Saturday, February 11, 2006

New Toys

The dogs went nuts when the Fed Ex truck pulled up, and so did I.

There was only one purchase that I was waiting for FedEx to deliver. I waded through the roaring pack of wolves and cracked the door open enough to drag in a heavy package, marked all over with the word "Fragile."

That's it in the pictures. It's a light box, or light table, depending on whose catalog copy you read. This is a very nice one, and I was so pleased to open the box and put the beast on my work table, where I can clutch it to my work space and rework my preliminary sketches and doodles.

The first light table I ever had was given to me when I was five or six. Called a "Draw and Tell", it featured a cheap plastic frame, a translucent plastic top panel, and a 25-watt bulb for the light source, and a folder of line drawings of people, pets, houses, cars, fruits and vegetables, farm animals... The whole point was that the kid was supposed to love tracing the line drawings and coming up with her own compositions of someone else's art. And I did love it. Probably it taught me a lot about eye-hand coordination. I know it taught me a lot about finding source pictures in books and magazines and tracing them for my own use. I used that thing so hard the surface would get too hot for my hand to rest on, hot enough to melt the wax in crayon drawings.

I used it for play, and later for professional work, for the next 30 years.

Eventually it cracked and was dead, honorably worn out. Some time right around the start of the 1990's, we bought a real light box for our daughter. I wasn't doing any artwork to speak of in those days, but she was, and she enjoyed using a good quality machine, too. (She'd also used my old toy one.)

When her daughter was born, her light box came to reside in my studio. (Oh, nice!) Until just recently, when she figured out that her quick wit and artistic talent were more than adequate for drawing engaging cartoons and comics. The light table went to reside at her desk again.

I thought I wouldn't miss it, until I needed it to do a hundred different things, from learning how to draw a particular shape by tracing it, to replicating one of my sketches on clean paper, to repairing a mistake made on another ... so I used my Christmas cash from my dear old mother and bought myself a light table. Gosh, Mom, forty-odd years later, your gift idea still works well.

This is the lovely creature with the dual fluorescents fired up (no more hot hands, no indeedy.)

The surface is slightly slanted, and there is a built in pencil/pen storage in the front. I love it. Thanks, Mom.

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