At the ending of images

Andrew Conti Iterations

My 4 year old daughter, when we draw or paint together, is much less mindful of edges then I am. She simply draws, stretching out as far as she cares to. She is unconcerned with the edge of the page, if she feels like continuing she continues. If she feels like stopping then she will. Often, she just draws right onto the floor, the wall, or whatever bit of table-protecting newspaper we’ve laid out.

My daughter is mostly unaffected by leaving the severed portions behind. She enjoys the drawing as it remains, and pays no mind to (mostly or usually) when the rest of her work is erased from a wall or rolled up and thrown away.

This can occasionally lead to some odd drawings. Hands chopped off, missing  legs, and skewed compositions. But more often it seems, this is not the case. Often the drawing still works as a whole. It maintains its own logic, and it is easy to forget about what is not seen.

At a certain age  this seems to change for children, and the edges of a page or canvas become a true end of a potential picture. In fact, I worry while writing this that by the time I post it, my daughter will have changed her attitude on the whole thing.

I have revisited drawings of my own from the middle of my elementary school days (thanks Mom) in which I seem to have struggled to bizarrely cram in a figures legs and arms to a given paper. I would contort a body, deform a leg or foot, or shrink a hand to a quarter of the size that would make it proportional –all in the name of some strange need to keep things within view.

Why I wonder?

Did I once draw on and on with my daughter’s abandon? Was there some tipping point that occurred and led me to cram in as much as I could? Why not just let a leg or a hand dangle off and disappear? Let it leave the page and go somewhere else with itself.

Of course, as I became more intensely involved in image creation, I spent a lot of time looking for perfect balances of a painting’s or drawing’s space. Avoiding my pre-teen desire to cramp things in, and my daughter’s abandon of a works edges as the definition of a space, I sought to create well-thought out compositions. This of course follows a proper and fitting method for creating a drawing or painting.

But that leads me to the idea of edges in a painting and what to do there. Since paintings have no true beginnings and endings like a book or film, it is these edges that become the moment of interface and interaction with the real world. I wonder more and more if this is a necessary part of how an image is constructed– are the limits of a canvas the best determinant of how big a painting should be?

It’s convenient to believe a painting ends at its edges, and certainly when one is forming a composition it is all but necessary, but it never seems that simple to me. More and more I am inspired to alter what we typically perceive of as the end of an image.

I’m never sure why an image should end, and I’m definitely opposed to the idea of framing a painting–that is cutting it off from the world as though it is in an artificial window.  Lately, I even feel less and less excited by the confines of a typical square canvas, and I am eagerly diving into series of experiments with new grounds.

I find myself preferring to follow my daughter’s lead and allowing drawings to move on for as long as they have the energy to continue. The drawing goes on and on heading out from one work and into another. It’s important I think to learn from my daughter in this way.

Lines like branches, stalks, or hyphae of a mycellium. One branch reaches out and finds the sun. Another leans a different way and is pounded down by rain, or lunched-off by a rabbit.

It seems to me this is a more natural course of things, images not defined by cordoned off edges of a surface, but by the limits of the energy that creates them. Built upon, blended with, and growing through the world at large.