My conditioned Human reader eyeballs look at once to the fellow at the top left. Guy sitting at a table. I recall I might have been forcing myself to draw a character at rest, since I often draw characters running, jumping, twisting (this guy’s still doing that), fighting, falling, stretching, etc. This sitting guy still looks a bit poised for trouble. It will have to do – he is what I feel, I think (or was what I felt, at least).
When I first got into drawing gesturally (that is, drawing movement first and detail after, if at all) I would draw stickmen on the covers of my Hilroy notebooks, pretending the letters and the big logo circle were things they could run around on. They were often fighting with each other, throwing ninja stars and shooting rayguns and Sparta-kicking each other into the orange or green or yellow abyss.
The stick people jumped and climbed and fell and fought across the cover of my Hilroys – some gaining the power of flight (imbued by triangular capes), or laser guns (able to shoot dashed lines at great distances). What I was not listening to in class while doing this, I will possibly now never know, but I still learned various somethings about motion – the kind you can make in your very own mind.
I have a problem with making chair legs look like they are fixed to the same plane as the rest of everything, this one is a bit wonky, perspective-wise. Everything else about he picture I like, mostly. The foreshortening on the left arm/hand caused some consternation – you can see it in the extra lines drawn attempting to make it right, but without making it look like anything is amiss. I see you, Effort.
Learning! It never stops. When I drew stickmen lo-those-many-moons ago across the covers of my Hilroys because I hadn’t learned how to draw much else yet, I did not worry much about structure, and I wouldn’t hear about foreshortening for years. I enjoyed exactly what I could do at that time – which was draw crude, posable armatures that my mind could wrap with imaginary movement and meaning – and although I often draw more lines now then I did before, I am still pulling essentially the same trick: roughing out a suggestion the mind will then inevitably fill in for its own purposes (or mine, or both).
I look at art on the Internet of Things and it is easy for me to get humbled very hard and super fast. There are so many incredibly talented artists out there, so many beautiful, wonderful images, so many unique styles and expressions. It would be easy for me to wonder what I might possibly have at all to contribute to that, or how I might ever “get that good”. I can’t even set a chair properly upon the floor!
But I don’t look at sketching that way at all. I’m enjoying my own expression within its very own domain: that canvas of things I have learned to make all by myself, and all of its exciting and expanding edges, which I push and stretch outward through work and play, for the pure enjoyment and satisfaction of seeing myself grow over time.
I want to end this post with a spirited, “get yourself a sketchbook today! You won’t be sorry!“, but that seems off tone from the rest of this thing, so I won’t. But I hope you do.
I spent too much time writing about Sitting Guy and his off-axis chair legs, so here’s a bulleted list of remaining observations about the Left Side:
The various speeds at which friendships are made, and not so much the speed of the friends themselves.
The Sitting Guy’s name as Gadroy! Who knew? I think I did once.
Incomprehensible notes about RPG stuff.
Sketches! I like the guy int he middle best. because of balance and shape.
On the Right Side, we have some sort of insert, with words. I think I had a minor personal epiphany – quite possibly while writing in the dark or after second cider or both – about not knowing things for certain, but certainly wanting to tell stories anyway. Am I doing that yet?
The other day (I think it was yesterday) I made a post about being annoyed at a thing I wrote a few days before that. In that second post, I complained that I did not like how I made the first post. Now I find myself on the verge of a three-peat, wishing to critique the second post, not because I disagree with its position on the first post, but that I still don’t enjoy my own writing this week. I was going to write a blog post about it, in fact, and in fact this is that post.
But I can sense a Spiral coming on (I have been practicing my Spiral-Avoidance techniques), so I’m going to pull up before this thing’s event horizon drags me beyond graceful recovery.
I just saw Boredom. It was an awkward couple of moments. This guy follows me around, waiting for me to stop for a moment to have a breath from Work and Worry. Tap, tap on the shoulder – it’s Boredom.
Boredom takes breaks too, now and then, don’t get me wrong. But they’re rare, I think.
