This sort of relates to my earlier post about style, and is the latest installment of the continuing saga of dragging all my unfinished drafts into the light of day.
I believe an artist should never be completely satisfied with his/her work. There are essential elements of striving and exploration that come from wanting to be better. But at the same time, an artist has to have enough confidence in his/her own work to feel that it’s a worthwhile pursuit. It’s quite easy for me to maintain the essential dissatisfaction, and not always so easy to maintain the confidence.
However it occurred to me recently; many of my favorite cartoonists exhibit stylistic quirks that don’t necessarily add strength to the images, but those quirks become part of the artists’ appeal. Maybe it’s just by virtue of association with the actual strengths of the artist, or maybe the ostensibly superfluous quirk is actually a crucial, personalizing factor. Either way, it got me thinking, the way I draw is the right way for me to draw. It may not be the way I want to draw, it may not measure up to my idols or peers, but how I feel about it is less important than how an audience responds to it. And for me to communicate honestly with an audience, I need to draw how I draw.
I’ve reached a parallel conclusion in aikido; I need to practice aikido that’s appropriate for my physical capabilities. This is another thing that feels like it’s taken me far too long to figure out. Every aikido student hears it all the time: relax, don’t tense up, extend energy, stay centered. It’s the absolute core principle of the art. It’s hard to internalize though. It’s easy to think that the softer, energy-focused aspects of aikido are quite good in theory, but not practical for self defense. And there’s always someone practicing hard, forceful aikido that reinforces that assumption.
Lately I’ve been practicing a lot with just such a fellow. Besides being forceful in his style, he’s much taller and much stronger than me. For a while, like a doofus, I tried to match his strength, which didn’t work at all. I also found myself trying to reach up higher than my arms want to go, which caused my shoulders to tense up and compromised my balance and extension. So I started wondering, can I reach with energy beyond the range of my little t-rex arms?* And that lead me back to Osensei’s four pillars of aikido; relax, extend energy, keep one point, and weight underside. I find if I stay focused on these four principles, which are sort of one principle, my whole body gets integrated and my techniques are much more effective.
Of course they’re more effective. I won’t get anywhere trying to do aikido with a body I don’t have. Just like I shouldn’t try to draw with someone else’s hand.
*In comparison to this one training partner, I have little t-rex arms, but they fit me better because I don’t have the giant t-rex body. If the rest of t-rex was in proportion to his arms, that’s the dinosaur I’d be. Please stop reading this ridiculous digression, and I’ll stop writing it. Deal? Deal.