You Are a Beautiful Blank Page...Do You Have a Great Pencil?
Christmas is over.
That sound you hear is my sigh of relief. The tree is not actually down, as the opening image suggests. That was a temporary situation that was the end result of a particularly difficult rampage from Bennett, my youngest boy who has Autism. I got the tree up-righted, though it does not look at all like it did when it was first erected. That's OK. As soon as I get a free hour or two where Bennett isn’t here I can take the tree down. I know, I’m supposed to still be full of holiday cheer. Typically though I have holiday anxiety, but let’s save that post for some other time.
This was for me an ordinary Christmas, defined by the new average. The kids got a lot of cool stuff, I had little idea what was in the packages as they opened them. There weren’t any gifts exchanged between my wife and I. There was a gift that she bought for me at the request of my oldest son Carter. A LEGO set that he told her I did not have. I had it. So she’s going to take it back to the store and I ordered myself a lumbar support for my car and a lumbar pillow for my bed. As has become our routine, we did not celebrate our anniversary which occurs two days after Christmas. Nor did we acknowledge it to one another.
Christmas was a Monday. The kids were happy. Bennett was balanced and felt no frustration on Christmas Day and did not feel any need to express that frustration physically. That was the only gift I needed or wanted. For him. For me. For anyone.
My Mom sent me an extremely sweet Christmas card, with some money in it. I wrote a mini-novel on a card that I had planned to send to her and Ken. I didn't send it. I lost my Christmas balls. I wrote some things from the heart that I've always wanted to tell her, and I waffled too long. So I plan to do it here. Not today though. I want more time for that one. The cash gift was awesome... it enabled me to upgrade some art supplies. The most exciting of which are, wait for it...yes, pencils.
You need to know something. It's a deep dark secret about my art I have never shared before. I’ve been using cheap shit pencils, lead holders and mechanical pencils since, well...forever, and I've always wanted to go “pro”. To use what REAL artists use.
I'm about to.
A year or so ago, I had a golden opportunity presented to me by a friend of mine named Steve. I love the guy. That's him in the pic above. Interesting tidbit, Steve and my Mom have dined together. It was a long time ago, but they had a Thanksgiving dinner together back in 2006. This was back when I had a shitload of hope, all of it related to a positive future. Forward in time a decade found me hopeless, drifting, not knowing where I was supposed to go, who I was supposed to be. Steve offered me a chance to draw a page in his Thing Art Book. I said yes, and failed to deliver it.
Excuses? I had a few. That's all they were. I failed him. And myself. Remember the fear I mentioned a couple of posts back? It's paralyzed me in many ways. That's why the transformations I attempt now are so critical for me. I must overcome. I have to climb the mountains ahead. For reasons unknown to me (and you, now, funny how that shit works huh?) I have turned a corner within myself. That's why I have been drawing again. I have to. I need to. I WANT TO. It fills me with joy. Joy. And I haven't felt it in so long I can't tell you how much this simple thing matters.
Of course, not hating all my own work would be MORE joyful...but eh...the tortured mind of artists. Welcome to an all-new double-bladed sword.
Karma is important to me. Or it is becoming so in my life. I asked Steve if I could draw something for him, and I did. An alien xenomorph. It was a quick sketch, something I want to refine for him. It only begins to start down a path of feeling like I have made good for all the ways he has offered a branch toward helping me get a leg up in a career in pure art that I have rejected. I will get there.
I've been exploring mantras. Call it pre-meditative meditation. And something Ghandi once said about mantra has followed me over these past few weeks, and I get tears in my eyes as I feel his words each time I read them or think about them.
"The mantra becomes one's staff of life, and carries one through every ordeal. It is no empty repetition. For each repetition has a new meaning, carrying you nearer and nearer to God.”
Art is a form of meditation for me. Buying new supplies, especially supplies that are high quality, is like buying a very nice accessory for meditation.
I've ordered three rOtring products. A lot of folks consider this company's stuff the Mercedes of drawing utensils. I ordered a pair of 2mm lead holders and a .5mm mechanical pencil. I was going to try their very latest product entries for all three of my needs, and would have spent the money but from all the reviews indicate that the newer products have some product design issues to fix. Understand...we're talking about pencils costing over $50.00...EACH. When you are buying something like this, you are buying a tool to use forever. It has to be right.
Why three? I need two identical instruments that hold two different lead types at the ready when I’m sketching. One with a harder lead for basic layouts of shapes and contours, guidelines, etc., the other a softer lead that leaves more graphite on the paper and allows for a more lyrical stroke. I suppose I should say graphite for ALL of this, since none of it is lead anymore. But hey, habits. I want these two tools to be easily distinguishable from the other. The way I’ve done it in the past, with Mister and Miss Cheapie , is with colorized duct tape or stickers on mediocre plastic frames that I eventually crack with pressure from my thumb. Now I will tell them apart by the all-metal construction in chromed silver and matte-finish black.
I love the Internet. I was able to research all kinds of crap about the different types of pencils available, watch people use them...it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon interspersed with some time with Bennett, who is struggling BIG TIME with boredom during the two weeks he is off from “school”.
The Amazon order I placed was thick with these pencils, finished off with a .5mm mechanical, replacing the flimsy plastic ones I have been picking up from various drawers in my house. It is amazing the cheap shit we have around here. The rest of the order contains some high-end graphite, a sketchbook I’m stoked about with a great flex cover, some microfiber cloth to keep my glasses clean all the time and a very highly reviewed lead pointer. Cause...you need a sharp point, right?
Usually we lead holder types who hate using wooden pencils have these wacky rotating pencil lead sharpeners, called “pointers”, that we’ve spent years mastering control over. That is an art form all by itself. The right amount of lead sticking out, gripping the pointer and the holder just right, NOT TOO TIGHT, rotating at JUST THE RIGHT SPEED, for the right amount of time...
It’s mentally exhausting to recall it. How many frustrating, dreary nights did I hear the dull CRACK of my lead snapping in half, like the sickening sound of a broken fibula? Too many.
This Mitsubishi lead pointer is very different. Streamlined, cool, hip, almost sexy. I may want to ask it to sleep with me. And from what I’ve read and watched? The last lead pointer I am ever going to buy. Coincidentally, most of the rOtring holders don’t fit into standard rotary lead pointers...Sadly, I probably would fit just fine. So there's that. This one has me completely covered.
Oh, one other thing. I ordered a Pentel Pocket Brush. Yeah, gonna toss some ink around a bit in 2018. Why not? I used to ink with brushes and crow quills and all kinds of crap. If I had a decent skill I want to see how much I can bone it up. (Hee hee...BONE.) Which reminds me, I forgot to order some fine point pens, a nice Uni starter set before I leap back into Rapidographs if that's the way I decide to go. I better get on that.
Funny thing is, all this is traditional goodies for traditional art-making. And with any luck? By the end of 2018 I don’t wanna be using any of it as much as I wanna be using a stylus and a digital tablet.
2018? You and I have a lot of shit to do together my friend...get ready.