Practice and rehearsal

Some of my most valued experiences  involve the privilege to observe accomplished people  rehearse first and then, afterward present a virtuoso performance of their art. These opportunities were largely dependent on my being in the right place at the right time.

Not too long ago I spent two weeks with my friends “Prissy German Tourist”(PGT) and his wife, “Obsessive Compulsive Shop-Aholic” (OCSA).  During that time, PGT and I twice attended Life Drawing workshops, where many of the local artists regularly attended to hone their observation and drawing skills. Ability levels of these artists ranged from that of skilled amateurs to those of professionals, with the exception of one artist who many attending the studio regarded as a “master”.  This man has a long CV listing numerous exhibitions in public and private galleries, his participation as presenter at conferences and an extensive publication record, citing numerous critical writings about his work. He didn’t recieve deferential treatment – he simply set up his easel and working materials where he could squeeze into, in a very crowded room. PGT and I staked out our respective spots among the other people in the room. The model stepped up on the dais.  In silence, work proceeded. Time was suspended. The only sounds came from the crinkling of turned sheets of paper whenever a pose ended and it was time to begin a new drawing, and from intermittent flurries of scratchings made by drawing materials on  papers. At half-time break, people strolled around stretching their arms and bending their bodies meanwhile visiting quietly with each other. They casually checked out each other’s progress.  PGT led me over and introduced me to the “Master”. We looked at his drawings, and he made comments on what worked and what didn’t for him.

After the break ended, I decided to lounge on the couch behind the “Master” and simply watch him work for a while.  He used the same materials as the rest of us there.  He approached the process of building up a drawing using commonly taught behaviours. I did note some slight differences though. He looked at the model more often, paused slightly longer before he applied his marks with great deliberation. Any false starts, he merely worked over, embedding them in the matrix of lines and smudges that evolved gradually and became the resulting drawing at the end of the pose. Then, he simply turned over his paper to the next sheet and continued his drawing rehearsal.  I went back to my easel and back to work.

A year later, this Master artist had an exhibition of his drawings in a public gallery. One series was of large-scale dry-brush and ink drawings of pairs of hands, showing frozen moments of related  but varied gestures and interelationships. This series expressed so beautifully and eloquently the power of paying attention closely to nuance and subtle changes in forms seen. What this artist did was to demonstrate clearly through his drawings  the importance, value and pleasure to be obtained  through mindful seeing.  It was clear to see that these works represented the culmination of many years of practice and rehearsal with his chosen tools.  The drawings looked acute, fresh, vigorous, direct and sure – it was as if they had come about so naturally and easily.  They looked as if they had been dreamed into existence!

But what I have learned from watching this master artist perform his practice and rehearsal, and then subsequently seeing his virtuoso work is that there is process underlying a final product and that the process is integrally a part of the final result.   There is immense effort behind the creation of all kinds of phenomena that we daily experience, not just in “art” prduction but in all kinds of endeavours.

It occurs to me that what I have written about here is an illustration of :

“Form is the envelope of pulsation…” K. M-H

I must consider about this further!

2 Responses to “Practice and rehearsal”

  1. ggwfung Says:

    The total devotion these people show in their chosen arts is something awe-inspriring. There is almost a sacrifice of the individual self to a greater purpose – grace, balance, beauty, perfection.

    Being an amateur pianist I can fully appreciate the soul that goes into an artistic performance.


  2. Dejan Says:

    At seventy-three I learned a little about the real structure of animals, plants, birds, fishes and insects. Consequently when I am eighty I’ll have made more progress. At ninety I’ll have penetrated the mystery of things. At a hundred I shall have reached something marvellous, but when I am a hundred and ten everything I do, the smallest dot, will be alive.

    Katsushika Hokusai

    Thanks for the advice to the beginner artist like me – first step must be watching Master working. From watching we get inspiration. There is so much one can learn from this post of yours!

    The drawings looked acute, fresh, vigorous, direct and sure – it was as if they had come about so naturally and easily. They looked as if they had been dreamed into existence!

    Artists use finite means and create finite works, to embody infinite dreams…

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