When I draw, I need a completely blank white wall to stare at. The more white space around me, the better. I was careful from the start of my career as an artist not to surround myself with previous images that I had drawn. I could have hung my main characters who stood for values that I cared about. But I didn’t. I didn’t hang my wish lists of problems in the world that I strive to solve, my mission statement, or design ideas. I didn’t hang designs that I was proud of that I wanted to match. I certainly did not hang sample palettes, photos, or other people’s work—those never occurred to me.
I was not trained as an artist, so I invented my own style of practicing art by listening to my needs. I could tell that my eyes searched for white blank space each time between movements of my arm, so I kept as much blank white space as possible. I had no idea that other artists hang sample palettes or photos or fabrics of things that “inspire them.” I noticed that I heard people say that more than a decade after I was already confident in my habits. I never consciously listened to what methods others use. This oblivion worked for the best.
I think that there are people in the world who are excellent at imitating, and there are people who are bad at it. I am absolutely incapable of imitating. I don’t pay attention to fashion trends. It’s like a button that I don’t turn on, if I even have it. When I flip through magazines, I don’t focus on the styles or colors that are being used.
In school, I couldn’t imitate a teacher if my life depended on it. I noticed the singular gestures of every person, but I wouldn’t be able to identify the gestures five minutes after walking away. I did not make a Spanish accent and matching gestures either, though I love Spanish, until I felt like the language was a part of my identity. I’ll remember what makes people happy, their birthday, and any numbers that they might have mentioned. I should dissect the rest of my memory malfunctions in another blog.
I think that it is thanks to my complete inability to imitate that I am original. Thanks to this lack of talent, I have managed to truly listen to my inner workings to create works that reflect something that is true to me. The more I stare at a blank wall, the more I come out with colors that match my mood—the various rhythms that flow through me. This includes the mistakes of grabbing the wrong marker—all still part of that moment’s picture.
So what does “influence” me, besides my personal circadian rhythms? Ideas and wishes. I listen to NPR, PBS, and the news. I hear the wishes and needs of people who can’t afford to dream because they lack basic needs. I remember these wishes. I carry them in my heart. I focus all my energy on them and send many good wishes as I draw something that I hope will completely overturn the situation. I try to make the white page happy and colorful. I hope that somehow, good intentions can motivate enough people to unite and help one another.