June 28, 1977. I’m in El Segundo, California. In three days I will be leaving the US for Micronesia and I take a moment to capture the view from my hotel window. I have started to occasionally draw what I am looking at rather than what is in my mind. Over the next two years I will see and feel many amazing things. I only wish I had captured more of it on paper.
In front of our house in Pohlangas was a large mango tree. Someone had built a bench around the tree, and travelers walking the road between Wapar and the bay would often stop to rest there in the shade. We would sit in our living room and watch the world slowly go by through the large screen windows. A woman sat for a moment on the bench and I, with pen and paper, recorded the scene.
Ed and Fred were diving and spearing fish in the lagoon. I sat in the boat under the blazing sun and, with a small pad and pencil, sketched the strange harvest, complete with notes about color for the painting that never followed.
It was a hot, lazy afternoon. Several workers sat in my living room around the radio as the voice from Kolonia reported the vote on the new constitution that would change Ponape to Pohnpei. It went on for hours. Delis Jack sprawled on the couch beside me, layed back and closed his eyes, and I took the opportunity to record the moment.
A scene from my room: A bottle of vodka, a shot glass, a shell ashtray, a pack of Winstons, and a box of Greenlite matches. The caption says, “Feb. 5, 1979. Depression.” Don’t know what it was about, but I remember the feeling.
It was while sitting through long college lectures that my interest in drawing really started to grow. At the end of the day my notebooks often contained more pictures and doodles than words, as this clip of notes from a lecture on Jane Eyre shows.
It’s interesting to me that someone who today draws rather literal landscapes started out much more in the realm of fantasy.
Maybe I need to reconnect with my long-haired, 24-fingered self.
I wanted to use this log as an opportunity to see and show drawings I’ve done over the years, so the other day I started looking through old notebooks and I came upon a yellowed piece of paper containing a faded pencil sketch of my bedroom dated December 21, 1967. As far as I know it’s the earliest drawing of mine I have. I was 13 at the time. There is really nothing remarkable about it, but while looking at the drawing the question came to mind, why did I save this, and, perhaps more to the point, why did I draw it?
I did not draw it to gain praise or acceptance. I did not draw it to communicate anything to anyone else. In fact, this is the first time I have ever shown it to anyone else. I drew it for myself. I drew it for the joy of drawing it. I drew it so I could be proud of myself. I drew it because my room was the one thing in my life that was uniquely mine. I drew it so the 13-year old me could remind the older me of these things.
I remember drawing this picture. I don’t remember what day of the week it was, or what the weather was or what I had for supper that day, but I remember sitting there on my bed and taking in the details of that room and putting them down on that little piece of paper. I remember thinking it was important that I get it right.
I guess this is the story behind all my art, whether it’s a big oil painting or a little sketch – there’s an intended audience of one, and if someone else happens to like it too, well, that’s just a bonus.
At the end of January we visited San Antonio, Texas. The weather was beautiful and we got to spend a lot of time on the city’s lovely River Walk. As per my usual custom I brought my sketchbook, pens, colored pencils, crayons, water colors, and a small scratchboard. I ended up using all except for the water colors.
The River Walk has a lot of beautiful bridges spanning the river. I first did a quick pen and ink of the Navarro Street Bridge. Then I tried oil crayons and scratchboard for the Commerce St. Bridge, which was just outside our hotel. I can never figure out how to properly use the oil crayons, but the end result was somewhat passable, though the scratchboard is more to my liking. I finished both on the plane ride home.
Some of the best work I've done isn't hanging on a wall; it's sitting in a box in my closet that's full of my old sketch books. I fill up one or two books each year. Some of the sketches end up as a basis of a more formal work, but most don't. They’re more important to me as a pictorial diary and also as on-going training; learning to really see and to understand shape, light and color.
This blog is to share my sketches as well as my sketching experiences.