Stick

A friend of mine loves to find imagery in other things – in clouds, in marks on the footpath, in people’s artwork. This is something I resist – I can cope with seeing a bird in the clouds, or a face, but I generally actively avoid it, especially in artwork. I prefer to find more intangible sensations, a feeling or impression, an emotion, rather than an object. So I have been trying to work out why I feel such resistance, when so many people love to do it. The answer seems to be that to me an unintended object is an intrusion – if the painting is a still life, to find an old man with one long leg and a feather on his head somewhere within in it, the feeling is of a painting spoilt rather than enhanced, and forever after I will only see that old man. Today I did an experiment and looked at some of my own paintings, deliberately looking for other objects, and to my horror I could see faces in nearly all my flowers. I had to stop! So, when my friend (who is an inspiring artist and teacher, I have received endless invaluable support and encouragement from her over many years) gave me a stick to draw because she could see a dragon in it from one side and a rhinoceros from another, I was a little dubious. But I loved all the nobbles and cracks and the interesting texture of the surface, so accepted the challenge. And here it is – it doesn’t really look like a stick any more (I have to exaggerate forms that appear), but nor is it a dragon or rhino. I can see distinct animal forms, which I thought were obvious, but the people I have shown it to have found eyes and legs in places that I didn’t know were there! So, one thing I have learned from this – nearly everyone will find creatures in a stick, but they are all different ones.

(It is drawn with several grades of pencil, on hot pressed paper, 30 x 42 cm)

Stick2web

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31 thoughts on “Stick

  1. Is this the Magnani paper, Anna?
    Before I even read your post, I saw the image and, without knowing what your post was about, I ‘saw’ the resemblence to a scary monster from the Spanish nightmare film “Labyrinth”. Even just studying it now, new creatures are suggesting themselves to me.
    Let me share that I have a thing about TEETH in compositions. Anything that looks like it could be read as teeth makes me steer away from drawing it. I see teeth in pedestrian crossings and sometimes in buildings. No teeth allowed!
    And basically that extends to faces too. I do not want to see eyes, nose and mouth in compositions unless a face is supposed to be there. Isn’t it funny that we both DON’T want to see imagery in our work?
    Now that I have looked at your work a bit longer and am now seeing a friendly hippo, I am not seeing the scary creature which was my initial impression.
    When is a stick not a stick?

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    1. Ooh teeth! And you would see teeth a lot in architecture. It’s funny, I am happy for anyone to interpret my stick however they want, but that is because I intended it. Its the unintended – like faces – that is the problem. I have abandoned several works, one very recently when a bird was pointed out to me. That’s it, all over. I’m glad stick is getting a bit friendlier … I should have drawn it several times, it would have taken on a new character each time! Oh, and its not the Magnani yet – it is still waiting ….

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  2. Let us never forget how important our imagination is! Excellent post Anna and I love the drawing of the stick, or whatever it is seen as.
    I’ll go and see what lurks in some of my drawings!

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  3. Anna, your drawing is superb. Despite your reservations, you have created a fantasy worm-like dragon creature! I think I am with your friend…but it is a terrible affliction and has to be kept under control! πŸ™‚

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      1. If you break down the word it means “nude gills”. Ah, part of my marine biology days coming back…
        Have fun at those nudie ranches!
        lol!
        πŸ™‚

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  4. I like your stick non creature creature with a rather nice benevolent facial expression Anna πŸ˜‰ .
    It’s hard to pull back from ‘seeing things’ once the connection is made … must try harder maybe !

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    1. It is hard Poppy – there are times when I am happy to find things, they can even inspire something new. Maybe if a face appears in an artwork, the artwork wasn’t strong enough on its own, and was ready to be invaded!

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  5. haha great post Anna – this has happened to me twice in the last year – people seeing animals in my landscapes that i did not paint. I find it totally amusing -seeing things is what art is about? thanks for the post, and hope all is well with you?
    jo πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks Jo – it does tend to ruin artworks for me, as once something is pointed out I can’t not see it. Someone found a dog with floppy ears in a river-rock in a print I did a while ago, and I could never look at it again without seeing this rotten dog leering at me! Thanks, yes, all is well having fun and experimenting a bit! Hope all good with you too.

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  6. Apparently it’s a human characteristic to see patterns and particularly to interpret things as faces, that’s why we are able to ‘read’ cartoons. And artists are supposed to be exceptionally good at it. Like you, I avoid doing it with art because I’d just be staring at things for ever, but I enjoy doing it with my surroundings.

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    1. That makes perfect sense – and that is why it tends to be people with a well-tuned imagination do find imagery everywhere. I am ok with finding things in my surroundings (there is a face in a brick of my house I look at fondly every day!) but it irritates me no end in my artwork, unless, like the stick, I want viewers to interpret it how they like.

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  7. I ADORE finding creatures where they don’t belong, and your stick rendering delights me! The very shape offers a gesture that is alive and ready to squirm, not to mention the treasures within. LOVE it!

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  8. It seems to be built into us to find characters within things that are unintended. I find myself doing that all the time, I do however understand why that might turn you off something you are making. I’ve had the same sort of thoughts. It fascinates me how we perceive things so differently!
    I live your drawing, Anna. It certainly has a life if its own.

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      1. You are right Karen – even though I resist, I still find myself surrounded by ‘found’ creatures! (And if we didn’t, there are so many things we would miss, like your wonderful little dragon!) But I will still fight against finding things in artwork … although it did occur to me maybe if we can find a dancing horse in a still life painting, maybe the imagery in the painting wasn’t strong enough. I’m so glad you like my stick creature, I am rather fond of him!

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