Usually I relax by doing something different than the things that un-relax me – writing (case in point), walking, sleeping, reading. All things I enjoy, in part for their own sake, and in part because without any of them to fill the place of Work and Worry, I might have to talk to Boredom, and he’s, well … not boring himself exactly, he just makes the room uncomfortable, or something. Bit of a downer, but nobody can quite say why.
What do you do when Boredom shows up at the party? You can’t invite him anywhere, he’s not into doing anything you’ll end up enjoying, because he brings himself wherever he goes. He only likes talking about boring things. We all know these things, and try not to accidentally make eye contact, because one thing Boredom does like to do, is make eye contact with you. Not do anything really – just look at you, hoping you’ll look back, like he’s looking into a mirror.
And so you open your blog, and you have all of this energy (probably a combo of caffeine and sugar and anxiety and hope, some of which are my best buds), and you start typey-typing all heads-down-like in the hope Boredom will eventually get bored (there’s your mistake) and wander off.
But no, he just sits down uncomfortably close to you, vaguely interested in what you’re doing, but mostly interested in where you’ll look when you stop doing it.
I’m not even sure if he blinks. I try not to imagine the answer.
On Canadian Remembrance day (Nov 11) I wrote what I was thinking about the experience of standing at attention for 120 seconds in a coffee shop out of respect for all people who have served in our military, and the militaries of our allies – and then all of their families who by extension went through their own version of the uncertainty and hazards of warfare.
I put my best effort (in the time I had, before the work day demanded I get on with things) to express what I felt and thought. All opinions. I actually have a problem with the post, I can’t put my finger on it. I didn’t serve, some part of me feels no right to have an opinion.
I am supposed to feel grateful, but more than that, just to simply remember that a lot of our neighbours’ families have been changed by the need for military intervention somewhere in the world whether through death or injury or trauma or prolonged absence.
I do feel grateful – grateful that there are those with the courage to put themselves into dangerous environments so the rest of us can worry about deadlines and not having enough time to express themselves creatively through art. It seems absurd. It is absurd.
For me to talk at all about war being unnecessary and unfortunate is to simply state the obvious. We’re not living in a Star Trek Human future – at least not yet – and so remembering the service of veterans is not an abstract thing to wax philosophical about, but a real one to simply think hard about, and maybe act upon in some way.
I often re-read my own blogs, looking for the tone and the typos. I can post something thinking I probably have a typo in it and then read through it post-publish and find five, and then re-read it again the next day and find two more, and then do it immediately again and find three more, and then still find a typo or two in any given post I decide to revisit from that time onward, no matter how many times I do it.
Some of my own posts I enjoy re-reading occasionally (well done, keyboard!), but there are some – including my recent Remembrance Day post – that bother me. I annoy myself with my own words and stances, and the confidence I put behind them. I know I can sound like a complete blowhard at times.
I like words, I like practicing stringing them together to convey a rough approximation of what’s happening in my head in that moment. Sometimes the stuff that wants to come out is more than my fingers can manage. Sometimes my fingers lead my mind, because my mind has decided to go a-wandering mid-post or paragraph. What results is an aggregated opinion only, no matter how certain and confident and convicted I might appear to be or to feel. Sometimes I can sound pretty much all of those things, almost like I know what I’m talking about.
I really don’t know what I’m talking about. I have an opinion and then I have an opinion about my opinions. These secondary (though no less important) opinions – the ones about what I was first opinion-ing on – can change over time. The original opinion I was first trying to express gets gradually buried in the sediments of my memory. Your guess is as good as mine, what I might have once meant.
In this past post where I grappled (for less than an hour) on what Remembrance Day in Canada should make me feel and think, I think I felt mostly worry for our world, but also hopeful that we had the capacity to actually someday leave the practice of war behind, entirely.
There are nations and populations and leaders of those I’m sure all over this globe who might well agree, and others (especially the leaders) of some who would most certainly not. It is to guard the rest of us from the dangers presented by those leaders (the ones who are fine using their technological clubs to harass, intimidate, manipulate, and steal from the rest of us) that necessitates the having and using of militaries at all.
