March 05, 2021

The disappearing artist

The power of social networks is that while it exposes you to the risk of scams and trolls, it also widens your perspective and humbles you in the strangest of ways. 

Some months ago, I came across this profile of an interesting artist who revealed almost nothing of his identity but almost everything of his art.  And that is where my fascination started. 

Everyday, this man (assuming it was a man from his hands, since his profile had no other indication of his gender or personality) would go live on Instagram and post impromptu videos of his art, his camera recording his every move on a simple A4 sized paper.

However, what was fascinating was that all his art was created on the spur of the moment with a sharpie (permanent marker). No rough draft. No pencilling in. No erasing. Not even once. The prompts would be submitted by those who joining in the live session, and he would get to work almost instantaneously. It did not take him even a second to formulate his thoughts and transport the pattern onto paper. 

Picking up his sharpie, he’d sketch away like he could see a pattern on the canvas, as if he was joining the dots that were visible only to him. 

The first time I saw him doing this, I was gobsmacked. I told myself it must be a one off thing that he had probably rehearsed before. It was unbelievable how his hand could work so fast to create something so beautiful. 

Nevertheless, I started following him, out of sheer curiosity. 

But senough, the frequency of his live sessions and the confidence with which he created art in each one of them convinced me that this could not be a fluke. This was undeniably a man of extraordinary talent. 

His art was simple, yet eyecatching. It wasn’t the fancy shaman you stuff some artists come up with after weeks of brainstorming, erasing, photo editing and the works. This man’s work was simple and genuine. It was the kind that would urge even the art illiterate to pick up a paintbrush or pencil and try his hand.

As he dragged smooth, well defined lines and curves on the paper with his sharpie, one could not help but see at the confidence and clarity in his ideation and design. 

A senior writer I met at an art and literature festival had once told me this. “It doesn’t matter if your art isn’t perfect,” he had said. “It almost never is. But if it’s relatable and inspires people to read, write, create, then you are already on your way to be an artist par excellence.” 

Just watching this person’s hands move so confidently on paper made me want to sketch like him. There was absolutely no doubt or hesitancy. No second guesses. As his sharpie drew out connecting lines and shapes one after the other, a pattern appeared, slowly filling the entire paper. He only stopped once he was finished. That’s when the sharpie would be put down and the camera turned off, leaving a sense of mystery hanging in the air. I attributed that to artistic eccentricity. 

But soon enough, I was in for another surprise. A few months of following this mystery artist, I woke up one morning and logged onto Instagram only to realise that the mystery artist had now disappeared, gone off the grid. His account had been deleted and there was no sign of him anywhere in the virtual space. I am sure, like me, a lot of his followers felt a sense of loss and disappointment that day but told themselves they should have seen it coming. I know I did.

This little extension of his idiosyncrasy (if I may even call it that), however, makes me wonder how this person must be for real, outside this small little art world he had created and which we had happily chosen to be a part of. 

Would he be as adept at taking life decisions as he was with taking decisions on his canvas, would his thoughts be allowing him the same confidence and lucidity...the same spontaneity? 

Would he never have felt the need for second chances? No rewind, no pause, no edits. Would his life, like his art, be running as smoothly as his art, sans afterthought, sans regret? 

I reprimand myself, “Separate the art from the artist.”

I have always believed that art, in any form, is a liberating experience mainly because it gives you the leeway of second chances, and maybe even third chances and fourth chances (depending upon which medium you use). 

In fact, that is why most people (including me) would vouch for art therapy as being the best kind. Art is like this getaway from your anxieties, an escape route from reality into a realm you can tailor-make at your own whim and fancy. 

And yet, there are people like this mystery artist, seducing the arts with an admirable sense of discipline, a distinctive clarity of thought, who know exactly what they are aiming for and do not believe in looking back part journey. 

I pick up a sharpie and try to doodle something small. But mine is not a still mind. It keeps flowing like a river, enumerating different trajectories a line can take until I can bear it no more. Keeping the sharpie aside,  I choose the familiarity of the more forgiving pencil...

The eraser lies nearby, assuring me it won’t let me slip up. 

In life too, perhaps, we are constantly searching for this kind of security. The security that will allow us the leeway of committing a mistake and yet not messing the final picture. 

We look for it everywhere, this security net—-in our relationships, finances, work. We pick the pencil and shine our erasers when we should instead be sharpening our minds and steadying our hand. 

Sometimes what is more important than fixing our mistakes is how we can work around them. 

No comments: