Making marks…

I have this lovely friend who is a painter…. I’ve written about her before here – I only know one painter. Actually, I don’t think I should call her a painter – she’s a ‘visual artist’. (She doesn’t paint houses for a living.)

Last week, I played at a workshop for her – 6 student painters were being taught by her about how to respond to music and ‘make marks’. I like that term. It made me wonder how my marks were made – and I could see my playing almost like the light you see from a sparkler when you move it quickly in front of your face. You know that light that you see, and love, and then it’s gone? That’s was how I saw the marks I made on that day.

Each piece was treated the same way. I played, and everyone listened. Then I played again and they made a ‘sketch’ of shapes on not-so-good paper in just charcoal. Then I played again and they could do another ‘sketch’ using charcoal, white and one colour. And then they could start a painting on good paper. They weren’t painting me. They were painting the music. 

I chose to try and be as still as possible when I wasn’t playing. I wanted to be as little intrusion as a person as I could be. And when I played, I tried to give them everything I could – phrasing that took the piece (and their marks?) somewhere, space between notes (probably more so than usual, but not too much, otherwise then the music wouldn’t work so well) and a beautiful sound. I also tried to play the same sort of way each time. On reflection, it was a hugely disciplined day for me – it reminded me a lot like the recording process.

Here’s what I learned…..

My friend is an excellent teacher.

I felt the panic in the room in the first piece. No-one really knew what to do. By the second piece, though, there was this wonderful peace. No-one talked very much. There was a real feeling of being present, and I loved it.

There are very few times that people are present – everyone seems to be on their phones, or on their computers. When did you last stop. And do nothing. Look out a window, or listen to birds. Not when you are on holiday, either. Just each day. I like it. I try to do it as much as I can. Stare into middle distance for a few minutes each day.

It’s hard to play as I chose to. Very demanding – mentally and physically. But it was the right way to do it, I think. And it was really appreciated.

Making art is a beautiful thing. I loved watching it happen. I’m not sure I could do it, visually.

Charcoal gets everywhere. Fingers, faces, the floor, cups of tea. You name it. Being a cellist is much cleaner….