I’ve been at my desk for 23 of the last 24 hours. That’s nothing to boast about; I’m clearly overdoing it. The fact that I know I’m overdoing it does absolutely nothing to change the fact that my mind won’t let me sleep, won’t let me quit. Tonight I learned what it means to bleed for my art. I literally worked my fingers bloody. I just couldn’t stop. I don’t know why; I’m so compelled to draw, it’s like this feeling inside my chest, this clawing thing, and when I stop I can’t think of anything else.
This is what bleeding for art feels like.
My wife came home from a friend’s dinner party around midnight. She’d had a few drinks throughout the evening, her mood was good. She was happy to see me.
“Come to bed,” she said. “I’ll feed you.”
Could she have known I hadn’t eaten all day? Did J tell her? Do wives gain some sort of sensibility about these things over time?
I don’t think I raised any flags today at work, but just in case—a reminder:
Eat lunch today. Try to seem happy for J. If he starts raising concerns to the wife, all shall be lost. She’ll endeavor to make us sleep, and we can’t work if we’re sleeping. We dream best when we’re awake.
I’ve become very skilled at laying awake until I know she’s sleeping soundly next to me. When I hear her breathing change, I get up slowly—careful not to wake the dogs—and slip out of our bedroom. Tiptoe up the stairs, until my office door clicks shut behind me, and I’m free to work again.
That sounds a lot worse than it is. I love my wife very much. She is the entire reason for everything I do; my inspiration, my muse. I want to spend time with her. But these days, something else drives me. It’s become something of an obsession.
I started drawing on May 25th. Maybe that sounds unbelievable. I have photographic evidence if you’d like to see it. I’ll sign an affidavit.
The last time I really drew anything was in the 9th grade. I shared the 1st period of the day with a girl named R, a senior and fellow musician. I’d known her for some time and was quite fond of her. It was just the two of us in the class; an independent study. We helped our choir teacher grade papers or sort old sheet music. Meanwhile, I developed a steady crush on R.
We had this comic we would draw every day. We called it The Adventures of R & R. It was terrible. We laughed and doodled away the mornings the entire first semester of high school. In hindsight, those were some of my fondest memories of high school.
Later that year, R graduated and left for college. I found her at the ceremony and gave her the comic, which I’d bound with glue and staples and covered with a plain white folder, aptly labeled “The Adventures of R & R” in big letters across the cover.
Years later, R found me in a bookstore on campus. She was teaching music, and she asked if I’d like to meet for coffee. I was delighted. I agreed to meet her later that evening. We met on campus and walked to the coffee shop together. It wasn’t until we sat down that she told me about the surprise.
“I have something for you,” she said. “Close your eyes.”
Her smile made me nervous. Did she know about my crush? Was she going to kiss me? Would she tell me she’d had a crush on me all along, that she’d been waiting these last four years so I could join her and we could live happily ever after?
It’s only fair to point out here that I had a serious girlfriend at the time of our meeting, a high school sweetheart, and I was in direct violation of the established boundaries of that arrangement; however, being eighteen and horny and alight with the possibility of fulfilling a years-long fantasy, I forewent the bonds of my relationship and decided that whatever happened, happened. In retrospect, part of me feels like a scumbag, and part of me, the romantic part of me, gives a cheesy thumbs up at the camera before tossing back a tall glass of sangria.
“Close your eyes! Okay, keep them closed. No peeking.”
“What is it?”
“Hush. Open your hands. Okay, you ready?”
“Open your eyes.”
It was better than a kiss.
“The Adventures of R & R.” My first (and last) daily comic, and my only attempt to ever draw regularly, albeit only for fun.
Fast-forward. Scrub almost fifteen years ahead. Stop. Roll footage.
That horny teenager in the coffee shop with a makeshift comic book in his sweaty hands seems to have lived and died a hundred lifetimes ago. Yet here we are, doodling away the mornings…
Only, this time things are different. The girl has changed. This new girl is so much more. A high school crush could never hold a candle.
These days I write poetry and stories and occasionally pen an essay for an online publication or two. I run my own business and have no time for doodling beyond the necessitated dry erase sketch, something quick; at the moment, that’s all I really have a need for. The spontaneous sketch is perfect for dredging up some creative sparks or even perhaps rousing my sleepy partner out of a fog.
Certainly nothing of the serious variety, these doodles.
And then, May 28th happens.
There’s nothing in particular worth mentioning about that day, except that like most days, I was up late writing, working on the DRIP narrative. For some reason, I felt a stronger-than-usual urge to draw, so I pulled out a sheet of printer paper and a fountain pen.
I created my first stippling illustrations that day. I didn’t even know the word for “Stippling.” My business partner saw the piece when he came into the office later that morning. He’s an art school graduate and was happy to show off some cool resources where I could see more examples of this style of art.
In the last fifteen days, I have created more than two dozen original illustrations. Some of them are more intricate than others; a few of them are fairly elaborate, like yesterday’s piece:
“Sabbat de Luna”
With zero arrogance whatsoever, I want to say that I’m very proud of the work—and the progress—I’ve made in the last fifteen days. Truth be told, I’ve dreamed of being able to draw my whole life. Growing up with comics and graphic novels was torture. I wanted so badly to be the guy drawing badass Batman comics in the margins of his notebooks during class; instead, my skills were largely limited to stick figures and basic shapes. I couldn’t even draw a straight line. I still feel I have trouble with perspective.
Yesterday, I read “Perspective Made Easy” by Ernest R. Norling. It’s a marvelous guide to the line of sight, the horizon, and perspective by way of breaking complex shapes and structures down into more basic forms. If you’re interested in learning how to draw, pick it up on Amazon.
After reading the book in the early hours of the morning (it’s a quick read, and a page-turner. I went through the entire book, even with some of the exercises, in about two hours) I decided to play with perspective, shading, and horizon.
I’d had this scene in my head:
Night. A silver-lit field. Empty sky, save the moon, which shines full and bright above. Four hooded figures dance around a short flame. A drum beats softly in the darkness. The figures are humming as they dance. From the shadows emerges a ram carrying on its back a host of temptations and decadence. The figures worship the Ram. They succumb to its offering, and eventually, themselves become an offering.
I didn’t want to do the scene with a basic drawing of a field and hooded or robed figures. That’s too on-the-nose (as J would say) and it’s been done countless times.
I decided to start a stipple. Rather than start from the corner or the edge of the page, I broke another personal comfort zone guideline and began dotting near the center of the page, just off to the right. I turned the sketchbook every direction as I traced until I had about an inch covered in dots. Then I dropped to a much smaller pen and started filling in the spaces.
I’ve used this same technique to create all the new illustrations I’ve made since May 28th.
I have no idea how I’m doing it.
If you know, or if you can explain it; if you’d like to wager a guess; if you’d like to call me a liar, please. Step right up. Drop me a line in the comments.
I’ve had dozens of friends reach out over Snapchat and Instagram and Text message in the last two weeks.
“How are you doing this?”
“Where is this coming from?”
“I didn’t know you could draw!”
Well, funny you should mention it…
Or, at least, I couldn’t.
Until May 28th.
A secret fear:
What happens if I wake up on June 28th and it's gone? Easy come, easy go? Will I fight? Will there be consequences?
Something inside me needs this. I can’t explain it, so I’ll stop trying.
It’s 5:03am here in the US (eastern time), and a thunderstorm has taken to beating on my window. I think I’ll open up and let it in.
I need to clear my head and mildew the carpet a bit.
Until next time, love.