I am in the midst of a pair of paintings for Hylozoist, as well as near the end of one more. I should have finished one of them in August, and the other two have been languishing in the lineart stage for months. I think it is something like perfectionism, because I have not really succeeded in bringing anything within a stone's throw of "done" since July.
Last night I took a break from those things and drew this. I began with no particular goal, except to draw someone naked. I like where it ended up, and the getting-there was refreshing: I didn't worry much about the lines, I didn't worry much about rigor. This portrait has a spaciousness to it I seldom achieve.
A very long time ago when I was ten or eleven, I showed a drawing I did to a family friend, an old Air Force engineer we'll call Henry. Henry had a lot of ideas about handwriting and art, and thought I was doing both wrong. He told me to draw longer lines and to erase less, which was correct as applied to handwriting. I told him that maybe it was just my style, and he said I'd never get anywhere with it. I think about this a lot, because it really is true that the lines matter and you can't communicate all of the same things with a short stroke that you can with a longer stroke. More important, though, is being able to use the correct technique for right now.
Just like long flowing strokes versus short controlled lines, there is a dichotomy between ignoring critique and embracing it. It is valuable to be able to reject criticism when it stands in the way of the artist's expression, but it is also important to have artistic convention and tested techniques. Or maybe it really doesn't matter how your art is received? (that is not how it seems to me.)
Henry's been dead a long time. I sometimes imagine I'd come into my own as an artist sooner, because I'm curious what he would say about my work now. He was one of the few adults who gave me critical feedback, even if I wouldn't learn how to put it to use for decades.