My students are usually impressed by the meticulousness and detail in my drawings, as they are actively trying to improve their own skills. They can relate to the determination and labor required to make my hyper-realist drawings. But after the wow-factor subsides, it is apparent to everyone that no overarching content unites all the wonderfully drawn moments in these works. This is one of the launching points of recurring conversations with my students about how we find ideas, what that process is like, and what matters to each of them individually, enough to turn into art.
As they start making their “own” work, I ask students to identify their default settings, or the manner of working to which they are already comfortably predisposed. When these default settings prevent them from taking chances, I urge them to make what I call private, failure art: projects that they know will fail, but allow them to work specifically with new methods, materials, images, etc.
It is really hard to shake off the fear of public failure! For me, sketchbooks are essential, if nothing else but a private space for experimenting.
Sketchbook activity has been important to me for a long time, and has become the most useful way of generating content for my “finished” work. This private form gives me a place to work rapidly and unselfconsciously, and provides a place to put all my overly literal, mediocre visual ideas down, and out of my brain. The image of the mouth and tongue, which features prominently in my recent drawings, was born out of small sketchbook collages, made from a variety of materials.