(above) Charles Ritchie, Astronomical Chart, Bowl, and Candles, (work in progress), watercolor and graphite on Fabriano paper, 4 x 6″
Dreams and Images
I don’t have many recurring dreams, but one returned recently. I’m looking across the solar system and the planets are right there; little worlds that I can stretch out and grasp, even reach down and touch their surfaces. My eyes are telescopic; everything far is near and I see space warping around, bending the distant galaxies into my proximity. This dream has reappeared to me in various forms over the years and it’s always exhilarating to experience it.
You might think I might want to try and draw my dreams, but I don’t. The results are always disappointing. I dream in black and white or very subtle color that is much the cast of my drawings, but my dreams are mostly vague, shifting, mental images that feel so different that what I manage to put on paper. Perhaps film would be a better medium in which to construct surrogates for dream experiences. But even so, I’m not sure that rendering my dreams in any medium would be as pungent an art experience as someone might think. Have you ever had someone tell you their dreams? Most are pretty dull to an outsider. I am absolutely content to write my dreams out each morning, and occasionally rewrite and rethink special ones on my drawings. I believe dreams are symbol-filled missives from the subconscious that will reveal a great deal about my psyche if I study them closely. But, my associative readings are probably opaque to most of those who would want to try and follow along.
Regarding the image above, it’s a work-in-progress, a composition sketched out in pencil with various areas articulated in watercolor. The image is dominated by a 19th century astronomical chart that hangs in my studio (see online journal entry, Mapping the Night). Begun in 2007, I started this particular drawing as a graphite composition, but my initial impetus for the idea cooled and I put the sheet away for a couple of years. A few nights ago, I walked into my studio and saw the cupboard with a different set of objects in a different light and pulled out the incomplete sheet and began again. As the original drawing was developed only in pencil, it was easy to rework it into this new composition. I proceed through my process intuitively, waiting for the right objects to unfold in the right context. My efforts to arrange still life objects around the top of the chest are minimal as subjects naturally migrate through my workspace; the dining room the serves as studio and is very much a living space. I prefer to just let the arrangements happen. Perhaps one day if this drawing is successful I’ll look back when it’s over to speculate on why the subjects could have been significant to me at this point of my life. I try not to think about it too much now. Just act.
But returning to the subject of dreams; could the mysterious essence of my dreams filter their way into my drawings? Perhaps there are parallel images in my surroundings that echo the mystery, atmosphere, and symbolist invention of dreams? I’ve always thought this would be a very desirable possibility.
(above) Charles Ritchie, Study for Astronomical Chart, Bowl, and Candles, From Book 132, drawing dated 11 April 2009, watercolor, graphite, and pen and ink on Fabriano paper, page size: 4 x 6