I have taken a lot of math and science dense courses over my 4 years here at Duke as an engineer, and I honestly would be shocked if it turned out I had retained even 50% of all the stuff I’ve encountered. There have been times where I would look back into the notes of a previous semester to get a refresher on a topic that I needed to get reacquainted with, and I would feel as though I was looking at hieroglyphics, or at the work of a completely different person. For a good minute, I would literally be in awe of how much more intelligent my past-self seemed than myself at the moment, having known this stuff like the back of my hand once upon a time.
But the next time that I look back at some of the work from my classes as an undergrad, something will be different. I will be able to look at my drawings from the art class I took my senior year in college and not feel any sense of disembodiment when looking back at my own work. I will always be able to look at my artwork and know that I created it and feel secure in that the person who created this art in the past is one and the same with the artist I am today. I believe the difference is that there is expression of every part of my being in my drawings. My feelings and thoughts on myself and on life are grounded in what I hold to be fundamentally true, and they are also constantly updated or reverted with varying degrees of confidence. I have found drawing to be the most physical projection of this subconscious exploration going on inside my head.
I’ve never understood the saying “there’s a reason for everything” more simply and clearly than I have when drawing. In my drawings, every presence or absence of detail, every actual or distorted representation is fundamentally governed by some of my most unconscious decisions (or lack of). I can see my preference of perfection over realism with that straight-edge line where there wasn’t a line to begin with. I can see the warring of “getting the big picture” vs. “details matter” in the messiness of the leaves framing the bold structure of the tree branches. I can see pessimism seeping into the blank expression on my favorite superhero’s face in one sketch, but I can also see a glimpse of hope in the smiling eyes of the character in a different day’s sketch.
Drawing is one of the few things I can’t remember ever not enjoying. Considering that it helps give me sense of identity and that it’s my favorite means of unobtrusive introspection, I can’t imagine the day when I no longer enjoy it ever coming.