In the past I have written about sketchbooks I have bought that seemed like a good idea at the point of purchase but failed miserably when put into practice. Either the sketchbooks looked handsome on the shelf and proved unwieldy in use or for unknown and possibly diabolical reasons they simply refused whatever artistic attempt I would make. I refer to these sketchbooks as the Sketchbooks from Hell.
Today, I offer you, dear readers, the Sketchbook that very well may be from Heaven.
I can’t take credit for having discovered it. I received it as a Christmas gift from my wife. She bought it at Target. If I had seen it, I probably wouldn’t have taken it seriously being that it wasn’t on the shelves of an art supply shop and it was aimed at children. It measures 6-inches by 8.75-inches and is wire-bound. It has a thick, cardboard cover that the manufacturer or distributor invites children to “decorate themselves” but the coated cover resists every media I’ve thrown at it. Even permanent markers wipe right off as if it were a dry-erase board. I’ve opted to encrust it with stickers as I come across them.
The paper is nice. Bright white. Wet media wrinkles the pages which I expected, but unlike the more expensive and better known Strathmore sketchbooks it doesn’t bleed. Is the paper archival? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. The archival tag adds a special layer of preciousness to the whole process of getting the ideas out of the brain and onto the paper. Gosh, will this be the scribble I’ll be remembered for? Who cares? Make your dirty little marks!
I’m about 50 pages in, and I’m happy with the drawings I’m drawing. I keep it close at hand. It begs to be drawn in. Maybe it’s the new tools I’ve been buying from Jet Pens. Everyone has heard the adage that a poor craftsman blames the quality of his work upon his tools, but what about the guy who applauds his tools? Jet Pens has the goods, and if they had a physical store near me, I would probably loiter there until someone summoned security.
So what am I sketching?
I usually go where my pencil takes me drawing mostly from my memory or imagination. I know I should draw from still lives or life more, but drawing still life subjects always bored me and drawing from life on the subway is going to get me killed. If I see an interesting person, I may scribble down notes of all the details that made the person stand out to me and work up the rest from those notes and memory. Otherwise, I draw creatures or cartoons or whatever comes out of the pencil. Recently, I’ve been sketching a character I cooked up a couple of years ago as a Halloween costume for my son. I’ve been sketching this character in action poses and throwing together opponents he could face off against. As I sketched, a cast of characters and a scenario started to emerge from those cheap pages. Now if I could just keep it simple and not kill it with too much backstory, I may wind up with a short comic done in this style. At least, that’s what I’m aiming to do. I’d like to wind up with an 8-page comic done in the style of the Marvel or Warren black-and-white, magazine format comics that came out in the ‘70s. If that turns out to be fun, I’ll move onward from there.
The fellow above is a forager in a post-apocalyptic world and is based on a guy I used to work with, but it ended up looking more like Dustin Hoffman. That’s all right. I drew him on the Market-Frankford line heading into the 69th Street station.
What good is a post apocalypse without mutants?It is Pink Zeppelin. I’m not sure why he is. I was wallowing in my high school years as I’ve probably been doing for the past few decades. Back in the era when entertainment choices were slim and FM radio and record albums dominated life itself, high school kids lived for the big rock concerts they saw at one of the arenas in nearby Philadelphia. Jeans and black concert tee-shirts were the de facto high school uniform. My school in South Jersey seemed evenly divided between Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd zealots. They were like two mostly compatible branches of a religious cult, but woe be the man who admitted to liking disco or punk. With that in mind this mutant-monster came out of the pencil. It was the result of a botched scientific experiment that melded a rabid, high school-aged Zeppelin fan circa 1979 with a rabid, high-school-aged Floyd fan also from the same era. Maybe they were at a laser light show when the bomb dropped; were welded together by the blast and somehow survived. However it came to be, it is a two-headed freak who probably misspelled the word zeppelin more than once on a high school art project. It beats a generic, scaly, hulking monster that I was probably going to do.
The Sketchbook from Heaven just gives and gives. It’s fun to draw in and as I do, the ideas keep bubbling up from it’s pages. I have to make sure to buy a few more. Perhaps soon because they may not be around forever!
Stay tuned for more.