Monday, March 23, 2009

I need lines to color inside of

I remember the first picture I ever colored without breaking the black lines creating the image. It was a rollerskating girl with pigtails, short skirt and striped socks. The page was from one of those beginner coloring books with thick lines, large, simple shapes and as little detail as possible.

Pressing the colored wax into the paper with half my body weight, I outlined each shape. First the skirt which was a basic trapezoid.

Aside: My 7th grade algebra teacher, Mr. Smoot, between bouts of throwing erasers at chalkboards and chastising me for unfinished homework, used to repeat a trapezoid joke at every opportunity, which was unfortunately about twice a week.

What are trapezoids used for?
To trap a zoid!

Hardy har!

There was very little I took away from Mr. Smoot other than the assertion that 7th grade algebra would be my last advanced math course for the rest of my educational career, but that joke stuck.

Back to the coloring because I think I was going somewhere with that.

My crayon box was a mess of peaks, valleys and torn wrappers. I really liked how the colors looked when you smashed the tip of the crayon into the paper with incredible pressure. This made the colors bold and more vibrant, though the finished product had a tendency to flake and peel. My coloring books often left a rainbow trail of dandruff as I carried them though the house.

My sister was great at coloring. She taught me to trace the outline of the picture first, then evenly shade in each area. As much as I practiced, I could never get the even pressure thing down. Rather than have everything two-toned, I would press as hard as possible to get a more consistent result. This aggressive technique shortened the life-span of my favorite colors to about 4 pages.

Some creative color choices were made to extend the lives my favorites. Grass could be brown if it hadn't been watered, the sun could be burnt orange if it was rising or setting and the sky could be gray on an overcast day.

Mastering coloring inside the lines was a proud day for me. Since I still remember the pig-tailed, skirted girl who served as my subject, the ability to show off a page without an errant scribble obviously made an impression.

Once I graduated to free-form drawing is when more ugly obstacles crawled out of my Lisa Frank pencil box. A blank piece of paper is a wonderful thing--full of possibilities. I prefer mine in the form of a lined, crisp first page of a notebook, but understand the sentiment is the mostly same.

I need direction. A prompt or specific areas to outline and shade. When I go to a restaurant with paper table cloths and crayons to pass the time until food hits the table, my first inclination is to write something, not draw.

With so many options at the age of 4, I often settled on the same picture, with the same components and characters every time.

Yep, I still got it.

Amazing how MS Paint is able to realistically recreate my 4-year-old artistic skills.

Sometimes the leprechaun would be sliding down the rainbow, but that was pretty much the extent of variation. (And by sliding down the rainbow, I mean drawn exactly as pictured above, but positioned on top of the rainbow rather than standing awkwardly beside his pot o' yellow circles.)

My preschool and kindergarten teachers must have worried about my unhealthy obsession with rainbows, leprechauns and pots of gold. I didn't especially love rainbows or leprechauns, but they were one of the first things I ever wanted to draw. It included all the colors, was easy, and allowed me to show off the fact that I knew all the colors of the rainbow AND what order they went in--something I'd memorized the first day of preschool by staring at the rainbow-painted wall all day in shyness. Every now and then I'd try a unicorn or another unrecognizable animal from my unskilled hands. After having to explain that my elegant unicorn was definitely NOT a rhinoceros, I learned to not stray too far from what I knew.

My writing equivalent of this artistic repetition has changed over the years, but is mostly centered around tales from my life. I'll tell different stories, illustrated with silly pictures of Milo, but whenever I'm given instructions to write about anything, anything I can possibly dream up, I slip back into what I know.

My assignment this week was to write every day. Come up with a schedule and stick to it. Simple. Easy. Limitless.

Uh-oh.

While I love making schedules and sticking to them, I cannot be the only one accountable for both ends of the equation--especially when there aren't clearly defined consequences or goals involved. Given the simple task of writing, just sitting down and taking the time to do it has caused me to avoid the laptop and my notebook more than the overflowing laundry basket. You know it's there and you should really just get to it, but it'll eventually get done, so why not take the dog for another walk in the sun or try a second attempt at that no-knead bread recipe?

Several times this weekend I'd sit with the laptop and stare at the screen, write a sentence or two and then realize I should really be riding the bike or downloading the pictures and video I took of Milo at playgroup.

So today I sat down to blog, hoping it might hammer a tiny crack into my shield of avoidance. I made up my mind to at least write about how I'm not writing and look what happened? Words! Hundreds of them pecked out one at a time. Bird by bird.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Well done! I can certainly relate to your trouble. That is why, even though I write for a living, I don't do any blogging and it often takes me days to force myself to return emails. Given a specific writing task, it's not so hard to get things done. But, given the task to just be creative, my mind goes blank. Anyway, well done for powering through and writing an enjoyable piece about the process. :)