Why Draw?

I am not quite sure what hit me the other day, but I wandered off to the local library to look at kids’ books.

Where I live, we are fortunate to have a well-run, financially sound (so it seems) library system.  There are about 130 K people here, and only two libraries to serve the population, but both libraries are well-designed, light, airy, and busy.  Busy meaning there are kids and teenagers and adults, as well as scheduled activities, such as lectures and movies.

The children’s section of the library is separate from the adult.  There are sections for young adult, for research, for youngish readers (8-12?), and for non-readers and beginners.  The shelves are the right height for kids, and topped with books and displays to catch the eye.

Okay, so what does this have to do with drawing?  A lot!  Good illustrations add so much to a story, for both children and adults.  Textbooks without illustrations are unattractive.  Color adds more.  And children’s books need pictures – just like Alice said, “What is the use of a book if there are no pictures?”

Yeah, there is a lot of use for pictureless books – but they are even more useful with illustrations.

So, here I am, wandering through the children’s section, looking at this book and that.  Most books had written words with pictures to illustrate them.  And then I came across Clown by Quentin Blake.  Blake is the illustrator for many of Roald Dahl’s books (you know, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).  Clown is a story without words, only pictures.  I had a few good laughs as I “read” the book, and totally enjoyed the illustrations.

Blake is the master of light mood, caught with pen and watercolor.  A loose style that, nonetheless, is filled with details.  When the clown wriggles out of the garbage can, you have to look to see it happening – but you do!  When I looked again and again, so many things showed up.

Then I looked at more of his books.  Cockatoos had me laughing out loud.  Illustrations and story worked so well together – I loved to see all the cockatoos hiding, and I loved the last line in the story.

I blither about art, and drawing, and writing, a lot.  The mental arguments are strange and annoying.  I put up barriers and fill time with meaningless twaddle when I could be out doing something.  I have fought with myself over and over again about my “style” in the painted, colored, drawn world.  It was never technically accurate or realistic enough.  I am confident about my writing style – academically, I can crank out papers at an appalling rate – but with drawing, I drag my feet, tormenting myself with my perceived failures and inabilities.

The light bulb went on with Clown.  I love that loose, fun style.  Is it “art”?  Probably not – but why should that matter?  If it brings pleasure and communicates, I guess that is definition enough.

Yesterday, I took out my own pen and ink and began to doodle.  I didn’t care what I drew.  My imagine was allowed to play without rules.

Thrills.  Intoxication.

How I love paper and pencil and ink!

The Power of the Pen

I love pens, particularly fountain pens, especially vintage ones. My collection is largish, but not like some people’s. Modern fountain pens seem just be made for making money, but every now and again a new pen hits the market that is worth considering. For me, I often turn to the Japanese companies of Namiki, Pilot, Sailor, and so on. I love the beauty of lacquer or abalone, the hand-ground gold nibs, but they cost so much! When the Vanishing Point came out, I liked it immediately, but it was too large to be comfortable. And then I came across the Decimo, a slimmer version of the VP, and bought one. In lavender or purple, whatever you want to call it, with a broad nib.

I’ve had the pen for one day.  I’ve used it a lot!  I have used it to copy quotes from my current read – Wuthering Heights – to doodle with, to practice cursive.  My checkbook has new entries in it, with a fountain pen.  Next week’s check-paid bills will be with a fountain pen.  Click!  Write.  Click!  Nib contained.

The physical act of writing is my form of meditation these days.  I write on paper with a pen.  I consider a word, then write.  Yes, I do have Scrivener, I have a Chrome book, and I have scrumptious paper that lets a nib glide across its surface.  I practice my roundhand, my Spencerian, my Palmer cursive.  Ascenders and descenders are considered for slope, looping, length.

Ink is also important.  I have bottles; some vintage, some just more than a few years old.  Colors range from trusty black to iron gall for dip pens to ones with exotic names like Poussiere de Lune.  New inks and extra converters are arriving on Monday.  More paper, too.  I can practice my penmanship and write a story or two.  Maybe I’ll write a friend a letter and seal it with wax, or write secret love letters to my husband and hide them, so he can find them years hence to open when I am gone.  Pen and ink dreams in a mechanized world.

Words, Words, Words

Paper is wonderful! Recently, it has been replaced by the computer, which makes a lot of things easier and convenient, but it is not quite, quite the same.  

For the last several days, off and on, I have been working on a story I started last January, using Scrivener as the editor.  My Chrome book is also seeing use.  And finally, paper and pen when I just don’t want to look at another monitor, or just want to go outdoors and enjoy myself.

While I am not going to go into what I am writing, I do want to explore the process of writing.  As the title of this entry suggests, words are very important.  One of the things I find so irritating in an author is a failure to provide a variety of terms.  For instance, I recall a very popular recent author whose use of the same word within a few sentences has driven me to distraction!  What is wrong with finding a synonym?  In prose, variety is important, but in poetry, the repetition of sound creates a very different pattern, and so the usage of a word numerous times may be very appropriate and artistic.

This is where paper and pen can come to the aid of the computer-produced manuscript.  I like to take what I have written and give it double- or triple-spacing.  Then, stapled together, I take it someplace outside or at a coffee bar and sit with a pen to edit.  I circle, I cross out, I re-write.  In short, I edit with a different perspective because I am seeing the writing on paper.

While I love the convenience of computers and such, I also love the feel of a good pen on a piece of paper.  The experience is physical and sensual and intellectual all at once.  And it is a very real experience – just like we are trying to create for our readers.