Once upon a Sketchbook

Back in 2001 I realized that I had to do something with my artistic ability. The press of kids and work had left me with no room or desire to pursue art. I had basically abandoned the entire thing for many years. But I couldn’t leave it lying fallow any longer – I was not only short-changing myself but I was depriving my family as well. It is one thing to know that a possibility exists. It is something else to begin the long process of realizing the possibility. So I decided to start drawing. Drawing is the basic artistic skill that I wanted to develop as a first step to being able to express my artistic visions.

I bought a little 8×10 black hardcover sketchbook. The majority of work I’d done in years gone by was pen work, so I got a technical ink pen and a couple of fine line marker pens and started doing a drawing a day. I filled that little book. 3 drawings were removed before I realized I could scan pages without cutting them free. The rest of the drawings are still in the book, which I gave to my #2 son on his 16th birthday.

The first 3 drawings in this blog post are the 3 that I cut out of the book. Fish I gave to my daughter on her 18th birthday. Tree Snake I gave to my #1 son on his 21st birthday. And Possum & Grasshopper I gave to my sister-in-law for her 40th.

I know my brother & SIL have a room where my art is featured, as does one of my sisters. My kids & my parents seem to like having the art on the walls of their rooms as well. My work isn’t to everyones taste – actually I’m not sure what my style is. However folks do seem to know a drawing or painting is mine when they see one, so whatever my style is it must be fairly consistent. I hope anyone who looks at these drawings enjoys looking at them as much as I enjoyed the exciting process of relearning the pleasure and intensity art can bring to an artist.

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Tree Snake was the first drawing I did with my “new” (at the time) sketch book. I remember thinking it was the sort of thing I used to draw way back when I last drew many years before the arrival of children, work etc. It was like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes, actually, doing that drawing.

Tree Snake
Tree Snake
Fish
Fish

Possum and Grasshopper was a major step on the learning process curve – working with the animal fur, trying to capture the way the legs changed to a scaly skin . . . not to mention the intricacies of the grasshopper. I was very aware with this drawing that a technical pen was a single line-width tool, and when you used a single line width in a drawing such as this the subtleties and complexities needed to be handled with care in order to create the different looks the piece required. I didn’t put as much time into it as it may have required in order to give a real polish. Then again, this was a sketch book. I wanted to do a drawing in a day while leading a rather full life including working overtime in the factory, care for four rather busy children, deal with a large and tempestuous household including pets, and care for a wife who at that time was not very well.

Possum & Grasshopper
Possum & Grasshopper

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The rest of the work in this particular blog post still remains in the sketchbook. I eventually realized that I could scan the work as I drew it without actually cutting the individual pieces out of the book. What a relief that was! Over the years I have ruined far too many sketch books in part by unnecessarily taking work out of them (especially work that ought to remain in a sketchbook where it belongs due to the work being a – well, – being a sketch).

line drawing women
line drawing women
Fluffs and Coons
Fluffs and Coons

 

Toad & Fish
Toad & Fish
Turtles & Longneck
Turtles & Longneck
Owl
Owl
Frog
Frog
Octopus
Octopus

I did a mish-mash of my name built into the beast – a learning experience that told me to pre-plan such attempts in the future. I remember being concerned about that octopus as I drew it. The head seemed to develop it’s shape all on it’s own, but I do like the end result. And the eye – I left that till the end and was almost holding my breath hoping it would go ok.

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Here are a few drawings that never were finished. It gives you a sense of how I was going about doing these things.

Unfinished Piece
Unfinished Piece

 

unfinished piece landscape
unfinished piece landscape
unfinished garden
unfinished garden
bear and fish
bear and fish

As you can see from these images, I was (and still am!) trying to figure this drawing thing out.

I would occasionally do a free-association series of interconnected beasts and plants and such just to keep things moving. The time I was spending per drawing was climbing from a couple of hours to 4, 5, 6. My ex sometimes was less than happy about me drawing all the time. But hey, I was home, watching the kids or at work during breaks or sitting during a kids practice. I was sober, didn’t buy drugs, remained completely faithful, I was caring, attentive and was always working around the house and taking care of the kids. She was ill at the time – something undiagnosed coupled with depression which resulted in her spending a lot of time in bed watching soap operas and eating donuts. I had started drawing again. I kept at it. But I do remember she complained about the time spent on my artwork.

