Zen of Crosshatch

I’ve been doing this lately. A lot. I used to crosshatch all the time in the old days, when I had nothing but time on my hands. Not so much anymore. It’s hard to get enough hours in the day to fill a piece of paper with crosshatching.

But since I have an excuse (that would be The Sketchbook Project) I’m not only making the time, but remembering how much fun it is to make lines over and over and over…. No, really, it is fun. It completely numbs the mind from worrying about how the drawing is turning out and allows the hand to just go on without direction. I can actually read my accounting textbooks while crosshatching—I just have to look down now and then to make sure I’m still on the paper.

Of course, in spite of all this zen I need to send this book off in about a week, and I’ve still got the covers to do. So maybe it’s time for concentration!


The Art of Internal Editing

For NaNoWriMo you’re supposed to write 2,000 words a day. I wonder if it counts if you keep rewriting the same 2,000 word section. Damn internal editors!

These editors work away at artists, too. When I was in high school I used to draw during lunch and my friends were always amused at how often I would draw a line and erase it, draw another line and erase it. Sometimes I’d do nothing but draw the same line over and over for the whole period. That line had to be perfect, dammit, or there was just no way to go on!

Then one of my friends challenged me to start drawing with a ball-point pen. No more erasing! It was paralyzing. My pen hovered over the paper, twitching, because I knew whatever happened, it was permanent. But it was silly to just sit there, so eventually I made a mark. And, of course, it was all wrong. So I made more marks to try to fix it and then I was drawing—well, making a mess that I called a drawing…of a bush…possibly a rock…. At any rate, it started a period were I worked in nothing but ball-point, which graduated to dip-pen and then to technical pens. And I left the eraser at home.

ball-point shack

Working lunch

Things Done While Waiting…

Page from my sketchbook

A page from my sketchbook, done while sitting in a waiting room. Well, I guess it was several waiting rooms over the course of a few months, but this was how I passed the time. Waiting rooms are the best places to do mindless things that serve no real purpose other than…well…being mindless. You don’t want to get lost in doing anything important because invariably someone will call your name and A) you don’t hear it and you miss your appointment, or B) it takes you 15 minutes to get all your stuff put away…and you miss your appointment. Doing something mindless lets part of your brain keep track of what’s going on while not totally wasting the time—because at the end of it all you have a page full of little ink lines which is proof that you did something, even if it was just moving your hand in tiny fractional amounts every second. Which, I suppose, could count for a lot of people as time wasted…doing something mindless.

City Streets Again

Side Street: Looking down from the window of an office building near downtown Detroit.

Here’s another painting done from the Great Detroit Photo Shoot With Mom. Now that I’ve found all those pictures again I’m itching to try new things. Really, though, I need to get other, more mundane things done, like updating the Etsy shop and thinking about Christmas. Yes, Christmas. Do I send out cards to business contacts this year? And which contacts? And shouldn’t I start thinking about actually making a Christmas card for said contacts if I decide to send cards to them? Decisions, decisions….

Adventures with Mom

My mother was always a big supporter of my drawings. She always had the dream that I’d be a famous artist living in an upscale flat in a downtrodden part of New York City someday. Maybe a converted warehouse or something. Of course, that never happened, mostly because I didn’t want to live in New York and be a famous artist. I just wanted to make a living and pay bills. But, hey, moms can dream.

Anyway, one day during summer break (I was in college at the time) I mentioned to Mom that I’d like to paint some pictures of Detroit. I thought it would be cool to get a bunch of black-and-white photos of stuff on the streets—just everyday stuff, factories, abandoned houses, whatever. Mom was jazzed. We got in the car and set out for the big city. For several hours, we drove around on the freeways and backstreets (fortunately, she knew her way around) while I took pictures out the window. Once she stopped on I-75 as we were crossing the Rouge River so I could get pictures of the industrial buildings at the river’s edge. She put on the hazard lights and kept an eye out for the police. I suppose we could have got a ticket for using the emergency lane to take pictures—unless she talked her way out of it. She was good at that. She’d be all “What’s your badge number?” and “I know people on the city council.” Which she probably did. Not that it would have made a difference.

Anyway, I got a lot of good pictures from that little road trip, and we didn’t get any tickets, and I ended up doing a few drawings. But no, I never got to that flat in New York.

no parking

No Parking: An electric plant on a street corner in Detroit.

Am I Getting Paid for This?

Wheat Field
I was looking through some old junk in the back room—okay, it was my old portfolio from college—and I was struck by the sheer amount of stuff I used to draw. A lot of it is unfinished, and maybe for good reason, but what’s impressive is the amount of time I was willing to put into drawing. I mean, look at this thing. How many hours did I spend on it? And what was it for? The reason behind it is long gone. Or maybe there was no reason behind it. Maybe I just felt like drawing wheat. I used to do things like that. The question is why don’t I do that now?

Somewhere along the line, I got the bug that Wasting Time Is Bad—Wasting Time being anything that didn’t pay bills or keep the house clean. So somehow spending hours cleaning the house was better than spending hours drawing things. Just looking at that sentence makes me feel stupid.

And paying bills…well, that’s a necessity. But there’s no point in going overboard.

I sometimes get paid to do illustrations or production work, and sometimes, like now, I even almost somewhat make a living from it. But the skills picked up from doing illustrations pale next to the skills I learned while making and wrecking art back in school—like figuring out how to hide the long jagged line after dropping a loaded pen on an almost-finished drawing.

Moral? Blowing a day filling up a piece of paper with wheat just might be the best use of my time. Maybe I should do it more often.