Climate and other outdoor factors converge and create a landscape where mushrooms rarely thrive. When they do, I’m always fascinated by the fungal structures that peek from the suburban landscape before shriveling up and disappearing again.
dormant spores lurking hiding biding hidden in cool crevices desiccated down among nooks of decay undaunted by days of dark arid chill but a reprieve water rain moisture soaking the soil lingering showers thoroughly wetting nooks and crevices calling waking beckoning caps to peek into the sun a moment a day brief appearances reminders that dormant is not dead only waiting for chance opportunity and spring rains.
I am not a poet, but a friend has inspired me to read more of it and think more critically about its place in the constellation of my creative pursuits. Occasionally, I’d like to post a poem here when inspiration strikes.
Five years ago today I embarked on a multi-year web comic journey.
I have May fifth marked in my calendar as a recurring event to remind me that on that day (THIS day) in 2017 I uploaded the first of about 200 comic strips that I wrote and drew.
Almost all of those strips are still available online at www.piday.ca where I used to have a particularly nice website but after a couple of upgrades and moves has been pared down to a basic collection of posts and comic strips and a wee bit of history about the whole effort.
The premise behind my strip was dad jokes.
And pi day, the celebration on the fourteenth day of the third month of each year, March 14th, as it connects to 3.14 seems like a day baked around the very notion of a corny dad joke. So, every day at our house was pi day. Yesterday was pi day. Tomorrow will be pi day. This is pi day.
At the time my kid was just entering her double digits and was delicately balanced in a narrow window of time where she was old enough to appreciate her old man’s sense of humour but young enough to say enough funny stuff herself. I took the advice of “you should write this stuff down” to heart and then to the next level, and started drawing and publishing it. A few hundred fans online and lots of family and friends seemed to appreciate the effort.
The era was so fleeting that I was just getting into the groove of writing and drawing and telling these little parenting tales in comic form before I noticed that she’d become a more sensitive teen and ribbing her in comic strip form was no longer a green zone activity.
I tried to adapt and adjust the strip, but like anything with a lot of momentum behind it, steering it into a new direction proved to be more like steering a train than a bicycle. It didn’t. And coupled with a pandemic and other more pressing family concerns the whole thing fizzled into more of an archive than an active project.
I write here often about both cartooning and sketching and in my personal history both these things have a wending and winding history deeply rooted in my life. My digital art project of drawing a weekly (or often more frequently) comic strip consumed a huge chunk of that history and was one of the first times in my life I was very public about those interests.
Five years on, there’s no real plan to revive the effort and This is Pi Day has been tucked away in the archives of my creative efforts as just another thing I did once.
I’m ok with that. But it doesn’t hurt to point in it’s direction on an anniversary of the effort and say “I made that thing!” and be a little proud that I did.
The weeks before Christmas were a flurry of packages arriving on our doorstep. Avoiding crowds and malls we’d done much of our shopping online, tho less shopping than usual overall. Not all those packages were gifts, however. I’d snuck an order of some sketch supplies into my incoming parcels, including a fresh moleskine watercolour book and a pack of new ink pens.
I had a plan and a goal for vacation. As the first trip out of the country in almost three years, I was determined to document it in art.
Now to be clear, dreams and ambitions aside, if anyone googles this post wondering “can you sketch in Disney” or looking for “urban sketching tips for theme parks” up front I’m going to suggest it is impractical… unless that’s why you went there.
If you don’t care about rides or are committed to be the guy who sits holding a spot on the curb for the fireworks or a parade, maybe you’ll have lots of time to draw.
My family never sat still long enough to do that. I had discussed my interest in doing this with my wife prior to our trip, but boots on the ground in the Magic Kingdom that first day, even tho I had my sketch supplies in my backpack, I would have had a couple sketches of her tapping her foot impatiently on the ground while reminding me how short the day was. Reality did not align with my vision.
Unlike a quiet travel holiday to a beautiful city, I would posit, vacation in a theme park is not about quiet contemplation while sipping a cup of coffee, pencil in hand.
Instead I opted to start looking for things to sketch later from a snapshot. Admittedly this was a bit cheating on the strict urban sketch rulebook, but I always drew stuff on the same day I saw it and I think in my “still just learning” mode that’s okay.
(On a side note, outside the parks, I did do some situational drawings live from a bench or table, so I’m satisfied with the chance for that opportunity at least.)
As it turns out I found strength in drawing a couple specific things: signage and wide scenes with people in them.
Signage is a curious thing in Disney World. There is a blend of actual and meaningful directional and informational signs on one hand, while on the other there are countless signs that are purely decorative and part of the theme for whatever “land” you happen to be in. This makes for some very geometrically interesting walls or signposts that are fun to sketch but also subtly unique to the place and space. For example, in one part of Animal Kingdom there are areas devoted to Africa and Asia where signage is designed to advertise make-believe tours through the jungle or made up vendors in a marketplace facade, but mixed in among that is a real sign for mobile food orders from the kiosk or directions to the washroom. A blend of fake and fun and real makes for a very Disney subject.
As far as crowds and people go, it’s fair to say it’s been tough to find strangers to sketch these days. I find myself very limited in the groups I’m around and for the last couple years lacking in opportunity to sit somewhere public and sketch real live humans. For better or worse, or whatever your opinion of the state of the world right now, Disney seems to blur the fear that many seem to feel about gathering these days. There were crowds in abundance. This added to the complexity of finding a rare seat from which a sketching opportunity might have occurred, but my photo-now draw-later approach netted a positive number of crowds in cool places scenes worthy of an hour or two of drawing back at the hotel.
Over the autumn I’d bought a book called “Drawing Expressive People” which offered some useful if somewhat vague, learn-by-example guidance and has let me leap into the rewarding realm of drawing people in public. As a result these are still rough but are among some of my favourite sketches from the vacation.
The results are the best part tho.
I’m back home with that moleskine notebook now three-quarters filled with vacation art, and in person holding it in my hands there is no comparison between the pics I’m able to share of that art folio and the real thing. It is a unique and beautiful souvenir of a weird and crazy vacation, created almost entirely as a result of being somewhere and finding moments to sketch and paint those things.
It makes me want to improve and repeat and keep creating more like it. Precious and priceless, perhaps just to me, but a perfect vacation artist effort just the same.
It can work, but at some point a guy needs to look to some other sources for guidance and advice. Like, say… a book (or ten.)
What was the best anything that you read in 2021?
As much as I’ve taken to the internets this past year in an attempt to hone my sketching technique, watching videos and reading forums, what has been most useful is the small but growing collection of art instruction books that I have in my personal library.
Books on figure drawing. Books on perspective art. Books on comics. Books on general drawing skills and books with very specific topics for very specific art-ish subjects. Even some new books I’ve picked up the past few months about urban sketching have found a place on my nightstand where I peruse them before bed many nights.
Are they deep literature and mind-expanding novels? No.
Are they reading material to take on a vacation or to relax with? Not exactly.
Are they something I would recommend? If you are interested in sketching, of course.
As with many things worth learning there is usually a book about it.
Not every subject can be taught from a loaf of paper, but I’ve found that sketching is one those subjects that can be enhanced by reading about it.
I think it has helped me.
Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ishare themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.