Those museum drawings though...
A while back @comoperderamigo on Twitter asked a few questions about the museum drawings I’ve been doing with borderline obsession all this year, so I thought I’d answer them. It’s a good way for me to explore what the hell I think I’m doing with them anyway!
Do you make it in the day you post?
I don’t think I’ve ever posted one of these the day I drew it. Generally speaking I’m posting drawings I did potentially months ago because I have a really significant backlog of these drawings, probably on the order of three or four hundred or them waiting in the wings I think. In fact a major part of posting them for me is just being reintroduced to an idea/moment I had weeks and week ago, particularly testing for myself whether I still think it has any resonance.
What do you call then (card? bit? poem?)?
I mostly think of them as ‘drawings’, really, which is kind of weird because the drawings themselves tend to be just an attempt to draw a random, non-repeated piece of ‘architecture’ that I then ‘activate’ or give meaning in some way by giving it its caption. Maybe I think of them as drawings because the drawing is the hard part for me - particularly trying to draw something at least moderately novel each time, not repeating or echoing myself too much. It forces me to try to move and use my pen in different ways.
How long it takes to make?
Any given drawing and caption probably takes like a minute? It’s totally instinctive. Sometimes I suppose I do the drawing and then ‘agonise’ over what the caption could be, in which case they could take, like, five minutes? (Contrary to what this sounds like, I see almost no connection whatsoever between drawing and caption - there’s no attempt being made for the caption to be relevant to the drawing or vice versa - or if so only very rarely.)
Do you make more than the ones you post?
Sure do. I draw them almost constantly and a lot of the things I come up with aren’t any good. There’s a three step process where I draw and caption, then I cull them when I’m photographing them in my notebook (I just don’t take pictures of the ones I don’t like in that moment), then I cull them again when it comes to posting (I don’t post drawings I don’t like anymore). So there are a lot of drawings that never make it to the site/Instagram/Twitter.
Do you keep the original?
All the original drawings are just in my notebooks. I think they span three notebooks now? Someone once offered a gentle critique of the fact I draw them on both sides of the page which leads to you being able to see through the drawing to things on the other side, which is fair enough. Definitely not archival quality.
Do you have a specific moment for making then?
I don’t have any rules about it, but the most common time I draw them is when I’m listening to other people speak, which I do a lot in my job: meetings and conference presentations are overwhelmingly the time I do the drawings. But also at cafes, in idle moments, when I’m trying to relax. For the record, I find doing the drawings helpful in allowing me to sit and listen for long periods of time without going crazy.
Why did you start doing it?
I think I just randomly drew the first one at a period when I was doing various captioned drawings. That was “this is what museums look like” I think? Somehow I became really attached to the simultaneous flexibility and rigidity of the format. You always know what you’re doing when you draw and caption them, but then there’s this huge space of possibility around what you’ll actually do, as well as a challenge to keep doing things that feel new. I’ve always been a big fan of doing creative work that is repetitive and premised on exploring a possibility space through variation and determination and this fits very well into that.
Do you have any favorites?
I don’t know if I have favourites - I definitely have disappointments, as above. It’s surprisingly sad to look at one of the drawings I photographed for posting and then realise I don’t find it clever or entertaining or relevant any more. Still, if not favourites, I definitely enjoy leafing backwards through my notebooks and looking over the stuff I’ve done - the fact that I laugh at some of them is probably lame, but it’s a genuine pleasure.
Do you have a specific mindset for them?
I guess as I’ve already said it’s mostly about exploring a possibility space, particularly the malleability of language in this case? Working with words has always been a pleasure for me and in a lot of ways this series fits in with my prior attempts to be a poet. (See also: game ideas). Most of all I’m focused on trying to keep them novel and to keep finding routes in the language that surprise me, despite still ostensibly being about ‘the museum’.
What have changed since you begun?
I mean, it’s probably become a bit harder over time not to repeat things. I’ve definitely written identical captions a few times, just ‘rediscovering’ the same idea. And some of the captions repeat in my head like a mantra when I’m trying to come up with something new. ‘The museum within. The museum within. The museum within.’ The drawing process has been really interesting - just trying to find different ways of drawing a shape/thing that could conceivably be a museum. Today I found out that I could use the rubbery nub at the tip of the pen I was using (when the nib is retracted) to kind of rub a grey smear onto the page, so I spent time doing drawings that used that affordance. It’s a good challenge to keep things the same but different and to explore the books and crannies of words and lines.
There. That felt self-indulgent, but what else are you going to put on a website that is literally yourname.com?