PostModern Coloring Book

Now that I’ve had my iPad and its various drawing and art apps for about six months, you might hope, if not expect, that I would have gained a certain amount of fluency in the medium. You would, of course, be disappointed in that. I’m still as ignorant a neophyte as ever. But I’m having a good time, and that makes plodding along at my own minimal speed worth my while, all the same. I suppose it could be compared to the childhood love of scribbling and crayons and such excellent things that leads to our continuing to practice for extensive periods over our early years despite being unlikely to become little masters of art for a much longer time yet.
Digital illustration: Modernist Coloring Book

It would be more meaningful to me, I imagine, and to those who know me, if I could extend that youthful courtesy not only to playing with my latest techno-tools for art making but also to other areas of my life’s education, the many in which I have far less patience with learning as slowly as I do and therefore generally end up quitting or making virtually no progress for eons. Imagine if I loved studying personal finance as much as I like scribbling: I might be rolling in wealth by now instead of still struggling to count change when I buy a few groceries. If I had learned to enjoy practicing exercise—any form of exercise at all—I could have been fit and fabulous and looking at living enough more decades that I could learn a vast quantity of other fantastic and exciting things.

But alas, none of that is my nature or my passion. Plodding along and just playing with those things that amaze and amuse me, that’s my style. I may get up a short burst of energy or speed and manage to improve at one thing or another in my repertoire occasionally, but if you’re looking for snappy progress, cast your eyes in any other direction and you’ll have a better chance of seeing something new and inspiring happen. I’ll be right here in my little corner, scrawling with a stylus like a crazed second-grader mauling her coloring book and cackling with delight over the slightest mark that pleases me. Just think how well I make the rest of you look good!

A Whispering Medium

Silverpoint is relatively rarely seen nowadays, but it remains a delicate medium for drawing. Putting a point of real silver onto gessoed paper allows the same kind of fine detail and fragility to be expressed that are characteristic of harder graphite pencils’ work. The effect is of pale and careful imagery, a wisp of smoke, a mist, a whisper.Drawing: Silverpoint Apples

There’s an appealing air of the arcane to a medium that’s old and seldom used nowadays, and silverpoint qualifies on both counts. It’s also effective, as I found in my little experiments, on a black background to create gently ghostly drawings, but as ghosts seem wont to do, has a tendency to disappear at the slightest whiff of air, since oxidation darkens silver and it becomes less and less visible against the dark ground. Of course, that very ephemeral quality might be a further attraction, an encouragement to see the medium as a passing fancy best appreciated ‘fresh’ and gone in the blink of an eye.

Drawing: Silverpoint Blueberries

This is, after all, an age in which change comes at an ever-increasing speed and in growing quantities, and we become accustomed to nearly everything having the shelf life of a mayfly at best. We adapt, we move on. Yet we crave the sense of permanence and connection, so here I am marking in graphite over the top of the silverpoint as it fades, or scanning the images to enhance the contrast while it can still be seen. And while I still love the sense of tactile attachment and involvement that writing longhand, pencil on paper, gives me even when I’m up to my elbows in graphite dust, not to mention hoping that the neural connections such physical action reinforces better than keyboard manipulations will stay with me longer somehow, what do I do with my writings? Transcribe the scribbles to the electronic medium by sitting at my keyboard afterward anyway.

So passes our world; we labor with new tools to speed things up, revisit and relish the old methodology and tools to slow down and remember, and then run back to catch up with the new again. We, too, are ephemeral as faint images, as ghosts, and we feel our mortality even as we strive to make our marks on the world while passing through it. Our tiny voices and messages may be lost in the ether forever, and that, almost at the instant of their making, but the urge to tell our tales remains. Our little silver trails will fade, but we will have moved on elsewhere as well.