I made the last payment about two months ago, and on the day the title arrived in the mail the heater started acting up, pumping out hot air even when I would turn on the air conditioner, even when I turned it all off entirely.
Sitting in the waiting area of a car dealership repair shop, tapping my foot as hour after hour passes by at a glacial pace, is simply no way to spend a Saturday morning. I look around, my glasses continually fogging from breath seeping out under the top edge of my COVID mask. Three glassy eyed others sit socially distanced but nearby. Across the lobby, a couple sit at a table, calculating the cost of a new vehicle. An old man walks in, sits across from me, and when someone comes over to see if he needs anything he announces that he’s here to buy a new car. He instructs the sales guy to let him know how much his trade in will net; he’d like to drop the new car off with his wife in a half hour if that’s not inconvenient. Oh, and he has cash, so let’s make it snappy.
A little after noon they come to let me know the car is ready to go.
Dame Fortune is an odd lady. $650 later my car is repaired, but not in the driveway: Some guy, showing off in his truck, struck and totaled my daughter’s car. She needs something to drive, and my car, freshly repaired, is available.
Patient registration, pre-op, OR waiting room, patient room – my job in all of these locations was moral support during the process leading up to and during Kim’s knee replacement. Most of all, my support involved a great deal of sitting around.
Kim is a pro. Tomorrow, after the pain meds wear off she may feel differently, but today she’s chipper and chattering away with the nurses and docs. A couple of them recognize her: she opened the maternity unit in this hospital thirty or so years ago, and was on that unit for sixteen of those years.
But today, she’s just one of the many patients that flow through this building. And me? I’m just one of those others, patiently waiting around.
Windows are marvelous compositional devices, really! I wonder why I don’t use them more often. They create a barrier between the viewer and the subject, a divide that one is invited to cross and invade, I think. The architecture creates a border, a frame, and the crosspieces can be placed to divide a drawing up into some sort of sensible visual organization. There is a definite “here” and “there” present, and if one is fortunate, that effect might be, as in this example, accentuated by the inclusion of a foreground element. A sense of scale, too, can be effected, as well as the impression that one is a bit of a voyeur… and, in fact, sketching the world is a bit of a voyeuristic act in the first place, isn’t it?
In some places, in some ways, the world is starting to open up again. We are taking baby steps venturing back out into that world. I’m fully vaccinated yet still leery, cautious, and watchful – not to say, especially mindful of crowds and public.
My personal narrative tends to be about the everyday ordinary, so it’s tough finding a path back there right now. When I sketch people from a distance I wonder how much I’m making up, how much I’m creating rather than observing or reporting – and if that thought is even an important consideration.
A drawing of a group is always an interpretation. People move around and wherever the point of my drawing instrument happens to be at any given moment is what determines which moment gets remarked upon: that gesture a moment ago where she raised her arm, the back of her head as she studies a menu, or the turn of her head as she glances to the side, listening to what her companions have to say.
For the last assignment of the semester my students are researching biota and creating scientific illustrations. I’ve decided to work alongside them, locating photo references, incorporating field notes, making a light pencil drawing with a grid for accuracy, then a ballpoint pen for clarity. Later on it will be colored pencils.
Very clearly, I’ve recently been dipping my toes back into the waters of my past life as an illustrator. Just as clearly, this is decidedly not an urban sketch: I relied heavily on a photo reference of my 70’s era Bernarad Carré bicycle.
It’s mentally healthy to revisit old ways of making art and to try new things just to keep things fresh. Even though it’s loosely painted, the underlying bones are accurate and quite technical in nature. It’s a good reminder that I have the capability to tightly render a subject – the capability, but not the desire.
Sometimes I feel apologetic about the loosely drawn and energetic sketches that I prefer to make these days. It’s true that we feel our own perceived failings more clearly than anyone else. From time to time I’ll leap backwards in time to make a more realistic looking scrawl, a more technical sketch just to prove I still have the chops. A couple of drawings or sketches in this vein and I’m ready to relearn how to draw with fluidity.
And make no mistake: after scribbling out these tight-ass lines, it takes a bit of rehearsal to get the motion back into my black and white lines, a bit of persistence and even, yes, grant myself permission to allow a line to go astray, to fatten, to bleed, to be wrong (but often, in the end, oh so right!)
But for now, it’s pleasing to recall days when this was the bread and butter, the sort of thing that made the car payment on time. It’s also good to recall that doing this meant I was illustrating, interpreting someone else’s story by making it visual, and that I have a voice, and that I use that voice to determine what I draw these days. And that’s a very nice thought, indeed.
Nope, it’s not my usual style of drawing, not mine at all. In fact, it’s a poor copy of Daniel Rebour’s style: his meticulous drawings are amazing, and this is merely me channeling his drawings for an afternoon’s amusement.
I no longer mess around with old cars but still, why not pause and enjoy a vintage set of wheels; it looks like someone’s old beater to me – probably it is – was, I suppose – but the tires are flat, the trunk unhinged, the engine missing, the seats absent.