Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Exploring Patterns

Originally posted on January 21, 2008

I met a fascinating wise woman yesterday (i.e., Rowena Kryder) who helped me see that my drawings are really explorations of pattern. They are certainly not mere doodling, or even cartooning, which implies a bit more story, or comic humor. They are more tentative than fine art; closer to sketches, but more abstract. We talked about making patterns. This is something children and indeed all humans do in many types of arts and crafts.

I became aware that what Jung said about mandalas had value, but also that there were equivalent psychic values—relating to different ways of re-organizing psychic contents—in drawing or constructing many other kinds of archetypal patterns. Jung recognized and commented on the way the mandala—making a circular, roughly symmetrical diagram with a kind of center and elaborated outside elements (often with four-fold, but also not infrequently with other-numbered-symmetry) serves to express and reinforce the function of the self as a function that coordinates, directs, and balances the many aspects of the psyche—past and future (continuity), wished-for and feared, and other elements. As a result, that dynamic we imagine ourselves to “be” is really an aggregate of many parts in flux, shifting roles, growing, ignoring, repressing, becoming more sensitive, and yet we think of it all as a single “I.”

For many years I’ve been interested in pattern, as expressed in the drawings made by the ancient Mayan artists, various geometric figures, the permutations of representing something that is three-dimensional as projected onto a two-dimensional surface, various mystical diagrams, cartoons, doodles, primal forms, the morphology of one-celled animals (protozoa), and so forth.

A number of years ago I came upon a book titled “Meta-Patterns” (by Tyler Volk)— also fascinating, and then just a few weeks ago came upon the work of the aforementioned Ms Kryder. It has illuminated my own exercises in drawing. She said something like, “I don’t know what people do without drawing patterns—it seems like a necessary nutrient of the mind and soul.” This helped me realize that my efforts for most of my life were more explorations than mere expressions. I don’t know where a given drawing—er, pattern-exploration—will take me.

Sometimes I begin with a geometric progression of maneuvers and then, as the spirit moves me, begin to vary it, or begin to see certain possibilities that suggest other kinds of symbolism or design—and thus the picture takes form. Sometimes I warm up by drawing a Sri Yantra diagram and playing with its possible variants. Often I work in a mandala format, but occasionally I take it into other frameworks.

The point of this is that I’m realizing that just as I’ve enjoyed singing and dancing, and have promoted more popular ways of enjoying those modalities, so too I want to promote drawing, doodling, sketching, finding out what works best for that funny and unique combination of elements that makes up your individuality. Play around—that’s the spirit, the channeling of your inspirations in the tiniest ways, in doodles, bits of song, funny walks, etc. Explore the possibilities of pattern in all modalities, including such grand efforts as telling your own life story and discovering interesting patterns and meanings.

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