The Lake and the Shed (with many thanks to J.K Rowling)

Now you know I love to work to music and with music… but some days are best served silent. Yesterday and today are such days. 

I used to say to students “trust the process, something will happen to make a change”. It’s harder to say it to yourself, however experienced you are. The change never comes when you want it. Not for me anyway. It always comes after the frustration has set in, when the boredom has set up home, when the last three pieces of work (or more) are saying nothing to me. It is always when I feel exhausted and the lowest that the change happens, when I’m long past thinking it will. The last few drawings have had me beat. They’re too busy. The wrong colour. They don’t connect. They’ve come from the process but not the thought. They seemed empty. I can’t see a bloody thing. I might as well be drawing in fog. So I started drawing fog. Clouds and clouds of hand manoeuvred charcoal to start with.

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Swooshing about making that silky noise. Then back to the watercolour and graphite. Unsatisfactory experiments, but satisfying play. So I kept on playing. I kept telling myself to trust it.

I’ve spoken before of my expensive paper habit…? Yes… well… the expensive paper has to be treated well if you need a soft surface that takes the paint and the graphite as required. A scratch or crease wrecks the finish. Unless… 

Yes. Unless that is where the process is leading. 

I listened to the Christmas episode of The Museum of Curiosity on radio 4 (it’s currently still available on iPlayer if you want to hear it). In this episode among other gems, J. K. Rowling talks about inspiration. Her metaphor is that she walks through the forest to the lake, and in the water lies the inspiration. The lake gives it to her if she trusts it. She doesn’t go fishing for it. Then, when the lake gives her something, she takes it to the shed and works on it. A good piece of writing is the perfect balance of lake and shed. Sometimes when she looks at something again she can see that it’s not spent enough time in the shed, or indeed, too much time in the shed. This metaphor struck me as pretty much perfect. I shall be borrowing it. 

So these last few drawings, were definitely too much shed. All shed maybe. 

What happened yesterday, in the silence, I was able to hear a small splash in the lake. The crease and the scratched surface were leading me out of the fog. Seemingly onto the rocks, but hey, I’m not chucking it back in the lake. Just give me a few weeks in the shed…

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