Writer’s Block

Graphite, Carbon Black and White Chalk on Grey Paper, 24″ x 18″
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This drawing was awarded First Place in the drawing category at the 26th International Competition of the Portrait Society of America.

Graphite, Carbon Black and White Chalk on Grey Paper, 24″ x 18″

The drawing “Writer’s Block” is a portrait of Brooke Williams, a close friend, cousin, and writer. My wife and I frequently talk with Brooke and her husband about the challenges of doing creative work in difficult times.

On a recent visit, we all confessed to finding the current environment especially distracting. Destabilizing world conflicts appear to be getting worse, political polarization is deepening domestically with no end in sight, while artificial intelligence threatens to commodify human creativity at breakneck speed. With personal pressures of work and family added in, there’s a persistent sense of unease in our lives that we don’t recall feeling so keenly a decade ago. It’s just in the air now.

Such a state of mind has an impact on creativity. It raises questions about what kind of art we can make that feels relevant and real in the current moment. During our last conversation with Brooke, I was reminded that those questions can be quite difficult to answer.

While we were speaking, I asked Brooke if I could take her picture, which eventually became the source material for this drawing. There was something about her posture at that moment that seemed to capture what we’d been discussing. The furrows in her brow, the obvious tension in her crossed arms, and the worry in her gaze all conveyed a sense of struggle that nearly every artist has experienced at some point: “What should I do now? Do I really have anything to say that matters?”

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graphite portrait of a woman with arms crossed.Writer’s Block