To the service people and their families in Canada in particular, I owe the most for my own personal safety and circumstances. To those from nations who are and have been our allies in conflicts (hot and cold), I also owe more than I could hope to repay. It’s the remembering of the sacrifices of those people specifically I am called on to practice and consider, and I do, though of course never enough, or for as long as they might deserve.
Where and with whom the thoughts go from there is hard to manage. We come back to the unfortunate fact of war, knowing it to be a problem in need of a solution. We can remember respectfully, and equally respectfully strive hard to not repeat.
I also I believe I did servicemen and women an accidental disservice by writing that post as though they themselves might not feel the same about the whole business. I just recognize that there is a tradition to remembering, and I’m not part of that world, so sometimes speaking less and thinking about gratitude and sacrifice more is the better approach – these are things I am still trying to learn how to do.
All of that up there is an example of the hazards of having opinions. This blog in fact can be broken into two general categories, all posts falling betwixt two poles:
FICTION <– Somewhere In-Between –> OPINION
I believe FACT can be found on the Internet somewhere, I occasionally link to external pages that might qualify as FACT, or eventually lead to some, but in fact there is none to be found here. As certain and convicted and wordy as I might ever allow myself to get, the implicit disclaimer (I would hope) that this is the Opinion of the Author Only comes attached firmly to every single post and pronouncement I might make.
What else can I make with words alone, but fictions and opinions, and some things in between? Fact is the domain of someone else entirely.
When I first decided to start “regularly” (small steps, Mike…) posting pages from a sketchbook, my intention had been to use the page as inspiration to write about some theme or image or story that was on the page. Or maybe just write about the drawing process or something. To prompt myself to write something.
The experiment has sort-of worked. I do sometimes get prodded by the picture I’ve uploaded to begin writing in one direction or another, but other times I think I already have a blog thing that I want to write, and it ends up simply coexisting with the image, in one post.
The stories diverge. Maybe accidental meaning gets derived. It seems like a kind of medium of its own: the routine of posting recently-forgotten pages from a sketchbook that was filled in all topsy-turvy, backward-to-frontward, then typed all over, above and beneath, no other real rules, except to write. Well, I suppose that’s a thing. You just decide on some rules and go. It’s like game jamming maybe, but with doodles and words.
How am I doing? I don’t know yet. I enjoy it, I think. Let’s try that first idea, where I look at the picture above, and write directly about it, no metaphorical sideways thinking, no overt wandering-away.
We start with two characters in the upper left. My eye is drawn to the expression of the one on the right – I enjoy her attitude, she seems very friendly. They are walking through a group of children, seems to be fantasy medieval in its setting (I draw almost entirely fantasy characters so this seems unsurprising. Also, I remember trying to draw them as though in a fantasy medieval setting). The fellow behind her seems nice enough, though a bit spaced out. He’s looking up at something, or else he’s remembering that delicious scone he ate earlier? I can’t tell, and don’t recall.
Then we have me trying to come up with a name for an RPG (Role-Playing Game, of the old-school, pen-and-paper variety) I’d like to create and publish and play (maybe play comes before publish, then also after, if it’s any good). I love game designing, though it’s always been strictly a hobby so far.
On the other page, A wizard or some such with a very long and slanted face, making a face, like he’s very shocked, or is feigning shock (I think he’s doing reasonably well). Perhaps an invisible dentist is checking his tonsils. The angle of his face makes me think of a mountain cliff, with a cave at its base. Stay away from the hungry wizard’s giant maw!
The person in front of him is enjoyable to look at. I am not trying to give undue kudos to own self, but I realize I would also not dissuade others from giving kudos to themselves when they do something they themselves like, so I will grant myself permission to say that I enjoyed how this guy turned out. Well done, pencil. This happens when you sketch- some things you like, some you don’t. Some become your favourites, others you might throw out some spring cleaning to make room for more sketches.
This is all OK. Imagine how boring it would be if everything you ever did came out exactly as good as the last thing. The “junk” and the gems are what give it depth and texture – I mean, you, and your art and stuff. I like this crouchy, half-stumbling man. Or maybe he is hurt, I hadn’t thought of that.
