A couple of days ago as I ambled up and down the aisles of our local grocery store, nodding to the other under-employed free-lance writers pushing their carts, I turned up the aisle that has periodicals on one side and children’s toys on the other.
I wanted the latest issue of Wired but that’s a magazine Wegmans only carries-wait for it-periodically (well, it was amusing to me) and this was one of those times that I couldn’t find it among the wide variety of magazines about guns, cars, guns, and guns.
I turned my cart around and started toward the guns-I mean soup-aisle… and stopped.
Wegmans is a grocery store so naturally art supplies are underrepresented. There is one small section no more than a few feet wide and heavily populated by a variety of guns-pens I mean, pens-and down at the bottom of the section were a few desultory bits of multi colored poster board and a drawing tablet: specifically, the UCreate 40 Sheet Artist Book of Medium Weight Drawing Paper.
I picked it up and flipped back the piss-yellow cover (the color of ART! I said to myself) and felt the paper. It was cheap crap, the kind of paper made from recycled detritus kicked out of waste management sites, bleached with some ungodly toxic chemical combination and packaged up for the artist in all of us.
I used to draw. Actually, I used to draw a lot. Both my parents are artists. I took every art class there was. I thought, at one point, that I had progressed from “that’s crap” to “that’s marginally better crap than the usual crap”. Specifically I enjoyed the fine art of cartooning. I did take a painting studio one time but the teacher and I came to the mutual conclusion that I was using up gesso and canvas that actual painters would need and that I should go make to making doodles on paper.
I hadn’t doodled on paper in quite a while. For reasons I can’t fully explain or understand, I simply put down the pens at some point in my life and didn’t pick them up again. It’s not like I was no longer interested. I still read comics. I still appreciate art, even the doodles. I can’t even put it into words, even now, when that is exactly what this post is about.
But recently I’d been in contact with my cousin-once-removed. She is an artist. She is a very good artist. As I flipped through pictures of her projects, I saw something in her lines and crosshatching that reminded me of my own scratchings. And I began to wonder why I’d put the pens down in the first place.
I tossed the drawing tablet into my cart.
A week or two passed since that momentary lapse of reason. I opened up the tablet and stared at the blank page. A blank page used to excite me! Oh, the possibilities! What couldn’t I do? I was only ever bound by my imagination and questionable level of talent. But now I simply stared at the blankness and saw… nothing. No cartoon faces popped into my head. No fantastic, otherworldly landscapes popped into my head. I picked up my pen, a very normal Uniball Impact 207 with a nice medium-thick flow of ink. A whole past life of art teachers and lessons and endless hours spent bent over wooden tables flashed through me. I once knew this craft. I was once considered an “artist” of sorts.
I drew a line. That’s a good place to start. I could have started with just a point, but I was living large. One line. It looked… okay. I wasn’t hating it. It wasn’t straight, but my hand apparently remembered enough to start and finish a line. I drew a few more lines and put the pen down. Whoa nelly. Don’t get too crazy. Okay. Try a circle. It wasn’t horrible! It sure wasn’t “art” but then again, it was more than I’d been doing over the last ten years. I tried some crosshatching. Ooo, I could still do that. Trembling, I drew a cartoon face: eyes, nose, a mouth, added some eyebrows. It was crap, but then again, I was used to that. I was in my comfort zone. Back to the crap, I said to myself.
But I grinned when I said it. And drew another line that turned into a swirl and as the pen moved over the face of paper I was creating again and that was a pretty special feeling. This cheap paper and this expressionless pen, this was my gateway back into a world I’d put behind me for too long.
I’m back, ya bastards. Look out.