Update 3

(Note: I wrote this a couple weeks ago and forgot to post it so I’ll be posting another update pretty soon that more accurately reflects my current state of affairs)

Several years ago I started combining multiple drawings into one page in my sketchbook but not necessarily for stylistic reasons. Mostly I felt like only drawing one thing per page was a waste of paper. Also, by putting multiple drawings on a page, I felt like some pressure to draw perfectly or not make a mistake was taken away. If I didn’t focus on one specific drawing, I could somehow hide my mistakes or give people enough things to try to comprehend all at once they wouldn’t focus on what I felt were the “bad parts.”

写真 2

写真 2-2

Examples of my early sketchbook pages

photo 5

For my final project, I’ve been trying to sketch out how I want it to look, how I want it to flow on the canvases. I think I’ll end up with several canvases, and it will be similar to the style I inadvertently started using in my sketchbook, but instead of trying to hide things I think it will work to highlight the things that are really important. I’m trying to combine more or less unrelated images and turn them into something related and relatable and cohesive and thematic. So. I guess I’ve got my work cut out for me. I guess I should clarify and say that the images I’m using are unrelated in the sense that they don’t exist in the same plane of reality. I’m not painting a panoramic landscape where each scene connects naturally to the next. That’s not to say that what I’m painting is a bunch of unrelated scenes; they are related to each other through me. What ties it all together is that they are all pieces of my experience. So, of course I can feel the connection, but my challenge is making the connection observable to someone who doesn’t know me, or my story. That’s the hard part, telling a story.

I can usually just draw whatever I want, organized however I want in my sketchbook, because that’s like a journal or a diary, basically only for my purposes. Even painting something, just one painting is straightforward, I just pick what to paint and paint it, it’s not hard to follow because all you have to do is look at it. Maybe the painting is well executed or poorly executed but if I paint a face I won’t worry that the viewer can’t tell what they’re looking at. In trying to convey something more than that, I feel this danger that I can’t connect it all the way. Like maybe I’ll wrap the lights all the way around the Christmas tree, weaving them through the branches, and finally I go to plug it in to the outlet and it won’t reach. I feel this huge potential for failure. The organization of my paintings is going to be hugely important, and I can tweak it later on if I realize something is off, but I can’t improvise if I don’t first make a real plan. And this is where I’m struggling right now, because I don’t know how to make an understandable story. What I’m mostly struggling with is the end. I wonder, does the final image matter a lot? Should it be the most significant? Or should there be a climax in the middle? I want to paint from right to left, which is the Japanese style, which might be less accessible to a western audience, who is used to left to right interpretive style in paintings and movies and with words. So, I think there’s a huge possibility that people will view my work from left to right even if I paint from right to left. Should I try to account for this and make it “legible” both backward and forward?

Thinking about these factors makes me nervous to start painting the final product, so I want to do a sort of test run once I make a more concrete decision about the message I’m trying to send. Maybe the message isn’t so important because people can take whatever they want out of the painting, but the message I decide on would influence how I order and choose things to paint. And that’s hard, because I don’t know how I feel about things yet. How can I decide on a conclusion when there isn’t a conclusion yet? Now I understand why writer’s use open endings. How can they possibly write a conclusion? Tidy conclusions feel very unnatural, because they leave no room for change, no room for growth. But there is an end to a book and an edge to a painting. So now my question is how to balance not wanting to have a conclusion with not wanting to end up with an unfinished work.


  1. Hello!

    First off, nice work! I think your topic is quite unique, and I’m really interested to see what your final artistic product looks like. It’s also great that you are documenting your process and the struggle that is inevitable. Though I know little about modern Japanese art, I do like to sketch and I understand the frustration of running into the edge of a sketchbook, right when you get to the good part. It sounds like you have a lot of terrific ideas, but are maybe a uncertain as to how you’ll present them in an organized manner. I recognize the feeling of being overwhelmed by questions I need to answer.I’ve found that when this happens, sometimes the best thing to do is imagine what an outsider, viewing the work without any background knowledge, would see. Will they perceive a cohesive story or get distracted by beautiful details that the creator is attached to? It can feel really cruel to cut out parts that have been toiled over, but the greater image is the most important and all the individual pieces should fit within it. As for the ending, perhaps finishing the rest of the canvasses that lead up to the conclusion and then trying various arrangements will help narrow some thoughts. Maybe the conclusion will even become evident once you do this. I find that stressing about reaching the finish line can make me even slower. And if a conclusion isn’t reached in time, the process of the project is just as constructive, if not more!

    I wish you the best of luck!