July 1, 2008
Below, cross-training for writers.
The image is a scan of the page I made today in the sketchbook I have been moodling in off and on since 2002. I had the book â€” the 6×9 blank book that came with Hannah Hinchman’s A Life in Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal â€” forÂ ten years (yes! ten years!) before that. In the summer of 2002 I tookÂ a “drawing for everyone” course at a local art school that gave me someÂ confidence. In fact, itÂ was at the last session, sitting in a meadow beside the old barn that contained the classrooms and drawing a broken fence around a weedy, abandoned garden plot, that I made the decision to alter the end of my upcoming trip to Massachusetts andÂ go to Vermont for the first time since my graduate schoolÂ days in the 1970s.
Just before I left Massachusetts I bought Barbara Stecher’sÂ Sketchbooking and didÂ my first journal drawings on the lawn of the Bread Loaf campus. Back at home I lost the momentum, put the book away, and didn’t get it out again for four years.Â I work in it for aÂ few weeks and then put it away again, getting it out usually in July, when the air and light so capture my imagination and my attention.
I did a lot of work in it in 2007, beginning with the ten days in April that I spent on retreat at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville. I’m getting better at keeping at working the areas of my creative self I want to develop. Putting color and image into my notebooks is good cross-training.
The text in the drawing above is from “Narcissus,”Â a poem by Robert Cording, who teaches at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. I did the work this afternoon, when I had planned to be elbowÂ deep in the messy business of revision. I should have had my head down, my pen moving along the lined paper in my notebook, following the suggestion of the Bread Loaf instructor who first praised that story to “rough up” the idealized characters a little. Give the wife an annoying habit, the kids a noisy sibling squabble. But all I could do was look at the play of light and shadow across the lawn.Â
I got out the sketch book. “I don’t want to work, I just want to gaze at the grass all day,” I wrote at the top of the page with Derwent Inktense pencil in Iris Blue. Then I did the grass, and put Cording’sÂ words on the side in a soft brown. In an effort to stay loose and break free of my tendency to be almost excruciatingly academically correct, I made no effort to reproduce the lineation he uses.
The words are hard to read in the image. I offer them here, for your pleasure:
On this first day of July it should be adequate to walk here in this hour’s casual articulations of color and shadow without fret of words to catch the substance of . . . splashes of light pearled on the refreshed grassÂ . . . Kneeling at the water’s edge [I] look and see myself framed by everything endlessly beginning all around me.
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