He has nice weight and tension and recently I’ve started to enjoy sketching characters from behind a lot more. Backs are fun, they have structure and gesture both. I think it helps to forget about the face sometimes (it may be imagined anyway) and work on balance, form, and posing.
I cheated on his feet a bit, which I do a lot. I enjoy finding the gestures that work and then I sometimes go back and work out the anatomy as best I can. I have not studied that enough, but I would recommend it and should follow my own advice more.
I miss life drawing classes, that is one thing I would enjoy doing again, time permitting. In life drawing classes, you get lots of opportunities to see things like weight and tension and balance, it’s a wonderful way to improve your sketching, and you can then apply gestural drawing to any kind of object, like a lamp or a sack of flour or a cat or a happy spaceship or a sagging, tired old cottage or a guy with no shoes carrying an armful of rocks somewhere.
If you have never considered life drawing classes, or considered it and not yet done it, or done it before but haven’t in a while but have or have not been thinking about doing it again, you should do it, maybe. I won’t tell you what to do.
Then there’s another attempt at canine gesture-before-structure. Quadrupeds are a challenge, anybody who has tried to draw one knows. Their legs are kind of like ours, but their arms are usually helping them walk, and their back legs seem all backward sometimes because their feet are often really long. Well that is how I think of it sometimes. Their heel is often quite high up, and their upper legs (depending on the quadruped) are often a bit short in comparison (or hidden in a bunch of muscle at their hip). Very different from species to species, but the principle is often the same or similar. This of course changes their mechanics of movement, each and every one, leading to all those crazy gaits.
Here, it was an alert dog I was going for. I think I got it right, but didn’t want to spoil it by giving it a weird head or face (I mess up animal faces a lot). Sometimes a sketch can feel quite done and perfect in its own way, without ever looking “finished”. You just think “I like how this is now, perhaps I’ll leave it be”. That’s the thing you should know first about sketching: no rules, just be kind.
This dog reminds me of our dog (but with less detail)- a little too alert all the time. You generally want your dog to be a bit more loose and laid back looking. His or her angles would be all soft somehow. Maybe more circles, fewer squares. Unless there’s an intruder or fire, of course, then alert and blocky is quite fine – it’s why we got them (dogs) in the first place (that and they are adorable, mostly).
Then there’s Pointing Guy and Helmet Head. More practice, tick, tick.
The guy at the very top of the right page looks to me like he’s taking a pee. I look at him least, out of respect for his privacy. (almost a poem there!)
Space Person With RayGun is pretty neat. I don’t do hard materials as much as soft materials, mostly, honestly because of vanishing points. Accursed box-shape things are lousy with them. Still, I have bent my boxy objects into softer-edged organic-y surfaces (sort of) and given the space person some pants made out of cross-hatchety black SpaceMesh(tm). Fewer angles and stiffness. Cheat. No Voltron portraits for this guy.
When I look at this page, I like it overall – my eye keeps going back to some things, and appreciating the end result, and also appreciating the fortune I have had to have had the time to draw at all, so that I could put on paper what I often feel within.
I think what I have wanted to say outright with this blog, at least at times, is: keeping a sketchbook, at whatever stage of your sketch-booking journey you are, can be very rewarding – it’s a practice that creates wonderful and weird artifacts as you go, and then all the stories to follow 🙂
At 11 am this morning, my local Tim Hortons shut off the ever-present too-loud radio station for two full minutes, while the patrons one-by-one put their coffees down, stilled their conversations, and stood, in silence. The staff told us cheerfully when it was time to get back to work, and back to relaxing.
Two minutes of silence, for the untold numbers of young people who put themselves in direct danger for a cause bigger and at times I’m sure more inscrutable than they could fully fathom. In war we are all too young, I think, though I know literally nothing about serving in that way, I am only a beneficiary, one of so many.
What can I possibly say about war, and the people whose lives it claims in some way or another? I’ve not fought in one, and lost no one close to me as a result.
My parents – the “boomers” (which I have been told is a term many of them no longer appreciate hearing!) came along at the end of the last big war, but war has never ceased, it seems, for even a moment.
