Drawing on a steamed window

I’ve been thinking a lot about art as process, about how to be artful. I want to create an object that opens up a different kind of artistic and imaginative space. I want to make something that plays off memory, off ritual but has those as starting points from which something new can be created. A collaborative, processual, subtle event, somehow tapped into and brought to the fore through an object.

I browse instagram.

Recently, i’ve kept seeing line drawings of faces as short videos. The artist quickly draws a couple of circles for an eye, the line goes down to form a nose, then a few scribbles become a mouth, the line goes up forming cheek bones, the shape of the head, then the second eye. All done with a single continuous line.

I was stood in the shower, as many of us do, and started to copy the movements from memory, drawing faces of different shapes and sizes with my finger. Some i’d start with the nose, some i’d do both eyes first, others i’d begin with the shape of the head. Each without thinking, simple line drawings inspired by the things i’d seen. Most of us draw in the steam with our fingers, the images quickly fading as the steam builds up, wiping the surface with an open palm to create a fresh sheet for our next scribble, parents telling to stop as it’ll leave smears on the glass.

I think a communal shower window, a sheet of steamed glass, could, if thought through be used as an object through which we could atune to the minor gesture. Like a blank canvas, enticing us to paint but instead a shared, touchable object, drawing in fingers. I think those moments of collaborative creation and destruction, how people choose to draw, what they choose to draw, how they negotiate their movements around the object and each other, how the images fade and then are drawn over, could open something interesting and exciting. I think the way an object like this would build on memory and a shared creative practice a lot of us already do most days, brings with its familiarity, a certain force.

I also think that it would open the way to the more than human. The way in which the cold glass, the constant steam, the small droplets forming, would shape and erase and participate in the research-creation all draw out a creative entanglement, not centred on people and our intentions, though these could be intertwined in it.

The potential for the sensory and the aesthetic can not be overlooked. An object like this could be beautiful. Heavy steam lightly fragranced is a sensory experience i seek out, as is the glide of the finger over the smooth cold sheet of glass.

At the moment, and as the pandemic subsides, there is also something particularly loaded about touch, about the traces our fingers leave, about the forbidden and dangerous act of putting our hand where someone elses has been. I think an object like this could speak to that in a powerful way.

Oil pastels on acrylic 60cmx60cm final image, colour blocks built from the scribbled patterns
Oil pastels used to start to build up areas
Base layer painted in acrylic gouache. Mainly black but with some dark purple. Facial structure sussed out. I’ve been thinking about painting a painting using different blacks for a while but decided, once I’d done this that I wanted to build on it with oil pastels.

This brought up some feelings for me. I’m still figuring out some stuff and through the making of this I became aware of some of my stims that I most frequently do but I’ve not previously reflected on. It’s my hand resting on the paint, tapping my fingers rapidly on my thigh with the board placed on my thigh. There’s a pleasure in stimming, there’s a pleasure in the smell and texture of fingers in paint.

Self portrait in oil pastels 12inchx12inch on black paper.

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