Drawing: adding and taking away

Note to self, on rubbing out:

As a child, you want to rub it all out ‘cos it’s all wrong! Start again from scratch or screw it up and throw it away in a fit of temper.

Later, when drawing from life, you think: don’t rub everything out; the ‘wrongness’ can only be in the relationships between marks, so you need to choose which of them to adjust. And don’t rub out before you have corrected the error, because it is a marker to work from. If you take it away you may just repeat the error, i. e. redraw the line in the same place.

Ideally, you think, never rub anything out – each mark should be a considered mark of observation worth keeping (this is a vain pose).

Then (lastly?) you recognise that the eraser is a positive tool – creating light, adjusting a line, balancing tone, making more precise etc. Taking away can be just as creative and selective and considered as adding a mark (this would be obvious if you started from the position of a carver).

And singular precision of line (as opposed to multiple exploratory wanderings) can also be worth pursuing. It’s all a matter of choice and awareness, of not automatically following a knee jerk reaction but being able to recognise that reaction and choose whether to go with it or not.



Finding digital drawing on my phone a bit frustrating, I have got out the pencils and produced these.

Knot mazes, you might say.

P. S. This is the first post I have written entirely on my mobile, so it is a bit of a test.

Digital doodles

I recently succumbed to the pressure of the 21st century and got my first smart phone. It didn’t take long to find a free drawing app, so I’ve been playing, and thinking about the difference between drawing on a screen and drawing on paper.

I bought a cheap stylus in the hope of gaining more precision, but it turns out not to be any better than my finger, so my doodling involves a degree of randomness due to the fingertip obscuring the point of contact. This lack of control isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it may compensate for the lack of expressiveness of the digital line – constant in thickness and intensity (unless you use one of the pen options that have a programmed ‘angle’ of nib – these are still unexpressive of the artist’s gesture because the variation is determined by direction on the surface rather than any personal input).

The regularity of the line and of its perfect rounded end is uninteresting to the eye, and cannot show the speed or force of the drawing. So any liveliness in the image probably comes from inaccuracies and scribbliness in the drawing – you have to find the line by trial and error. This is compounded by zooming in and out to draw details like eyes – it’s hard to get them looking right when you can only see one at a time!

The contact with the screen is textureless – very different from drawing on paper – but that very slickness might be one of the things that make screens so seductive to interact with. They offer a sense of ease and power – all the things we can do with a swipe of the hand!

None of this is meant as criticism of the app – and there are probably other programs that don’t have these features. Rather it is making me think more about what is important in any drawing – the degree to which it can reveal the personal intention, thought or feeling of the artist in subtle (usually analogue) ways, in strong or faint marks, confident or tentative, forceful or delicate. (This is similar, though not identical, to the difference between a handwritten note and a typed one – no ‘handwriting’ font can convey what real handwriting can.) People sometimes talk about ‘mark-making’ – is this what they mean?

Anyway, here are some exploratory doodlings from my phone, restricting myself to the ‘pen’ and ‘pencil’ and eraser, and avoiding the complications of colour.


dream image – shrine/omen
coming or going


Money – an Antinomy

Thesis: Money makes the world go round.

In our world, money is the measure of all things.

It is useful, we are told, by the economic sages, as a store of value and medium of exchange. Without the institution of money we would have to rely on supplying our own needs or bartering real goods with each other. This raises problems of coordination of supply and demand, and of storage of stuff. How do I find the people who produce what I need and want what I can produce? If no such people exist, how do I find the time to swap my produce for something that I can swap again for what I want? How long a chain of bartering is feasible? And where do I store the intervening (possibly perishable) goods between one link and the next? This presents a daunting and impossibly inefficient picture. But along comes money – something we all agree to treat as a universal solvent of value, easy to swap for anything, easy to store without risk of decay, requiring no complicated deliberate coordination of a network of production and exchange. As long as we all trust each other to accept this medium, it is a fantastic social benefit.

And once it exists it can be used to do more than just enable exchange between different people in different places. It can travel through time. We can save it up for the future, to enable us to live once we can no longer produce anything to swap for what we need.

Can we imagine a world without money? That seems very hard to do.

Antithesis: Money is the root of all evil.

Money increases the possibility of extreme inequality in resources between people (and peoples). The accumulation of wealth in vast amounts is much easier in practice when that wealth can be stored as gold in a bank vault or even better as digital records in a virtual vault, rather than in the form of goods, land, buildings, etc., which take effort to maintain and make use of. And once inequality in possession of wealth exists, it gives the wealthy people power over the rest. Unequal wealth is, at bottom, a tool of power over other people. When money is the measure of all things, we all need access to it to live, so those who control the money can control the people who need it. (If we were all equally wealthy, wealth would not give us power over each other. In that case it probably would make little sense to talk of wealthy individuals; instead society as a whole would be wealthy.)

With accumulated inequality, money becomes, instead of a mere medium of exchange or a convenient stand-in for valued things, a bestower of power and worthiness on its owners and of value on what can be bought. People without money come to be seen as valueless, because they lack the fundamental economic power – purchasing power. And things that cannot be bought and sold, like ecosystems and kindness, cannot be valued. The economic magic of the invisible hand that supposedly adjusts supply and demand to create an ideal equilibrium ignores the needs of the poor and the non-human, because those ‘demands’ are not expressed in monetary terms. So we see desperate attempts to protect the environment by ‘monetizing’ its ‘services’ or creating a market in carbon emissions. Meanwhile, inequality in power grows, as the institutions of government, meant to serve us all, are captured by the power of money over information, over political parties, over elected decision-makers.

To those that have shall be given…


But does the usefulness of money, the apparently essential services it provides, require that such unequal wealth must be possible? Can the concept of a medium of exchange be separated from that of a store of value that can be accumulated so that some people end up holding vastly more than others? Can the antinomy be resolved? Universal basic income anyone?