the obsession is even more innate, somehow deeper. When I’m free-playing on my drums, I can find my flow easy, but if I’m working through a new groove, or focusing on some weird foot ostinato with tricky limb independence over top I have to be awake–and while that wakefulness is sinewy, it can, on occasion, be snapped. Yet, if I sit down and tell myself ten minutes on this painting and NO MORE, I’ll typically find myself still drawing or painting, arting, whatever, three hours later. It’s a dangerous preoccupation, because drumming and writing are still my heart (rather than being a near satellite like visual art is), and lately, it’s been destructively distracting (for those of you nonexistent people who’ve wondering at the lack of blog posts that contain words, you’ve found your answer). The haze is so addictive that if I want to get anything done, I have to keep my sketchbook in a separate room, and my tablet unplugged.

I want to keep drawing. There’s so much I want to be able to do with pen and paper and paint and pencil, etc , whether it’s digital or analogue, so in these dwindling months till grad school, when time will be severely squished, I need to learn how to get things done again (I’m currently not counting making visual art in the ‘getting things done category’). Maybe teach myself to make drawing a treat. Or possibly a bribe.

But until I reign myself in, have some arts/works in progress. Including a new chapter of Skyglass.