In his commentary on Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, John Lanchester says this book “does for [modern] man what Montaigne did in the 16th Century… In a time which celebrates fame, success, stupidity, convenience and noise, here is the perfect antidote, a hymn of praise to obscurity, failure, intelligence, difficulty, and silence.”

For what is the purpose of creativity but to actively seek the deepest insights into humanity through the crucible of making, and more importantly, un-making?

Despite increasingly precise measurements, contemporary maps of the cosmos or the minutiae of the sub-atomic world will likely be no more accurate in the future than ancient seafaring maps that included half-remembered landscapes and sea monsters.

Like mapmakers, we draw and paint what we observe, but find our drawings inevitably cross over into the unknown, for, like maps, they are never truly, wholly accurate, never allowing for shifting points of view or even the necessity of dreams.

This then is our region – where the visible and invisible meet, where the observed and the intuitive lie side by side, and where the seen pays a constant debt to the unseen.

Everything changes when we draw: channels open up between our eyes and our breathing, heart rate, and neurological paths. Borders dissolve between touch, smell, and sound. The ideas absorbed when we draw are infinitely better than when we don’t draw. And, like making maps, what we draw we remember; what we don’t draw, we forget.

But like maps, drawing is about the specific, not the general: about revealing ideas with precision and authority. Ironically, it is the discrepancy between one’s unfocussed marks – one’s lack of precision compared with the purity of the subject, full of complexity and unseen forces at work – that leads to the prolonged search.

The initial marks we make are only the beginning: it is when we begin to unmake these marks through sanding and erasing, that drawing becomes thinking. By deliberate and often painstaking removal, by excavating, the drawing starts to reveal its true self. Clouds of erased marks ensue, and the search is fully underway.

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