The Flipside conundrum

I’m an effing writer… Why did I ever think I could draw?

“Drawing is the honesty of the art. There is no possibility of cheating. It is either good or bad.”

Salvador Dali

I can’t draw. But in the last 3 or 4 weeks I have been drawing a lot – I have had to draw.

And yes, “it is either good or bad.”

So, I have sought further inspiration from brilliant artists –

“Lose your inhibitions about drawing and just do it.”

Chris Riddell, UK Children’s Laureate

That’s him at the end…

Drawing hand: Nameless One by Chris Riddell | Banderbear by Chris Riddell | Chris Riddell – The Children’s laureate

So, I did.

And after multiple tries – it is still “either good or bad”!

But I have to do it. It has to happen because I can’t just ‘write’ this work.

(Interestingly, I came across the words of Marjane Satrapi, the graphic novelist and director: “The first writing of the human being was drawing, not writing.” I would say the first story-telling of any kind was with the voice but – okay – we’re talking about making marks, about telling stories when we are not personally there to say the words or make the sounds or actions…)

So, having digressed, why do I have to effing draw? Why can’t I just write this work?

Second half of last year I was working with the glorious, happy, nervous, honest, uncluttered, somewhat injured, ever-so-slightly-worried-and-wondering-but-always-marvellous Flipside Circus performance troupe. Roughly 7 – 16 years of age and completely in love with circus. And, of course, there’s been Rob Kronk (Flipside AD) as dramaturg, and Davey and Aliya and other fantastic trainers all in the mix.

We were developing the language for a concept I took to Flipside in 2017 – a pack of young dog-children in a schoolyard – the pack dynamic allowing an exploration of all of the things that mark, for good or ill, our young primary kids’ experience these days – friendship, rivalry and comparisons, self-valuing, bullying, inclusion and exclusion from the tribe – the pack.

On the floor we’ve been melding and mixing up, fooling around with circus lazzi, a bit of physical theatre, mime, some words (but not many), song, dog sounds, generally expressive sounds, the sounds of the natural world … there’s a rich substrate to draw from in the upcoming creative development at the Judith Wright Centre in May and June.

But, of course, the best use of that development will come from having a script to explore – pursue, ditch, whatever.

But this script has to be a bit like a storybook, and a bit like a storyboard, and sometimes written as if we’re speaking with 7 year-olds – and also written to convey meaning and information to theatre and circus professionals.

So, I’m faced with ‘writing’ things that aren’t generally ‘written’ – for a whole bunch of different readers who don’t usually read scripts.

“Drawing is putting a line (a)round an idea.”

Henri Matisse

Yes. Simple. Brilliant.

Matisse drawing | Matisse: evocative face | Matisse: star man

That gave me such hope. I loved that idea. It took the pressure off my performance and put the focus of the work back on the ideas to be conveyed.

But on a bad drawing day for me, I felt I’d failed everything – the work, the Flipsiders, my ability to speak coherently about the idea…

Elaine Acworth: An early effort

So I found this:

“Learning to draw is really a matter of learning to see… “

Kimon Nicolaides

I had never learnt to see in this way.

And then I found:

“Drawing is the artist’s most spontaneous expression, a species of writing…”

Edgar Degas
Degas: Man | The Bolting Horse | Two Dancers Resting drawing

Drawing is an artist’s basic syllabus, his/her writing. My shit. Perhaps I could try again. So I did. And it’s still not good – but it’s clearer, fuller. There actually is something about doing it for 4 weeks. You do get better. Because you keep going, keep doing.

The beginning of the story | Elaine Acworth
And, a little later in the story | Elaine Acworth

“…it is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover, to your surprise, that you have rendered something in its true character.”

Camille Pissaro
Elaine Acworth

I can’t draw. But I am starting to see differently.

Can’t wait to get it all in the space. That’s a different seeing, again.