Friday, May 29, 2009
mangosteens and the brain shift
About once a month I get together with three other etegami artists to spend the morning drawing. We call ourselves the "Yoninkai" (literally: group of four). Each of us is supposed to contribute something to draw. I am often delighted by what the others bring, because so often they are things I have no access to. Whimsically tinted wild grapes. Exotic dragon fruit. Homegrown tomatoes that are too lumpy or oddly colored to show up in the supermarket (so much more interesting to draw than the perfectly round ones). Etegami requires very close-up observation, so the four of us do not draw the same object at the same time. We bring the objects right up to our faces to study them. We spend a lot of time handling them, feeling their texture, smelling them. After drawing one, we pass it around to the others so they can have a chance at it. By the end of the day, the items have been handled so much, they aren't much use for eating. Some really hard-to-find objects are actually hand-me-downs from a different etegami group. The tendency my companions have of not regarding the edible objects as food used to astonish me. I was vaguely uncomfortable with what I considered a "wasteful" treatment of good food. But somewhere along the line, a shift occurred in my brain. Now I can spend a morning drawing fresh fish from the fishmongers, knowing full well that it will no longer be fresh enough to cook for my family when I am finished with it. I can even pay an outrageous price for an exotic, strangely-shaped fruit that I know I will never eat, because I see it as a challenging thing to draw. I have to laugh at myself even as I write about it. I have to laugh at the price I paid for these mangosteens, which I bought for no other reason than the fact that I am fascinated by their color, and hope that, with a lot of practice, I may someday be able to reproduce it.