Rabbit Hole Inspiration



It was the dreariest of Covid days. The only bright spot on the calendar was a Zoom meeting of my critique group. My new Zoom friend, Arni, started the discussion by sharing an image of her new work where she was exploring an alphabet of shapes, each with its own unique meaning. Offhandedly, she mentioned a video on YouTube by Steven J. Fowler on asemic writing. 

When the meeting was over, it was still dreary, colder, and wetter than earlier, so I clicked on the video, and I was fascinated. Asemic writing is like doodles or scribbles that look like writing but have no semantic context. However, the way these marks or scribbles or swoops or hieroglyphs are organized may allow the viewer to interpret their own meaning. Fowler talked about the visual character of writing and how languageless handwriting, with no semantic context, means that anyone can read it, just as anyone can interpret an abstract painting.  
I had wanted to introduce more line work into some of my paintings, and this asemic rabbit hole beckoned. Here are some of the stops: Asemic poetry (yes, I bought a book), asemic Zoom workshops (no, I didn't sign up), artists who use text (Cy Twombley, Jean Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Amy Sillman), artists who use numbers (Jasper Johns), typography art, automatic writing (and its history), hieroglyphics. I realized that I'd found the end of the rabbit hole when search results all included the response "Are you anemic?"  

It was time to make marks! I tried to imitate marks found in ancient writings or hieroglyphics, then tried other languages, then famous artist marks. The results were clear-- trying to make my marks as graceful, forceful, or emotive as those of the original mark maker could be a new rabbit hole to explore. I considered whether I needed a new mark-making tool to really capture the essence of these marks. Just thinking about new reasons to go to an art supply store was very enticing.   But what was really apparent was the advice many have given: 'Be yourself.'
Although there are many ways to make asemic writing, the foundational idea is scribbles and doodles. And so, I thought, if I can't be myself scribbling and doodling, all hope is lost, so I set off to scribble and doodle (see above). These intuitive marks often find their way into my pictures, and I like the curiosity they inspire. 

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