A Common Malady

I’m calling it P.P.P.P.  Nearly every artist I know has a moderate to severe case of this serious condition: Precious Perfect Paper Paralysis.  The only cure I know of for the artist is the copious application of a graphite pencil.  Once the graphite pencil therapy is well tolerated, the patient can advance to INK!

All joking aside, one of the hardest things for artists (and writers) to overcome is the preciousness of an unblemished page.  It’s worse when the pages are bound into a lovely journal, as above, and you are approaching an empty page with an indelible medium.  Because ruining one page of a journal is tantamount to desecration of the entire book and we are conditioned from our earliest days to revere books and not deface them unless we are making notes in the margins with a pencil, it’s inordinately hard to put pencil to a blank page in a book.  So, the reason I advise pencil as a cure for stubborn cases of P.P.P.P. is because pencil marks are erasable and condoned even for use on the precious pages of textbooks, possibly the most exalted of all books with the notable exception of the Bible.*  This embedded knowledge that pencil marks are allowed and even approved in certain books comforts our souls.  So starting anything with a pencil should be less daunting:

This gourd drawing was started with a faint pencil sketch that I later erased once the inking was well advanced.

 I know many art teachers/gurus, especially among the nature journaling and urban sketching crowd, recommend skipping the pencil phase because starting something that you intend to finish with ink or colored pencil or watercolor with a pencil is a crutch that can be as limiting as a physical crutch you might use if you’d injured your leg.  But, graphite can also be an artistic end unto itself and is inarguably an art tool as fine as any other you care to name and as permanent:

This drawing of a shark egg case was always intended to be finished as a pencil drawing with no additional media required.

Fooling the brain into thinking it’s just playing around and not engaged in making ART can really help.  Or fooling it into thinking it’s making records that will be useful later, either to yourself or to others, can also liberate the timid brain from the fear that it might somehow make inferior art.  This is why I was keen to start my own perpetual journal from the first moment I saw one.  The first thing I did was write a date range on every page of a blank journal.  That wasn’t hard.  Now EVERY page spread of that journal already has marks on it.  The next thing was to tell myself this was simply going to be a useful record of things that happen in nature around me regularly through the year.  That helped.  It continues to help.  I’m filling that journal slowly but surely with drawings of mundane things I see around me that I find interesting.  Sometimes I start right in with ink as Lara Call Gastinger recommends, but that is admittedly scary and not for everyone.  More often, I start with a pencil underdrawing that is meant to be erased as with the gourd drawing above.  Sometimes I make the pencil drawing the whole point of the exercise, as with the Mermaid’s Purse/Shark Egg Case above. Pun intended and the pointing of pencils is a subject unto itself for another day.  But today’s point is that I rarely suffer from P.P.P.P. with this journal anymore. 

Here is one final piece of advice I will share that I got from Carol Bryer Fallert in a quilting workshop:  notice what you notice.  That sounds like it might be a tautology, but really it isn’t.  Pay attention.  Look around you.  You’ll notice small things that interest you.  When you do, put a sketch of it in your book, not because you’re going to make art, but simply because you noticed it in that moment and found it interesting.  Later you will go back and page through your journal and remember that moment when you noticed.  I find I collect things as I go about my life and think, “Ooh, I want to put a sketch of that in my journal.”  This works way better than thinking, “Oh, I need to do a drawing, what shall I immortalize today?”

*The Bible is an interesting exception because while it is the most revered book of all time, for generations, people wrote in “Family Bibles,” recording marriages, births and deaths and then passed these Bibles down to subsequent generations, thus providing a rich trove of information for current genealogists, but that’s another rabbit hole altogether.  Writing critical information in a space designated for that information with an indelible medium is not comparable to making “art” with the same implement on a blank page.

It’s a Crack Up

You never want to slip through the cracks, crack your head or have to get up at the crack of dawn after a night on the town, but you might think something is Crackerjack, or you could want to have a crack at a job or crack up an audience with a joke.  However, cracks on tennis courts are no laughing matter and should be repaired asap. 

When cracks on tennis courts reach a certain width and depth, I have observed that they can contribute to player injuries in 2 primary ways.  The first way is the most obvious and that is simply catching a shoe in a crack and falling.  That actually happened to me many years ago and I was out of the game for months as my deeply bruised right wrist healed from that fall.  The second way is more subtle, but can be just as injurious.  When you play tennis, you learn to anticipate how balls will bounce and you position yourself accordingly to intercept and return the ball.  Anything that causes an unanticipated odd bounce is going to require a last-second adjustment and that is what can cause players to injure themselves, either by losing balance and falling or from having to reach for the ball unexpectedly and wrenching a back or overextending an arm and shoulder. 

Of course, some wily players can knowingly create odd bounces by putting back or side spin on the ball (aka “English” or “slime” in the vernacular of the courts) but experienced players can usually spot spin immediately off the opponent’s racquet and/or in the air and are therefore on the alert to the fact that the anticipated trajectory of the ball may change and the bounce might be unpredictable.  Forewarned is forearmed and adjustments can be made for taking an oddly bouncing ball in a safe way.

Also, wind can wreak havoc with tennis, but again, everyone on the court is aware when it is windy that balls can bounce erratically and extra precautions must be taken to avoid injuries.

So my plea to clubs where I play is always, “Fix the cracks, please!” 

Incidentally, aren’t those about the cutest tennis shoes you’ve ever seen?  Let your uniform committee choose any color for your team and you will be prepared if you own these babies.  Thanks Julia for permission to feature your shoes, which, happily and for the record, did NOT get stuck in any cracks today.  Whew!