Friday, September 26, 2014

ᏌᏊ ᎢᏯᎦᏰᎵ (saquu iyagayeli) is the Cherokee term for “one thousand.”

One thousand days ago, I gave myself a challenge. Perhaps challenge is not quite the word I’m looking for, but I’m in no mood for a thesaurus. Is it a challenge to breathe each day? Rhetorical question, mind you; I’m an asthmatic, so sometimes getting enough oxygen can be a challenge. To use a belabored metaphor, drawing is like breathing to me. My parents still have the first drawing I did when I was two years old which was of a deer tick - a clumsy oval with an odd amount of legs with a dot in the center. In elementary school I used to make extra cash by selling drawings of the Dukes of Hazzard’s General Lee.  In junior high I started drawing comic strips for the school paper, and continued that on through high school.  As an undergrad I got my first professional gigs as a comic book artist and animator and started selling art and designing tattoos for people.  Along the way I got a couple degrees and such, but I still have yet to get some ink of my own. Natch.

In other words, I LOVE drawing.  I think of it as the purest form of artistic expression. There are no special materials needed. Making marks on surfaces is part of the human experience going back to the nameless artists who depicted the killing of animals on stone walls. Mankind has always been killing and drawing - destroying and creating. One can draw on foggy windows, scratch drawings in the dirt with a stick, and even in the foam of your latte.

Back to my challenge.  If I loved drawing so much, why not document the devotion to my passion?  When people were making their annual resolutions to lose weight and stop cursing so much, I resolved to do one drawing each day.  And to ensure I would follow my intent, I would post them online for the eyes of all who wished to look.  It started off easily enough. Then about a month later, people started expecting them.  So then I felt like I was obligated to do it and I almost stopped doing it before a year was up.  It seemed like an exercise in vanity (but what artist isn’t vain to some degree? I mean, come on! I don’t take selfies, but it could be argued an artist’s drawings could be selfies).  Then something pretty awesome happened: I was given the wonderful opportunity to travel to the old walled city of Assisi as a documentarian artist, courtesy of Gillian Gonda at the Fetzer Institute and the sponsorship of Dr. Loriene Roy.  I was hired to illustrate the happenings of the Fetzer Institute’s Global Gathering on Love and Forgiveness, a gathering of creative individuals who use compassion to make the world better.  Then months later, I wound up in Paris participating in the Grand Salon art exhibition.  The little Cherokee kid from Iron Post finally escaped the North American continent! During these enlightening journeys, I still maintained my drawing a day, invigorated all the more.

I decided to create photo albums by month and name each one in Cherokee to house my drawings (which eventually morphed into more than drawings; some were sketches, others were paintings in progress, and still others were smartphone doodles.)  The art album titles have the phrase “ᏏᎦ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏛ” (siga datlilosdv) in them accompanied by the month’s name and year.  In Cherokee, the phrase literally is talking about “measuring it again.” Terms for drawing and art in Cherokee such as ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏛ (datlilosdv - drawing) and ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎲᏍᎩ (datlilostanvhvsgi - artist) describe the making of art as measuring.  Imagine taking numerous intricate measurements along a line segment - deliberate and measured.  That is one Cherokee concept of art.  In this sense, I consider successfully drawing and posting one thousand drawings for one thousand consecutive days a measured and deliberate process - one in which I plan to continue.

I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes about art. The first one is from one of the masters of line in the Western world, Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres (whose grave I visited while in grand ol’ Paris as a pilgrimage because I’m nerdy like that): “Drawing is the honesty of art.”

And the other one is from one of the world’s most underrepresented artists, my dad Roy Boney 1.0: “If you don’t draw, you’re not very happy. Draw because it makes you feel good.”  So my one-thousandth drawing might not be great, or even good.  The milestone itself isn’t even all the consequential, but by George (who?), I will draw with a smile.

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