Hockney's Pools, Summertime, and a Slow, Sunny Drawing Prompt
Hellooooo Gut peeps.
We’re well into Summer here in the states. (Waving to GUT folks in another Season.)
And while Summer signifies all the things - rest and play and free time and freedom - for a lot of us it also brings a sense of urgency. An anxious feeling that we have to pack it all in, now and fast - we must take advantage of every single moment of sunshine before school/fall/life returns. Tick tock, people! MUST. HAVE. MAX. FUN. NOW.
I guess it’s not surprising that we can’t just switch off our well-developed productivity muscles like a light. But ideally, when we go on a break, our internal expectations and demands would take a little hiatus, too. Or at least they’d just chill the F out for a minute.
I was looking over the data that’s come in from the 30-Day Drawing Habit survey so far. (If you haven’t taken it yet here is your LAST CHANCE) and found this particularly interesting, and relevant to our maybe-Summer situation: Before we started drawing for 30 days, a whopping 57% of you felt like your inner critic was omnipresent, constantly barking at you to do better. That means more than half of us house a screaming perfectionist inside our brains 24/7. Ugh. Worst roommate ever.
But get this. After drawing for 30 days with the GUT, that number dropped to 8%. That means drawing every day with the GUT kicked nearly 90% of the screaming perfectionist voices out of the house. Bonus: 61% of you reported that drawing every day with the GUT helped you feel “totally chill.”
If drawing were a place and we’re looking for a relaxing vacation, it seems like a good place to regularly visit.
Back to Summer.
We know (super scientifically now) that drawing helps us relax our inner critic/perfectionism/expectations brain. It helps us chill the F out. So what would happen if we applied our GUT-drawing principles to our Summer schedules?
What if I/you/we approached our Summer with these goals:
Slow down. Pay attention. Look at the world one piece at a time. Get present. Focus on process, not outcome. Look closely. Connect with the world and people. Do it together. (Also no rules, you do you.)
What would that look like?
For me it looks like doing less. Not stopping entirely, but doing less. Choosing a small handful of things to focus on. Maybe just one thing. Slowing down. Laying in the sun and watching the clouds. Drawing them.
It means a lot of letting go. Going easy.
How about you? What would a GUT summer break look like for you?
Let’s talk about painting pools.
David Hockney is 86 years old and still paints every single day. He always has. Over time, he’s gone through phases with regards to his subject matter. For a while he painted large scale portraits of his friends. He’s painted hundreds of paintings of his adorable dogs. He continues to paint giant landscapes. He worked on an iPad for a long time. And for a big chunk of time in the 60s and 70s, he painted pools.
As the story goes, Hockey fell in love with pools in 1964 aboard his first flight to Los Angeles. Coming from the UK - a place without the same climate or plethora of outdoor pools - he flew over LA and he was struck by the pools’ surface from above, reflecting the California light. Tiny sapphires scattered throughout a cool grey city.
So Hockey began drawing pools. He made etchings and photos and paintings of pools. He placed his lovers and friends and even himself into his paintings of pools. He even lowered himself into the empty pool at the Roosevelt Hotel in LA and painted its interior using a paintbrush mounted to a broom handle.
The point: Hockey loves pools.
The other point: There are so many ways to look at something you love. Struck by something and want to draw it? Great. You’ll learn a lot about it by looking. Most of us move on from there to the next thing that strikes our eyes/imagination. But if we stick with something - return to it again and again - we start to see more. We appreciate its nuances and stories and complexities. How we depict that thing grows, changes and evolves.
“Drawing takes time. A line has time in it.” - David Hockney
Someday we’ll look at work by an artist named Morandi who spent his whole life painting bottles. Just bottles. And in those bottles he found more depth and life and understanding of painting and form and the world we see than pretty much any other painter ever.
Except maybe Hockney and his pools.
Point is: as artists, our job is to look closely at the world and share what we see.
And only by sitting with a subject over time can we begin to uncover all that’s right in front of us.