Shrews in the Shrubbery
Shrews in the Shrubbery
Snapshot
Snapshot

I am very aware of the limitations of my skills, ability, talent, whatever . . . but the sheer act of drawing was having a generally positive effect on my choices when it came to the work.

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Here is a drawing I did of some bushes that were in the back yard of the house I was living in. The yard was covered in snow, and as I drew the burdened bushes there was a transformation in the drawing – the bushes turned into a place where a dragon slept. The scale of the piece shifted in my mind, and it became a place of forest and hill where passers-by could be unaware of what danger they were in proximity to. And a second shift happened as well – I saw this vista from the near foreground vantage of toadstools and busy insects.

Sleeping Dragon
Sleeping Dragon

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I had an image of pre-human North America form in my mind one day when I was thinking about the country north of Lake Simcoe. Envisioning an Ontario Shield Dragon on a rise of rock that has spied something in the distance – probably a woods deer, a moose or a bear – and the dragon is ready to leap into the air and go fetch itself some supper.

Preflight Dragon
Preflight Dragon

Ink really does lend itself to details in drawings. Unfortunately I have found that I can lose the drawing by overwhelming it with detail. A critique I got about these pieces is that they looked like a tapestry. That is, there was no focal point, no real flow or direction or dynamic structure in the work. The piece I’m posting is representative of that. It also is representative of how a drawing creates it’s own story as the piece unfolds. By the time I was done I had an entire world running in the background of my thoughts.

Pause For Thought
Pause For Thought

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There are a couple of drawings that I scanned from the book that aren’t ink.

Eruption is a goddess coming out of a volcano. More accurately I would say that the volcano is like a doorway that she steps through when it is time to stretch her arms to embrace the sky. It brings her joy when the water dances like that to greet her.

The Goddess
The Goddess
Man Reflective
Man Reflective

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Sometimes a funny thing happens. Here is a drawing from one of those times. I am going about my business and for a short, no-mind timeless time I find myself somewhere else. In this case I noticed I was in a dry place, with the air full of the scent of flowers and hot sand. There was a ceaseless clicking and rustling of insects about me. Leaves and flowers moved in the light breeze. In the near distance there was a tall, bizarre, twisted tower structure that looked like it had grown from the earth. Atop it, the tower rocking slightly back and forth beneath it’s weight as it shifted position was an oddly constructed dragon. I stayed still and watched the beast peer into the distance. I noticed there was another tower behind the first, with it’s own dragon.

So I drew it out in my little black sketchbook.

Dragon Perch
Dragon Perch

I notice that occasionally the place inside my head is a lonely, empty wilderness with nothing but the skritching sound of tumbleweed blown along the barren ground. Other times, well – let’s just say I can keep myself entertained rather readily.

I like the look of frogs. Bugs & bees are pretty cool. And squirrels, though really just tree rats, have a vitality it is hard to ignore.

Squirrel and Frog
Squirrel and Frog

I did slide some hidden imagery of different sorts into a lot of the work, and I started using the occasional nude model photo as a template for parts of some of my drawings. I also was (and am) a fan of multiple views of things, so that you might find faces or creatures or what have you all interwoven merely as background elements. I don’t really recall what parts of what were what parts of what now (this work was done several years ago, and I was more interested in the process than the building blocks). That said, I sometimes still try to put something subtle or less than in-your-face into the work. I am so glad whenever I hear that someone sees that little extra!

Frog Circle
Frog Circle

I think this will about wrap up this thread as far as posting artwork goes. I don’t think there are any more scans kicking about. It was about 2005 that I last had a look at the sketch book that my #2 son now has – maybe there is something else I could pull out of it at some future date. Till then here are a couple of drawings that were basically free association meanders . . .

Longnecks
Longnecks
Critters
Critters

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Once upon a Sketchbook


  1. Absolutely stunning work Mark….as I have always enjoyed. Very happy to be the recipient of some of your whimsical drawings since the late 70’s. I cherish them very much! Sketch on old pal!!

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