Monday, August 3, 2009

Old sketchbook analysis

It seems like I’m always cleaning or organizing in the studio. I was going through some old (ancient?) sketchbooks from my junior and senior high school days, when it occurred to me that I might have had some issues as a teen.

Anyone who watches television cop shows like Criminal Minds or The Mentalist has seen episodes where the investigators have had to delve into the past of the unsub (unknown subject). If those same investigators were to look at my old sketchbooks, they may start formulating a theory about me!

Beyond the usual art class assigned drawings, there was a collection of sketches worthy of a character study, and an entirely different person expressing himself in those books. When looking at a delicate picture of a bouquet of roses, followed on the next page by a sinister, dark figure on a waterfront dock, one might presume that I was reminiscing about a movie I had just seen. But how to explain 20 or 30 of those kinds of characters? It was almost like I was creating a pen and pencil underworld, where good and evil met in combat. The creepy creatures that I drew were gruesome, and certainly based on nothing more than an active imagination. But, what an imagination!

There were war pictures. On one page I drew an anti-war design, I suppose reflecting some pacifist feelings that I seem to remember having at the time. But, turn the page, and see my drawings of Nazi soldiers being obliterated during World Ward II by Air Force fighters. Someone might analyze these and conclude that I had some kind of an internal conflict between a just war and one that, perhaps, never should have happened. (Vietnam was in progress at the time.) Personally, I don’t remember being that deep when I was 16.

Then there was my “mining” period. I had several drawings of huge cliffs, pits, valleys and water channels, where heavy equipment was digging, plowing and moving earth, while creating tunnels, bridges and roads. I don’t know what was in my head when drawing those pictures. And I’m not sure what it meant when the miners were under attack from army tanks or submarines. At least there weren’t any dark, subterranean creatures taking part in the battles.

I need to explain that my subjects were not all creepy or violent. This was a kid who loved his family, went to church and got good grades in school. I had many nice drawings – of my friends, cars, puppies and cartoons. But as I reviewed these sketchbooks, including hundreds of drawings, I never knew quite what to expect on the next page. To this day, I can’t explain the darkness of some of my oldest art. Perhaps a therapist would tell me that I was expressing opposites of my life. That, because of my conventional, east side, Captain Whitebread background, I was building a fantasy world that I had never seen, except on TV or in the movies. The therapist might add that it’s just part of growing through the adolescent years, and nothing to worry about.

I prefer to think of it as early indications of a creative genius, like ……oh, how ‘bout Rembrandt, or Monet, or Van Gogh?


Jamie said...

I can relate a bit on this. I used to as an adolescent write poems and stories, for many years. I semi-recently read some of them and couldn't believe that I wrote some of it. I felt like I was reading a stranger's journal.

whistler said...

you are hardly dark and sinister...well maybe...on big pancake day!!
love you!