Monday, March 28, 2011
Our Friend, the Grid
Human beings come up with lots of ingenious ways to impose order on their disorderly worlds. Poetry and fiction come to mind. Indoctrinating spiritual beliefs (i.e., organized religion) is another. School uniforms and orthodontia are still other ways that, when the universe shouts, ZINGGGG!, we say, "Oh, poo. Let's not be hasty ... ."
One of my ways to infuse the illusion of order is through the grid. A day comes along; I want to draw. But the day seems to throw lots of other-than-drawing tasks at me, so I make a grid. This is important. The grid comes first, in the morning. Draw a big rectangle, then draw other, irregularly sized and shaped rectangles within it. Some larger. Some smaller. Some vertical. Others horizontal. Though, since I don't know exactly what they will contain, I don't think too overly much about the boxes.
I go about my day. My day takes me and my younger one to Office Max. We stop in Pens and Pencils and I make her pose for a four-minute sketch inside of on my little boxes. People look at us strangely, but no matter. We are used to strange looks. We stop at the fabric store, and I catch a glimpse of a nice clerk, one who has helped us before, aiding another customer. I surreptitiously scribble a 1-minute drawing of her in one of my rectangles. It is a terrible drawing, and unflattering, but no matter. Still I have documented the moment.
We move on to the mall, where my younger one needs to buy a satchel, because she now has things she needs to carry with her. She finds a satchel and we stop for a snack, during which I make her remove the satchel and I make a 4-minute drawing of her new purse.
We're leaving the mall and I make her stand with me in front of a window display, where I make a 4-minute drawing of a mannequin.
Later, we enjoy an evening at Carlo's favorite Japanese restaurant. I rarely eat sushi, but I like to draw it, so I draw someone else's sushi. And the beautiful bow on the back of the kimono. And the mango ice cream. You get the idea.
The day has been a cacophony of errands and pleasures, out of which I would not have snatched an hour to draw a real picture of, say, a cool building (which is what I often dream of drawing but less often actually draw.) Later, I will add color, and when I am done I will add doo-dads to make the page more pleasing to my own eye. I have no idea whether it is pleasing to yours, but (and I know you'll take this the right way), I am not so concerned with your eye, because, after all, it was my day.
And my day has been gridded and drawn, which is better than drawn and quartered. It has been categorized and it will be recalled. And this is why the grid is, sometimes, our friend.
If you don't draw -- THIS IS IMPORTANT, PAY ATTENTION! -- If you don't draw, you can grid in other ways. You can write in your squares. You can cut and paste ephemera you find throughout the day, such as receipts and tags and the cool stamp that came on a postcard from your friend in Venezuela. You can even give one square to the people you meet along the day and ask them to put something in it. Maybe they would like to draw in it. You can secretly take photos, print them out in black and white, cut them to fit one of your grid squares and paint over them, or leave them plain.
The only discipline you really need is to commit to the grid, which means that occasionally throughout your day you will have to stop and think, "How do I capture this moment of this very day, right now, in this one little unassuming rectangle?" Then you stop and actually do that. Maybe it means taking that photo you're going to put in the square later. Maybe it means cutting out the receipt. Maybe it means stopping and standing there, with your book, and writing in really neat letters everything you see in front of you.
Then you will need to do that five or six or seven more times in the day, corresponding with however many rectangles you've created in your grid. And at the end of the day, the beauty of the grid is that you've collected symbols of these little moments, but they all work together, because THE GRID IMPOSES THE ILLUSION OF ORDER. And we like that.
So please, if you have some kind of book that you write or draw things in, make yourself a day grid. Try it. You'll like it, I promise.