Saturday, June 04, 2005

Sweaty Palms

The daughter asked me a surprising question today.

"What does it feel like to be able to draw that well?" she said to me after examining the latest Fever Dreams cartoon for The Piker Press. I was rather taken aback. Returning to the studio to take out the pencil reference lines, I tried to think of what it was like, but was distracted by the "that well" phrase.

My drawing isn't that good, not in my mind. Now and then I come up with an expression or a line that makes me grin in triumph, but good in my mind immediately calls up Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes -- now THAT'S GOOD. Me, I'm just a scribbler with hands that shake with nervousness when I pick up the indelible pen to ink the sketch. Hell, I've only been drawing cartoony stuff for less than a year, after a long, non-sketching period of nearly 2o years.

So I can't say that I know what it feels like to be able to draw well. That condition taken care of, I was inclined to ponder what it feels like to draw. After a while of frowning in concentration, I came to the conclusion that it's like being in air and breathing. You're not really aware of the oxygen and nitrogen and carbon dioxide, and unless you have a cold or have been exercising hard, you don't think about the art of breathing. When you're healthy, and the air is clean, the feeling of breathing is good, but not necessarily something you notice from moment to moment. If you have bronchitis, breathing is a pain in the -- neck -- lungs -- etc., and you know that there was a time when it felt better.

Drawing is like that. I watch the pencil lines intersect on the paper, and wait until they do what they ought to. Sometimes they're closely directed, but not always. When they get to a certain undefinable point, it's like smelling suddenly what's cooking in the kitchen at the other end of the house. *Click. Identify.* Then it's time for ink, and permanence, and while I can get lost seeing the ink soak into the paper, there's a lot of concentration on making sure the hand does what it's supposed to do to enhance the pencil strokes. Make the hand work. That's really not a time for creativity, just focus.

So the answer I gave right away to the original question was the best one: "It's nervewracking. My hands are dripping with sweat."

1 comment:

Alexandra said...

Holy crap. "I don't draw that well." This is the woman who can do almost photo-realistic paintings on grand scales or small scales, who can paint sketch or ink anything. Classical stuff, surreal stuff, sculptures, fabric banners, t-shirt design... all of it great. :P