What’s old is new again
Since I was old enough to hold a crayon, I’ve loved to draw. As I grew up, losing myself in my imagination while drawing probably kept me from going crazy with boredom. Doing it took intense concentration and a willful letting-go of the here-and-now, a break from the grinding reality of school and cleaning my room. It got me in trouble sometimes, because I’d draw rather than do math homework. I’d draw rather than play with my cousins. I couldn’t help it.
When I was older, people started calling me an artist. I believed them – there were indeed original drawings and sketches appearing on the paper in front of me. And I was, and still am, possessed of an artist’s mentality. I daydream. I procrastinate. I’m sort of quirky and nerdy. I’d rather be creating people and worlds in my mind than interacting with them in real life. My home is filled with color and movement, with art and whimsy. Bare spaces disturb me. Neatness makes me nervous. I get bored easily and always, always need something to keep my mind occupied.
But as a young adult I lost confidence in my art. I had to make a living, and everyone knows that artists starve and live in garrets. I was an average student – my A grades were always in art and English – and because I’d been told I’d “be an artist when I grew up” for so long, I didn’t know if I could do anything else. I had to find out. I was working but broke all the time, and it seemed that I was never really going to be a “famous artist.” I had no idea, really, how to go about being one. I just sketched and painted whenever I had an opportunity.
So, one day, in a fit of boredom and with a longing to see some other parts of the world, I joined the U.S. Air Force. There I discovered that I could, indeed, do other things besides draw. I directed fighter jets in aerial dogfights. I got married, had a child, was divorced, served my time in the AF and was discharged honorably, and found other jobs. I married again, went to live abroad, returned to the U.S. and divorced again. Found work as a journalist, as a reporter and an editor. And I married a third time – to the man I’d originally married, the father of my daughter – and kept on working. And working.
And during all that time, I rarely drew. Instead, I turned my creativity toward writing. I love to write. To me, it’s like painting a picture with words, when it goes right. The skill and craft of it fascinates me.
And then I was laid off from my job as an editor. I haven’t found a new job yet, though I’ve looked. I’ve spent my time off work writing – something I’ve dreamed of doing. So far, though, no Great American Novel has made an appearance. I’ve written a lot of blog posts and I’ve done some freelancing for actual money, but it looks like I’m never going to be famous for my works of literature.
My talent for drawing, while long neglected, remains as strong as it ever was. I’ve been thinking about taking it up again for quite some time. But man, I’m rusty. I’ve been fearful. What if I can’t draw anymore? What if what I draw isn’t any good? What if it really sucks? And who decides that, anyway?
Well, I’ve decided none of that really matters. I know I can draw. I know it gives me pleasure and joy. Who cares if what I draw isn’t very good? The more I draw, the better I’ll get. And drawing will open up another, long-neglected part of my mind. There are worlds in there, waiting to come out. Opening that doorway to them will make me happy.
Inspired by this incredible website, I bought myself a couple of Moleskine notebooks and hunted down a good drawing pencil. I decided I’d bring the notebook with me whenever I was out and about. If I had to wait for something, rather than reading a book, I’d draw whatever was in front of me. Or whatever I felt like drawing. A cottage in the clearing of a dark forest? A galloping horse? An owl’s fierce, yellow-eyed gaze? My own foot? It didn’t matter. I’d just draw.
Shown above are the first two drawings that came as a result of my decision to draw again. I enjoyed doing them. I was a little self-conscious, sketching in public, but I’m sure I’ll get over that as I do it more. They’re not great art. But I’ll get better, and faster, at capturing scenes, at rendering perspective, at shading for depth. After all, drawing while waiting around is deliciously stolen time that would only be wasted otherwise.
Who knows where making a new beginning at something so old will take me? Might as well find out.
P.S.: You can click on the drawings to “embiggen.” I love that word.