Thursday, December 11, 2003

Journal Drawing

Every week at the Menlo Park Library I make sure to poke my head into their little booksale room to see if anything interesting has shown up recently. Last night I found a neat little treasure called Off the Road: An American Sketchbook, by Elisha Cooper. I very consciously tend to gravitate towards books (and music, art, etc.) that somehow exemplify something about what I want to do, or ways I want to be. This is a case of that.

The book begins thus: "I'm going to drive around America, New England, the deep South, the plains, Rockies, California coast, and back. I'll go to farms, factories, roadside diners, and ball games — just pull over when I see something neat. I have a sketchbook, my watercolors, a sleeping bag, a set of road maps. I want to see what's out there." Driving around the country is certainly something I'd like to do someday, but what I particularly like about this book is his style of journal keeping. The illustrations are the focus: landscapes and scenes, alternating with individual figures scattered around the pages, and combinations thereof, with only minimal text interwoven with the pictures. What fascinates me is how the images seem to be very simple and yet they still feel like they convey a very high level of detail. I would love to be able to draw that way.

I would also love to be able to include more drawing in my own journal keeping. There is something very appealing to me about quick, informal sketches accompanying written description. Of course, it sort of depends what you're writing about. I did a bit of that sort of thing back in middle school or so, before I was interested in the usual sort of journal writing. What I had instead was a junior-biologist's notebook sort of thing, because that's what I was really into at the time. I'd do detailed drawings of bugs or flowers, a map of our backyard showing where I caught critters, that sort of thing (like this). When I switched to keeping a music notebook, the drawings pretty much disappeared, since there weren't a lot of ways they would have made sense in that context. When I finally decided that it was okay to keep an honest-to-goodness journal (I was sort of against the idea for a while, for no good reason) they came back a little bit. I still only use unlined notebooks, so I at least have the option, but I've hardly done any drawing for ages. I should do more of that.

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