I can't draw dreamy pictures […] My drawings seem pale and timid next to Julia's. (artists.79-80)
Ivan is not only comparing the quality of his art to Julia's, but what she chooses to represent (or not represent) in her work, for example things that aren't real. Ivan is quick to judge his ability and his style as an artist, and his willingness to get down on himself just might have something to do with his life in captivity.
When I'm drawing, that's all I think about. I don't think about where I am, about yesterday or tomorrow. I just move my crayons across the paper. (artists.81)
Art allows Ivan to forget that he lives in a cage, or that he's had a lonely existence. Ivan not only lives in the present moment when he's creating, he seems to transcend the space-time continuum. Has Ivan discovered the secret to happiness? Should he be doing the lecture circuit, speaking to students and professors in university art departments around the country?
Even as a baby, still clinging to my mother, I had an artist's eye. (shapes in clouds.87)
Ivan seems to think art is something he was born with a predisposition for. Looked at from this angle, his art making seems like a way to lay claim to himself—it's his constant.
I saw shapes in the clouds and sculptures in the tumbled stones at the bottom of the stream. (shapes in clouds.87)
Is Ivan saying that artists see things differently than others? Is art about the way we see things or the way we create things?
When I'm drawing a picture I feel quiet inside. (art lesson.451)
Art is a source of calm for Ivan, a way to get himself in the present and focus on the page.
I try to imagine Ivan as he might have been. (what is was like.1433)
Ivan must be very creative to conjure up this image. Is he looking to the past or imagining something that may not exist yet? Can you imagine yourself as you might have been in another time frame?