As someone who started undergraduate school just as personal computers were becoming essential, and graduate school just as the net began to expand exponentially, the majority of my training – visual and spatial more than textual – was completed using analog media.
I’m part of an in-between generation that feels torn, and often anxious, between modes – and also overwhelmed (and aware of being overwhelmed) by how much information is constantly coming my way and indecisive in the face of it. Finding my way and staying on course requires a different diligence than when I wasn’t potentially connected every moment of every day to just about anything or anyone. My students have been born into this barrage and don’t seem bothered by it, though they do seem unconsciously overwhelmed by it because their response to it is reflexive. They don’t seem to feel that it should be shut off, or shut out, ever, and so they are almost instinctually fine with interrupting or being interrupted, equally comfortable with paying attention or with being distracted.
In order for me to get anything meaningful done, I have to shut things out and put things away and find some silence. No texts. No e-mails. No web searches. No people. Is this because I’m generationally challenged? Maybe. But ironically, now when I put everything aside in order to – for example – draw, I can’t necessarily keep technology at bay or maintain the kind of silence that supports creative flow and original production. One reason for this is that analog drawings are not easily detached from digital practice, even if it is only the idea of digital drawings that hovers nearby. And digital drawings often require diversions as part of their completion – searches to understand software, for example, or to find bits and parts of things they might include or riff off of.
So now, even making marks is fraught – should I draw with a pencil or a tablet? What will my output be? How many processes will one drawing engage? Scale is so changeable, materiality is so exchangeable. Today’s goals – to print a digital drawing on thick drawing paper, send the print to the laser cutter for a layer of etching, and then bring it back to my studio for some interventions with paint and colored pencil – has resulted in a spray of digital forms, a lot of artboards, some e-mails about formatting and paper types, no trip to the rapid prototyping center, and no analog moves at all.
Will a glass of wine help?