When I was about 16 I had a friend who could draw a perfect motorcycle - just pick up a pencil and with a few precise strokes make an ideal “Harley hog” appear on the page. Perfect ape-hanger bars, perfect dual throne seat, the rear-sweeping, high-flown pipes - it always came out the same, always exactly perfect. You could almost hear the darn thing roar.
This excited something akin to envy in me and I tried and tried to mimic his drawing, but mine never came out anywhere near perfect. Quite frustrating, and even worse, after a while my drawings didn’t resemble a motorcycle at all but morphed into a horse or a giant bird shooting flames from its mouth or a naked dancing girl. Yet one day, looking over my failures, it occurred to me that in my flopping around was doing something else, something much more interesting.
Suddenly I didn’t want to copy his motorcycle any more. “Always the same, always perfect” is not what art is. I struggled to understand exactly what this meant. My friend’s iconic bike was cool but it was finite, finished, somehow closed or like, hermetically sealed. It came out the same every time; it could never get lost or explore, never grow into anything different or sneak in through the backdoor of your head, as I realized my drawings, flabby and imperfect as they were, had a growing power to do. A simple thought, but one which to this day has stuck with me and is pretty much my philosophy of art.