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The Mossletter 31
I do hope this email finds you well, and you’re now getting to take long walks through autumn-colored parks while feeling a crisp fall breeze invigorate you.* As the year winds up, I wanted to share something fun with you … “a return to form” (so to speak).
PS: if this email gets truncated (due to its length), you can always find the post in its entirety here.
*Yet again, folks in Los Angeles will have to wait longer to experience this — or maybe we’ll just skip straight to winter. Who knows? 🍁
🫂 Reunited And It Feels So Good
I’ll get straight to it: I’m wading back into visual art! Those of you who’ve known me for sometime know that visual art is at the very core of my being … in fact, I would say it’s really where “Micah” all began. When I was a young warthog 🎶, I used to sketch and design random things, and to this day — I still have a comic book (buried somewhere) that I wrote and illustrated way back in the day (TL;DR — it wasn’t exactly Shakespeare — and it was weird … but I kind of love it.)
Anyway, the short version is this: I miss it, and I want to do it more. And so I shall.
Here’s how I’m dipping my toes back in … 🏊♂️
✏️ Back To Basics
A question for you:
Is there anything more simple than putting pencil to paper?
It feels to me like a pure form of expression. It’s (honestly) about as raw as it gets. When you get right down to it — it’s really not much different from the primal act of rubbing charcoal on a cave wall to make an illustration.
When I sketch with a pencil on paper (okay, let’s throw in an eraser too, since I do use that) — I’m not going for perfection here. Precision is definitely not my goal … If it were my goal, I’d be using more exacting instruments (alas, it’s also worth remembering many a haughty artist has been dashed on the rocks chasing the siren song of perfection, but that’s a post for another time). When I sit down for a sketching session with pencil and paper, however, I basically ask myself this one question:
Am I capturing the essence of the subject?
Again, I’m not necessarily concerned with excavating the most “literal” interpretation of what I see, I’m not really bothered by getting every little detail right (because an artist always has to continually reevaluate their work and make trade-offs in real-time), but rather — my goal (and admittedly this is likely different than the goals of other visual artists) is to capture the spirit of the subject. (Maybe we call it a “vibe”?)
With all that in mind, I’d like to share some recent sketches with you (where I did my best to get the “vibe” right).
This was a fun one I did while imbibing a delicious flight from Mt. Lowe Brewing Company in Arcadia, CA. Not only are their pints top-notch, but they serve it to you on a slab of gorgeous, lacquered wood. I’ve been wanting to sketch this one for some time, and it honestly was quite challenging due to the curves, the interplay of light on the glasses, the textures of the wood, etc. (and to be real — if I was actually tracking this, I would be willing to bet my line-work got pretty “loose” towards the end of my session, if you catch my drift!) 😉
Here I found myself at Clearman’s Galley, another fine pub in San Gabriel, CA (do you see a theme developing here?) It’s a nice spot for locals to spend an afternoon guzzlin’ & grubbin’ while catching a game, but also it has this fun “nautical” theme to it. When you walk in, they have this amazing collection of scale ship models behind glass, and this one caught my eye in particular. I loved the clean lines of the rigging and the sails, the smooth black lines that ran through the middle of the wooden side, and also the cool little life boat dangling off the back. The challenge with this one was that my table was probably about five feet away from it, so I wasn’t really up close to this … there was also a glare on the glass, but again (as hinted above) you learn to “work around” these things as best you can. 🏴☠️
I recently had the pleasure of visiting London for the very first time, and it basically charmed the heck out of me. I couldn’t leave Great Britain without having some proper “afternoon tea”, so I took the opportunity to capture this on paper. This was a lot fun, and a bit daunting due to perspective, etc — but once I “broke things down into smaller shapes”, it moved forward. Notice in the photograph, you’ll see this beautiful marble table it was on, nice starched napkins and cutlery, etc … Well, as I mentioned up front, I had to “pick and choose my battles here”, or rather, be decisive as to what to highlight from this little tableau, so I chose to leave those out of the composition (otherwise I would’ve been there for hours, and that wasn’t possible because I had a plane to catch!) 🛫
Side note: every time I look at this sketch, I can’t “un-see” a little face on the roll (which I didn’t notice when I was sketching, but perhaps I inadvertently captured its “spirit”?) 👻
🤫 Want In On A Little Secret?
As it turns out, sketching with analog materials has a hidden / bonus benefit as well:
For every minute or hour you spend sketching with pencils, pens and paper — it’s one minute or hour where you’re not staring at a device screen.
I wasn’t conscious of this when I first started sketching again, but it was one of those “aha” moments I had that came to me later … I spend so many hours a day staring at a computer screen for work, an iPad screen for writing / reading / watching content, an iPhone screen killing time, a TV screen etc — that I realized this little benefit alone was worth the price of admission (regardless of how my sketches / drawings actually turn out).
Don’t be afraid to be a kid again.
Don’t be afraid to pick up that pencil (or crayon for that matter).
There are no downsides — only upsides. 🖍️
💬 A Note on Notes
If you’d like to follow along with the little art posts I do here and there (in real-time), go to substack.com/notes or find the “Notes” tab in the Substack app. As a subscriber to The Mossletter, you’ll automatically see my notes. Feel free to like, reply, or share them around!
🖋 Parting Words
Telling yourself you have all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the colors in the palette, anything you want — that just kills creativity. — Jack White
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