Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Doodles and a Moleskine in Review... Kinda

After nearly two years, my first Moleskine notebook is finally complete. I think this is perhaps the second time I've finished a blank book in my entire life, and though this was a tiny notebook, I'm going to give it credit anyway! Flipping through the pages, I enjoyed seeing how the book evolved. It started out more as a journal and notebook. I was keeping a lot of ideas from things happening around my deskjob at the time.... oddly enough, I felt there were fascinating things to write about as an insurance claim adjustor in the worker's compensation industry.

In hindsight, a lot of it was my desperate attempt to get through the day by finding humor in even the most mundane situations. I was also reading a lot of J.D. Salinger and Catch-22 at the time, so I tried to come up with my own witty observations (and run-on sentences) in everyday occurrences. One line that sticks out to me was my take on writer's block, though it was actually in reference to my own block as an artist who had essentially been out of the loop for three years:

He was a struggling writer who never struggled over what to write, but to actually sit and write about his struggles. He didn't write about them because he knew the effort would indicate he had enough energy to do something about it. He didn't do something about it because he spent all his energy contemplating how to write about it. So he sat instead. And he stared. He sat at his desk and stared blankly at his monitor as it stared back in its malignant cathode ray gaze, piercing the sheer layers of moisture in his eyes that gave up long ago, seeping through the tired brittle nerves, shocked and unaffected by the searing sensation of the utmost indifference.

Other times, I was filled with plain, outright desperation without the longwinded prose, as evidenced by several slips of adding machine paper taped inside my notebook, tallying up the bare minimum I needed to make per month if I wanted to leave my job. Around the time I started painting again, there were more doodles. One of the first doodles was this cheery self-portrait:
There were also quoted passages out of a book I was reading at the time, The Fountainhead, which fueled my restlessness as well as my eventual decision to leave. About twenty pages into the book, I gained a more optimistic perspective on things. There's a line I wrote on the day I put in my two week notice of resignation that says,"And suddenly, time slowed down again." I started sketching more ideas. There were also diagrams, plot maps, and bulletpoints outlining my plan of action to get my illustration career going. It's nice to look back and see some of those items crossed off!

The bulk of the book from that point on documents various road trips I've been on, doodles or ideas for large projects I jotted down.... for instance, on my largest project, there is a page of various ring designs I came up with when I decided I was going to propose to Alex - another story for another time.

Anyway, my attention span is slipping fast, and so I'm pretty sure yours is too. To make a short story long, I'd like to share a page of doodles out of the old book, as well as a couple from the new book:
I wish I could go into explaining the various degrees of style or subjects, and where I plan on taking some of these sketches, but I've honestly worn myself out.... I guess it's a good thing I chose to be a starving artist rather than a struggling writer.


Ben Foster said...

Mike mike mike....

It tears at my heart strings to read your post, and in some ways stings a bit, since I know your words about your own struggles could just as easily be pointed at me.

I'm incredibly happy that you've made such postive changes in your life, from quitting the soulless corporate machine to kicking off the illustration career (with force) to proposing to Alex. Congrats, man.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike,

I always love reading your posts, Mike. Though I don't know you, there is something in your honesty and openness that I really enjoy and I find myself coming back for more updates. I had to laugh at your own "Catch 22" story...I LOVE this passage, "He sat at his desk and stared blankly at his monitor as it stared back in its malignant cathode ray gaze, piercing the sheer layers of moisture in his eyes that gave up long ago, seeping through the tired brittle nerves, shocked and unaffected by the searing sensation of the utmost indifference." Absolutely BEAUTIFUL! -- quite moving. It brings to mind my own experience several years ago when I also was in the 9-5 world...thank God I'm out, no matter a starving artist I am! And thank God you got out of the insurance industry and are now pursuing your art full-time! Cheers to you and your wife!

BTW, It seems to me that you are equally as talented in writing, so a struggling writer might be in the cards for you while starving as an artist. :o)



Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention, I love the self-portrait sketch...very expressive. I don't know whether to laugh or cry for him...


Unknown said...

I appreciate you laying it out there for the world to see Mike. I'm pretty awful at that, so I really admire your courage. It's that same bravery that left your job, got married and is going to make you successful (I don't mean financially, but that too -hopefully!).

these sketches are awesome and I already look like you as a claims examiner...just with more hair.

Thanks dude

Mike Dutton said...

Hi guys, sorry I'm a little late replying. I've been either busy or sick.

Ben - I'm always glad to see how steadily you pursue your art despite the day job, Ben. Still, I'm glad my writing affected you in such a way... a good stinging to give you an even sharper edge. :)

Ana - Hi Ana. I'm always glad to see your in-depth responses, it makes me feel like I'm not writing something that falls immediately into the recycling bin. Then again, there could be a lot of other readers here who are secretly thinking, "Shhh, stop it, you'll only encourage him!"
As for the self portrait, I neither laugh nor cry when I see it. I sigh in relief!

Scott - Hehe, I don't know if it's bravery, but thanks! It hasn't backfired in my face yet, so it could be dumb luck more than anything. :) Still, I'm glad things have worked out so far.
And it's no surprise you look like my sketch..... 16 pintings in a month is madness!