Aimone continues: “In our culture, drawing has become synonymous with rendering. So if you’re not able to render a dazzling likeness of something, you’re told that you don’t have any talent. Every 3-year-old is a fabulous artist. But by age 12 or 13, they’ve either been told they have talent or they’ve stopped. And most people never start again.”
One of the key influences on Aimone was a branch of Surrealism known as psychic automatism. This group believed that “automatic drawing” — a form of spontaneous doodling — can reveal something about the artist’s inner life that other more self-conscious forms of drawing can’t. Inspired by their work, Aimone developed a series of exercises to stimulate this kind of creativity. “The thing is to tap into the intelligence of your body — and your subconscious — and use that as a source from which to express yourself.”
The workshop took place in a large, high-ceilinged studio, scattered with some of Aimone’s haunting black-and-white paintings. A few of the students were professional artists, but most had never studied art before, including a performance artist, a therapist, a textile designer, a book publicist and the local mail carrier. After a quick introduction, we launched into the first exercise: drawing three pictures with black paint, each containing a circle, a square and a triangle.
The point, Aimone explained, was to show how much intrigue you can create with three simple shapes. When the shapes relate to one another on the paper, he said, they become animate entities. “They have character, personality, energy and weight,” he said. “They’re alive.”
No kidding. Some of the drawings that emerged were charged with feelings of fear, anger and pent-up rage. The textile designer’s pictures resembled a group portrait of a dysfunctional family, while the performing artist’s tightly regimented works portrayed an empty world in which nobody ever touched.
For me, the process was surprisingly liberating. I was delighted to paint in carefree, de Kooningesque brushstrokes, without trying to make the drawing resemble anything. I felt something wild and uninhibited awaken inside me, something screaming desperately to get out.