My doodles finally coalesced into something recognizable during my late single digit years and I kept at it for the following few decades.
My earliest inspirations came from my two favorite things: comic books and fish. When I began to take myself “seriously”, that is, kept a few of my drawings, almost all of them were on those two subjects.
By the time of my early teens, I graduated to sketch books. I know this because I still have them. Heh, how raw those drawings were (but passionate…I even colored many of them).
In the late 80’s, I purchased a Commodore Amiga, an amazing personal computer whose chief claim to fame was its enhanced graphics and drawing tools. Of course, the first piece of computer art I worked on was an angelfish from my beloved “Secrets of the Seas” book (from Reader’s Digest) that I had owned since the 70’s.
I took an art class my senior year in high school. They did not teach drawing. We spent a lot of time reading about art and doing some painting. I didn’t like painting.
When I got to UF, one of the earliest electives I took was an art class. We spent time doing figure drawings in wash, animal skeleton studies and a final exam based on using some technique we had learned during class.
I “painted” (it was ink and wash) a scene of a crying eyeball planet dripping on a skull with rats and roaches. No, despite going to school in the home of “Gainesville Green”, I was not high at the time. The teacher might have been, though, because he selected my work for display at the local museum show. (You can just see the award-winning piece on the right side of the photo above).
My two art classes never actually taught me how to draw, though. Over time, I picked up random drawing books and tried to self-teach (such as Burne Hogarth’s “Dynamic Anatomy”), but it was clear I was just not taking to “accurate” drawing.
Basically, I could draw from imagination. When I went to comic conventions during my youth, I always marveled how fantastic the artists could draw, but more impressively, how fast they could draw.
I can draw something fast. If I want it to be recognizable, it takes a while. If I want it to look “good”, it takes me a few hours.
Still, I kept at the drawing craft as long as my imagination and time allowed. During a stint as a front desk security guard on the night shift, I would sketch away in a book to pass the hours. Later, during business trips on commercial airlines, I would sketch or occasionally draw from pictures in magazines. During that time, I switched from my full set of art pencils to simple Papermate Sharpwriter “mechanical” pencils (for convenience; it’s not appreciated to sharpen pencils on airplanes).
Then, one day, I just stopped. Corporate America had rotted away, if not my imagination, then at least my motivation. There are no blue pills for drawing.
Seven years ago, just before leaving Corporate America forever (hopefully), I remodeled my entire home. In the “guest” bedroom, I built my Bowflex and stored my sports equipment (golf, tennis, bowling). I also pasted up a sampling of my artistic efforts through the years.
It was my hope that, as I was working out, I would get inspired enough to pick up the pencil again (my favorite medium) and start drawing.
Years passed and no sketchbook was opened (except for one Christmas where I roughed out Christmas “cards” I gave out to all my friends – basically large bristol board drawings of Santa doing something topical with an appropriate spot for a gift card to be pasted in…they were quite popular).
Finally, today I dragged out the last sketchbook, with its many unused pages and pulled out that same beloved book from the 70’s. I sat down at the dining room table and browsed the book looking for inspiration. There, on page 101, was an illustration of the many sharks in the oceans.
With my (newly purchased) Papermate Sharpwriter pencil, I began to draw from the illustration. My hands were a little less confident and my memory of how to angle the graphite for shading was somewhat dim, but, yes, there was that old glow.
I had intended to only test my capacity to draw (still) and got caught up in the attempt. Drawing did bring back one unfortunate memory: I’m a knuckle dragger. I don’t know if this is a problem for righties, but I drag my left hand across the page while drawing. My hand then picks up graphite and smudges across the page. Sigh.
As with this blog post, so too has my journey back to my sketch book been one drawn out exercise.