An Erstwhile Confidant...

I ran into an old sketchbook of mine. He is a tattered, hand-made, shabby fellow with warped illustration board covers; covers decorated with a collage of magazine cut-outs. We were close companions, he and I, and we traveled within my arm's reach of each other. He was often open on a table in front of me or perched on my knee, attracting the eyes of the curious. Many strangers complimented him on his appearance and I enjoyed being seen in his company.
...Time passed and pages filled. Without blank paper for me to draw upon my interest faded. I continued to carry him because I was used to being with him. When introduced to strangers he seldom failed to impress, but friends tired of him. "Very nice," they'd say, "but haven't you drawn anything new?"
...I began to feel dissatisfaction for the quality of his content and I was slightly ashamed of his demeanor. The images he wore so proudly I began to consider inexpert-- not his fault, it was me who was changing. The fresh-faced character of the covers suffered from unsightly, premature erosions-- again, my fault. I was careless with him. He was jostled about in my bag. I left him alone on the floor of the car when I didn't care to tote him around. He began to bend and to peel beneath my siege of inconsideration and disregard. Wrinkles and pockmarks were showing on his faces. The twine that held him together at the spine frayed and broke.
...If I wasn't careful when I pulled him free of my pouch-- to dig for keys or gum-- pages would tumble out and land awkwardly on the ground. I'd help him up, brush the dirt away, try to straighten out the latest bent corner, slip him into his jacket and hope that no one had seen him embarrass himself.
...At last, I placed him in a portfolio. I placed that portfolio in a box. The box was put away in a closet. Upon occasion I would find him while rummaging through things. I'd be happy to see him. The pleasant memories of our months together would return, and I'd flip him open, forgetting about the missing twine. Like autumnal leaves the pages would descend and more small pieces would break away.
...Putting him back in order, I'd look him over. "Eh, not very good," I'd say, lacking the wisdom and the tolerance to accept him for what he was; for when he was. Disappointed, I'd press the covers closed and, dispirited, the pages would cling together to stave off shame and loneliness there in the portfolio, in the box, in the closet.
...I had been so proud of him once.

...I rediscovered him this month and, hey!, he's pretty cool again. Maybe it's been so long since I made those drawings that the journal has at last achieved the status of "dignified older gentleman." I fashioned the journal and vandalized the interiors in mid to late 1994. (Whoa! I just figured out how long ago that was.)
...There are only 16 pages but they are artfully filled with sketches and xeroxes of sketches, pasted down and drawn upon yet again in hopes of integrating them with each other. It's a nifty patchwork compilation.
...Animals drawn at the zoo are placed next to people I captured on the train during my many subway commutes to school; studies from old magazines reside next to aimlessly doodled abstractions; and quotations of charm, profundity, or weirdness are scattered throughout. It was a conscious exercise in creating art that was reflective of what I was seeing and doing at the time. It is a portrait of the artist as a younger man.
...Perhaps it is I who is the dignified older gentleman, and the journal a freeze-frame of the savage youth searching for voice, building reservoirs of experience to sustain him. (I wasn't very "savage" though. Kinda wimpy, really. Heck, I was drawing!)

...With the desperate courage of youth I drew directly in pen, shunning the notion of erasing. Each intended stroke, a treasure; lines mislaid were accepted as visible scars; as punishments borne without vanity; mistakes left clearly in view so that I could not forget to learn from them.
...Sadly, I used rubber cement to paste everything in place, so a few pieces have gone missing. Most of the glued parts are loose and threaten to fall away when I turn the pages. It is like handling an ancient sketchbook found in the ruins Rome, but with drawings of Joseph Campbell, O.J. Simpson and Snoopy in it. One must be gentle or it is diminished by each viewing. Of course, every page is covered with those yellow stains left by old rubber cement, adding to the aura of age.
...Fortunately, when I purchased my first scanner (and felt the compulsion to scan everything,) I scanned this sketchbook; I could tell, even then, the poor fellow was destined to crumble. I still have those files and you can see the destructive decay of the rubber cement had not yet taken hold. In these images, most of it appears to still be intact. I didn't have a copy of the cover so I scanned that this morning and there it is, up there at the top.
...(While scanning the cover I dropped a couple of pages and about seven glued-on drawings let go. It was like I'd dropped a handful of confetti. The lesson here? Don't use rubber cement on your artwork!)
...
That was a long way of saying, I haven't drawn anything lately. Here's some old crap.

The End
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