Jean Michel Basquiat

It’s my second visit to Boom For Real, an exhibition of the 80’s artist Basquiat at the Barbican London. The first look felt rushed, but this time I had space to ask myself an important questions about his work:

Was he just doodling?

I think the word is misleading; I call it free drawing, and I see it in a family of art disciplines. So to:

Life drawing

Anatomical drawing

Colour practice

Art theory and history

I would also add free drawing. It’s not just about drawing mandalas or repetitive patterns. It’s a practice that, over time, cultivates a visual language, that you can then use to create a world, then tell stories within that world. But without other practices to support that, that world becomes one dimensional. That’s why I’m learning to draw people on the bus, to give help give my visual language more depth.

So the answer I found to my question was; yes, but not just that. A lot basquiats style was spontaneous free draw, but without his depth of art knowledge, his colour theory, his knowledge of compostion, his work could easily fall into being just childish scribbles.