In places the war turned cold, in others it stayed hot. Out of no disrespect for any veteran, or friend or family member of one or more, I know we were not meant to fight one another forever. We started it seems at war with our surroundings, at odds with the Earth itself. This was only after we started to see ourselves as “We”, maybe. Before then, we were just nature itself.
But then there were individuals and then families and tribes, coalitions and kingdoms… empires. Borders grew into one another, scarce resources fought for, lineages grappling with each other for dominance, or security, or posterity… divine favour even. I don’t know this stuff either – ask your local historian or philosopher or theologian , I’m pretty sure I’ve got the gist of it, but am no doubt missing most of the story.
We don’t get along very well, even in 2019. Whatever you think of the state of our planet, and to what degree we owe it to be cautious how we tread now, I think you might agree that for the bunch of us to move into some new way of being (and we most certainly can do so), we will at some point need to spend less time and energy fighting each other, and more of it facing forward, toward a long stay here on this rock, until we can safely step into space, and out into the stars.
Do we deserve to land on Mars, when we cannot manage our own footprint here first? Should we spend any effort heading into space when we still wrestle directly and indirectly with each other for resources and privileges we could just as easily co-manage, like a real inter-planetary civilization must certainly learn to do? Are we expecting to suddenly be peaceful, once a significant number of us are living elsewhere in our solar system, or beyond? Why would we simply and naturally leave our guns behind, when at home they are still fired with frightening frequency?
Do you find these stupid questions to be asking? I certainly don’t.
This day, we were reminded – ever so briefly – that we got where we are in part upon the backs of those who put themselves in front of bullets for us. As we mix and mingle in this increasingly connected world (how many languages I hear on the bus into town! A curious kind of music, bringing both uncertainty and great hope), we must start to recognize we have been bombing our own selves, and shooting at our own neighbours, traumatizing our own family. An alien watching us from the far side of our moon would not see an advanced civilization, but a rather primitive one – but perhaps one with hope yet. Would they consider us worthy of stepping off this planet before we had learned to begin to live peacefully and sustainably upon it? Would you?
I do not want to do a single disservice to any person in uniform, whether their home lay close to mine, or far away. The people in the literal and proverbial trenches rarely if ever are the same ones who order the trenches to be dug in the first place- but they are the souls who go there, willingly or not, to fight the battles, righteous or otherwise. I believe in their cause: for a better world for their families – our families. We argue still about how to best define that, and how best to fight for it. It should not always involve killing.
Maybe we are not done yet growing, but I do hope we are still growing, and that we are able to do it enough, in time for our next and much bigger steps.
If you feel forever a long desire to shine as brightly as those nearby neighbouring stars you can never cast out your very own light – never fully shine a brilliance all of your own
I find writing poems hard but that’s practice too. I like to shape them visually because that’s what sketch artists do.
This one above is about comparing oneself to the others. It’s a thing that happens a lot on the Internet of Things, as it’s so easy to do. A trap for the ego and the self-doubt both. I don’t think it’s about lumens, but shades and spectrums, and oscillating patterns. We all have a signature that is so much more than volume, perfection, followings, or sheer force of will. Reside in that, and maybe your unique message will hit its own Send button.
I was excited to find some drawings on this page – I wrote a while ago a short an unfinished story about two characters discussing privilege, responsibility, expediency… Things. I wrote it as a kind of response to a kind comment from a fellow Pressling. I loved the characters, especially Doris, who to me seemed like a hero – talking little, listening much more, and succinct in action and thought. I started to imagine the adventures they’d have – the elder in his dusty profession, the youth in her conviction to move things onward – both still growing minds, engaged in a world in need of change.
Doris got herself some travelling gear here – after all, the roads and wilds of the Westfarian Isles (a fictional place, I am fairly certain) are hazardous. One needs good boots, and a sturdy blade. Allanwarde (now Added to Dictionary) got himself a few faces, from which to choose which he might then use.
Despite my love of sketching and writing both, I have a curious desire to leave my own characters to the imagination of the readers, of which I am one. Doris could be anyone, Allanwarde most certainly is too. Here are some ideas about both of them, from me to you.