“Ask the question. Not once but forty-nine times. And, perhaps at the fiftieth, you will make an answer.”
“This type of sketching offers me the ability to make decisions.”
Jen Hicks had an early art experience whose impact helped create her now deeply rooted sketching practice. As a child, she would color an image alongside her mom as her mom completed her own mail-in drawing assignment. These assignments were mailed to students, who would replicate the drawing, then mail it back in for comment, grading, and the next assignment.
Jen drew in high school, but the next experience to leave a deep imprint on her happened at Hartwick College, where she had a strong sketching and sketchbook practice. “We did everything together in school. We ate together and were required to eat only with chopsticks in order to strengthen our hands for drawing. We drew for hours and hours. Conté figure drawings and gestural sketches. Oftentimes, we would meet at our professor’s house in the evening. She had a dog who gave birth to puppies and we made gestural sketches of the pups. You had to do it over and over and over. Now, I understand the why of repetition.”
Jen’s current sketchbook isn’t a book at all. She makes gestural painted sketches on small -- 3” x 3” -- canvases. She decided to focus on one image: the rose. Like Amy Talluto, she gains deep- seated knowledge from spending time with a single object or a place. “You’re seeing it deeply, so you’re going to make it different each time.” I mentioned to Jen that I remembered Robert Storr interviewing Andy Goldsworthy at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Responding to an audience question about how he understood his materials and place, Goldsworthy addressed all the artists in the audience: Pick up your sketchbook and draw a plant. When you’ve completed the first drawing, draw a second time, a third time, filling every page in your sketchbook. Once you’ve filled the sketchbook, buy another book, and repeat the process, over and over. You will continually learn how to see the plant, and it will always look different.
Jen’s response to this memory was to paraphrase a quote from Rilke’s “Advice to a Young Poet”: “You see it. You get bored with it. It’s your fault. If you’re bored, go deeper. Don’t back off. Slow down. This is the observational process.”
She has made a conscious decision to return to the informative college experience of focusing on repetition. Through her version of a sketchbook, “I’m learning and really wanting to know what I’m doing and the choices I’m making. I want to understand how those choices affect my work.”
Would you like to know more about Jen and her work? Visit her gallery's website!