Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Sensuality and Destroy-ability of Paper

In organizing some files this new year, I've come across some never-published writings of mine.  The following is an essay written in 2010, along with a drawing from around the same time.  I can certainly appreciate the irony of electronically disseminating this manifesto of sorts...


My life is made of paper.

During the day I coordinate documents for a manufacturing company, making endless changes to their product specifications, based upon requests from the various departments which use them. For example, to make a tube of lipstick, there’s a formula of ingredients, the details of how they're mixed together, the list of plastic parts the lipstick is cased in, the exact dimensions of everything, what the label needs to read and look like, and so on. Most of the work I do now is electronic, unlike my earlier working days of physical filing, typing, and mailing in the 90’s and early 00’s.  But I still print out hard copies to proofread and keep as backup. Sometimes technology can be unreliable. 

During the night I draw. I lay down a ground of light willow charcoal on slightly rough paper. Then, using a charcoal pencil, I coax forms and lines out of the gray mist. When the model and the mood are just right, I can get to that place of deep focus, where I see the lines on the paper before I draw them. Nudes and portraits are my specialty. I used to paint more, but now it seems I only draw. The sound and feel of the paper, the way I lose track of time, the challenge of depiction, they’re all quite satisfying. 

But paper is also heavy with responsibility. All the hours of the past years spent filing, typing, printing, mailing, and faxing, it’s fed and clothed and housed me. All the drawings I’ve brought into being, the vases and fruit and the curving shoulders and tilted heads, need preservation or destroying (the early bad ones). When I think about those aspects of paper, it seems too cumbersome. 

Sometimes I want to be free and light, all spirit and no body to maintain. But all idea and no physical manifestation is frustrating. So I continue with paper, which is how I prove my existence, how I make my life.

It often feels like progress has a grudge, and is perpetually trying to trample the ways of the past, at times succeeding. I think, however, that paper will survive. After all, no intermediary device is necessary to consume visual information on paper, only eyes. If no words are involved, knowledge of language or technology is not required to understand what's being communicated. And it doesn’t tax the memory, because one doesn’t need to remember it, it’s right there, in all its physicality. It can be touched, put it in the pocket or on the wall. It can be burned, with a fair amount of confidence that if it‘s the only one, it's gone, never to be seen in the future. Words and pictures on the internet can disappear or persist, to equal chagrin. Both idle communication and business communication have already fled paper to exist on computers and the internet. As such, paper is now becoming the domain of the special, the treasured, the unique.

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