In early 1997, my wife was dying of breast cancer and my fifteen-year-old son, a basketball player in excellent health, was intermittently passing out and crumpling to the floor. I admitted him to a hospital in hopes that we could figure out what was wrong. Meanwhile, I still had to care for my wife and 12-year-old daughter. I was going crazy with worry.
I had always heard from my art instructors (your own NMA artist, Steve Huston, included) that a daily sketchbook was a great way to help “see” the world and improve one’s skill. I thought it might also serve as an “escape.” So, I bought a few 5.5” x 8.5” green-covered, spiral bound Strathmore recycled paper sketchbooks and started drawing people on my coffee breaks at work. I quickly found I could get “lost” in the doing and that my worries disappeared.
My wife died a month after I admitted my son to the hospital. Turns out his body was dehydrating itself with the stress of losing his mother. The next few months were quite difficult, but I kept plugging away at my “daily” sketches… and the drawing saved me.
My escape plan 23 years ago worked. It helped me find tranquility amid an awful storm and then it became a habit. I still get “lost” in those little books. For the most part, all of the drawings are in black ink from a simple Bic, clear barrel, ball point pen with color sometimes added later. Amazingly, I’m on my 204th book. If you consider 100 pages in a book, then my daily drawings have grown to a stack more than a 20,000 images high.
As my favorite artist, John Singer Sargent, said, “You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.”