Introduction : John Tomlinson : Artist
For me, drawings are willed into existence. The second my graphite stick strikes the surface everything begins to unfold. The material blooms and blossoms, spreads and splashes, deepens and darkens. Rich blacks form into a nose, a push across and back makes a mouth, small strokes form an eye, then jumps to the other eye, circular strokes hover, cross and touch to make ears, a cursive pull forms a jaw, a grinding touchdown makes the cheeks, forehead, skull and prominent bones.
A drawing of a head, a face, an expression, yes, but in truth, an outpouring of what I know, remember and feel about all the men in my life: father, brother, uncle, grandfather, teachers and mentors, male friends, drill sergeants, bosses, all the male protagonists and antagonists I have encountered in a variety of private and public situations.
They say that I have an ear for what men say to men. That I have an eye for their facial expressions when saying what they do and how they say it. Their voices, their expressions provide the rhythm to the music of my drawing. They have an element of darkness in them, with titles such as Modes of Escape, Dark Storms, and The Misery of Men, in which graphite and brush record my inner conversation about the misery of men and unravel my own deep experience as a man in the world.
That is all evident, but the artist is not the only one who finishes the drawing, for whatever the drawing is for the artist, it is something different for the person who encounters it and it is that encounter that enriches and completes it. I believe that such a moment took place when poet Karen Morris first saw my drawings in the series called RAGE: The Misery of Men. Most often the artist isn’t there or knows little about when the encounter happens. I was not physically present, but I felt the full reverberation of that moment when Karen Morris presented me with the poems she had written for each of the drawings.
I haven't yet found the proper words to describe my encounter with poet Karen Morris. How many artists have the extraordinary experience of having a poet write and present a poem for each of the drawings in this book, written without his or her bidding or knowledge? How many poets are so deeply grounded in psychoanalytic perception that they see in my drawings, as she writes in her essay, "the artist's need to claim the page for the rites of self disclosure" and see "the opportunity to wrangle with my own stifled rage, to help myself with the suffering it can cause me; but before any of that could happen, I first saw the opportunity for revenge in the crafting of a poem for each character”?
I don't know how many artists experience this, but I do know that it was a life-changing encounter for me.
I learned from what she saw, from what she wrote.
Poet Morris saw vulnerability that I didn't know was there.