Tony Bennett said that every morning he sang scales, do, re, mi, fa, so la, ti, do. If he missed a day, he knew it. If he missed two days, the musicians knew it. If he missed three days, the audience knew it as well.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally finished writing a book about my paintings that I had been working on for more than a year. It’s now being printed in Hong Kong and, if all goes well, it will arrive here in the middle of October. During the months I was working on the book, my drawing practice stalled. Unlike Tony, I wasn’t singing scales every day.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in my optometrist’s office and started sketching this complex instrument that was suspended in front of me. I don’t think it’s a very good drawing and it reflects my lack of practice. But I kept drawing for a few minutes anyway, first in pencil, then in ink. (I added watercolor to the mess later in my studio.)
It’s a poor sketch, but I decided to show it to you anyway. Why? Because failed drawings are good inspirations for younger artists; they illustrate Tony’s point: without daily practice, talent doesn’t amount to much.
More interestingly, sketches are not failures because such drawings are not about finished products. The point of a drawing is not to make a product. Drawing is a process; it’s the act of looking deeply, patiently, into the world. It is about paying attention.
I’d much rather draw a flower than a mechanical tool. But if the goal of drawing is to learn to see better, then drawing an optometrist’s mechanism for making people see better carries a touch of irony, no? Still, wouldn’t it be fun to see the look on the doctor’s face when he entered his office if, instead of drawing, I was singing do, re, mi, fa, so la, ti, do?