The packages were squeezed together, their paper bag exteriors crinkled and flopping out the top of my mailbox. The books were here. One for class, one for pleasure. Together they were less than $10.
The class book was okay. It was full of poems and short stories about schools and teachers and students. Interesting. But for class. The other book? Woah. “An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators, and Designers.” What a mouthful. What a book. The book I’d really wanted. The book that sat on my wish list for a long time. The first paragraph of the introduction explained my feelings perfectly:
“I have been looking for this book since I was a boy drawing at the kitchen table. I’ve looked for it in dusty secondhand bookshops, in the art sections of libraries, in online bookstores and in auction houses. Because I never found it, I had to put it together myself – a book full of sketchbooks and illustrated journals from all sorts of people who love nothing better than to hunch over a little book and fill its pages with lines and colors.”
That was it. I read that and I had to agree with author Danny Gregory. I wasn’t really a sketchbook keeper myself, but that was what I was drawn to. All the blogs I followed, all the Facebook pages I liked, all the forums I browsed were focused on the sketchbook art of other artists. But I’d seen a few compilations of sketchbooks. Sometimes I’d stumble upon a compilation of graffiti artists, but that wasn’t what I wanted. This book is what I wanted.
I read the first several sketchbook bios the night I got the book. Then the next day I started adding sketches to my own journal.
I’ve been too precious with my drawings. I don’t need to make something perfect every time. I realized that from looking at the sketchbooks in “An Illustrated Life.” You get better at drawing by just drawing.
This self-portrait was done in my girlfriend’s bedroom on a cracked vanity mirror. I made mistakes, but it’s a sketch. I got it to a stopping point and then I ended it. Having lined paper helped me. The imperfection of the lines prevented the drawing from becoming perfect and professional. I won’t be selling this and I knew that right from the beginning.
A couple days later I was walking from class to the library, booking it across the lawn, and there was Thompson Hall in a great composition. I’d thought of drawing it before, but I’d never found the perfect angle. But there it was. So I plopped down in the grass and I sketched. And I felt bad. My girlfriend had an architecture assignment to draw a campus building and she’d been excited to draw Thompson Hall. I was basically stealing her idea. Ah. But I couldn’t ignore the serendipitous composition. I texted her an apology and sketched away (she later drew her own excellent rendition, so I felt better after that).
Hopefully, there’ll be more sketches to come.