In Paul Ford’s funny and informative guide for people who have been asked to be in the media, he lays out “the most important rule of media”:
Nothing matters, and nothing works. If you’re selling a book, everyone will want you to go on TV to promote the book. That will sell negative ten books. Some stupid tweet will sell 1,600 copies of the book. I mean obviously if Oprah wants to feature you and tells people to get your book, the math changes. Sometimes things do work! But in general nothing matters, and nothing works. You won’t cost yourself your career if you say no.
In my experience, this is (sometimes painfully) very true.
This morning a spotlight appeared in the ivy on our back fence. It looked like the rising sun was burning through, opening up some kind of portal. (It was really just a reflection off the window of the house across the street.) I walked out and stuck my hand into the beam to make a shadow puppet.
I wished I could stick my head in and see what was on the other side. Then, just a few minutes later, the sun rose high enough that the portal disappeared.
Here is a book Jules (4) was working on a few days ago:
I think all the time about how much your relationship with your children can be a two-way street — intellectually, emotionally, artistically.
The images you show them in the world enter their minds and come out through their fingers, but, like all artists, the images they make with their fingers also enter your mind and open your eyes to new images out in the world.
Update: I showed the photo at the top of this post to Jules and he dismissed it completely. “That doesn’t look like a portal, that looks like a fence.” HA.
“With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls.”
—Robert Wyatt, “Shipbuilding”
A week or so ago, Robert Sharp wrote to me asking me about the quality in children’s drawings that seems impossible to fake. What I wrote back was: It seems to me that children, when they are drawing, are pushing the very edge of their abilities, while adults, when trying to mimic children’s drawings, are holding back somehow.
Lynda Barry had a much more interesting take during her interview on Debbie Millman’s Design Matters podcast. She says it has to do with line, gesture, and the link between drawing and seeing and thinking:
A kid’s drawing isn’t line…. A kid’s drawing is gesture. It’s natural human movement. Another place we see that is in the sciences. If you watch a scientist… watch how they move their hands on the whiteboard when they’re thinking? It’s astonishing… the parallels between how their hands look and how their drawings look and four-year-olds. It’s amazing.
It would make the physicists just cry to show that it looks just like four-year-olds, but the thing that I’ve come to realize is: What if that’s what a line looks like, not just when you’re getting an idea, but that the line itself is giving you an idea. That’s the part people don’t remember or suspect about drawing: That drawing can go, not just from your head to the page, but definitely from the page up your hand and into your head. That’s the kind of drawing that kids are doing. They’re drawing and then seeing what it is that they’re drawing.
(This reminds me of how my son Jules, even now, will add a few lines, then sit back, admire what he’s done, pump his fists in excitement, and then keep adding lines.)
Some chalkboards from my files (though only one scientist):
Top to bottom: Feynman, Beuys, Albers, Beuys, Beuys, Beuys, Basquiat, Haring.
“I am determined to have fun doing my work… if I’m enjoying myself then that feeling is passed on to the reader.”
In life and on the page.
Barely anybody around is having any fun right now, and we need people to show us how it’s done.
I ask myself this question all the time now: “Who seems like they’re really having fun with it?”
I try to identify who’s having fun with it and then I try to see if there’s something I can steal from them.
My 4-year-old leaves so many drawings lying around that sometimes I steal them and add my own captions. I made the mistake of showing this batch to him — he was absolutely furious that I added the wrong words to his pictures!
Despite the news and our country being run by utter turds, I have to say I am really enjoying my life right now.
The older I get, the more I try to say these things out loud.
It’s something I learned from Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without a Country:
The boys and I sat around the kitchen table this weekend and made some more block prints.
The four-year-old is still too little to do his own carving, so I had him draw on the block and I carved it for him. (His is the skeleton on the right, the others are by the six-year-old.)