Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
The entire external world is a blur. There is nothing but the sound of lead scratching paper that may occasionally break the soothing sound of silence. Everything has lost its relevance – everything except the mess in front of me. As my eye traces the paper’s surface, my mind absorbs the array of details. Calmly, I take in the little inconsistencies between what is on the canvas and what I envision in my head. There is a noticeable incongruity; perhaps not to the untrained eye, but to me, the creator, minute discrepancies are everywhere.
I breathe in. Like Alice falling into Wonderland, I spiral away from the real, conscious world, and into an enchanted realm. It is here, in this state of mind, that I am most at home. In this trance, I am able to experiment and plan freely, without the constraints of peripheral judgment, human necessities, or time. It is not that I have forgotten about the existence of the outer world’s appraisal, the ever-growing presence of hunger and fatigue, or the subtly ticking clock on the wall that is shouting for me to do homework and go to sleep. Rather, I have chosen to ignore their existence and focus on the beautiful challenge at hand. In this moment, I am lost in a state of simple persistence, intellectual clarity and pure artistic creativity.
Pencils sharpen as lines thicken and shadows darken. I weigh the discrepancy between the visual ahead and the goal in my mind. Gradually, the difference becomes smaller and the piece itself develops into something more and more aesthetically appealing. I am rapidly approaching my threshold.
On paper, the four hands have come to life. They’re each holding a pencil, deftly drawing the next hand as a preceding one reciprocates the favor. It’s a take on M.C. Escher’s Drawing Hands.
“Good artists copy; great artists steal,” echoes a familiar voice from within the walls of my mind.
The Picasso quote resonates in my head as I absorb what I have just finished. A baby’s hand clumsily clutches a pencil as it draws an adult’s hand holding the same utensil. The adult in turn skillfully illustrates an elder’s hand. The aged hand wrinkled with time then sketches a skeletal hand. Finally, the pencil-gripping bones complete the cycle by drawing the original infant’s arm. As my eyes trace this continual cycle, I am reminded once more of the fact that nothing is completely original. The notion that creativity sparks spontaneously from nothing is, in itself, imaginary. Everything has its genesis in something pre-existing. Though the old and worn seem to expire and disappear, they breathe new life into our world by inspiring us. New creations use the invaluable past as a foundation and take from the pre-existing, seldom with permission.
I take a long, drawn-out breath, holding the paper while taking a step back from the wooden frame of the easel and emerging from the daze that consumed my mind. In my sketch I see hints of da Vinci’s delicate lines, Caravaggio’s contrast of darkness and light, and Escher’s surreal tautologies. In everything I encounter, I find similar traces of a lingering past; in lyrics, architecture, today’s apparel, tomorrow’s technology, and even in the slick design of an ordinary chair. No longer is my work a mere blur; it has become clear. Having lost myself within the realm of a familiar artistic trance, I have paradoxically found a new, discerning lens through which I can now view the world.