February 3, 2006

Bean possibilities … artiste

Filed under: beanquest, drawing — Brian @ 2:05 am

Well, not really. But I have recently discovered a long-latent talent for drawing. The sketch I’m including here is one I made almost exactly a year ago, after a few exercises in a book, but otherwise not having tried to draw anything for probably 15 years. I did it with a .5mm mechanical pencil from the office supply drawer. (I increased the contrast after scanning it)

I am in the middle of my second art class since then; the first was intermediate drawing, the one I’m doing now is kind of an “independent study” with an instructor – I’m working on portraits and watercolors. (No, not watercolor portraits)

A year ago next week, an uncle of mine died of cancer. Here’s something I wrote about him – and the sketches I didn’t know he made – soon afterwards:

My Uncle B died earlier this year. He worked construction in central Illinois, and looked the part. He was always sun-darkened and fantastically practical. He was tough, but had the fastest smile I’ve seen, and took a genuine interest in everyone in the family. Most of his hometown showed up at the service. He was a kind, kind man. I’d see him only about once a year at family things.

I was surprised when Aunt J brought out a small sketchbook of his at the funeral. I expected technical drawings or notes from his work. But it was a series of tiny portraits of the people who sat near him in church. And they were beautiful! They were simple drawings, but very complete, and very clean – nothing extra, but nothing left out either.

Since Uncle B died, I’ve thought about his sketchbook quite a bit. He certainly didn’t look like an artist, and never showed anything off. But here he was, capable of these beautiful little sketches. Maybe I could do that, too!

Looking back, the time after my uncle died is the time this whole Beanquest thing began. I don’t know if I’m giving more weight to drawing because of that than I should – and I have very few ideas about how to use an artistic talent “wisely.”

But I love to do it. I am a happier person when I do it. I have more patience for daily difficulties, and I’m less apt to get discouraged or annoyed all around.

I like the process of drawing. I like the results of my drawing. I like the *idea* of drawing. I like to draw with a dip pen, and get absorbed in the brown of the ink my wife got me for Christmas. I like to hold a pencil. I love the smell of a freshly-sharpened one. I read things like Danny Gregory’s blog and Russ Stutler’s sketchbook and Drawn! and Chuck Rose’s Struggling to Paint blog and half the people on his blogroll.

I was so fascinated by Kazu Kibuishi’s step-by-step illustration (ha ha) of how he does his comic, Copper, that I’m adapting it to create a “how to clean your guinea pig cage” comic for my 6-year-old son who’s as easily distracted as I am.

I’ve learned to make small sketchbooks, and I’m excited to make bigger (thicker) ones and to fill them up. Julie Neidlinger has a contest to win a custom bookplate, but rather than enter, and see if I could get her to make me one, I want to do it myself.

When I want time to myself, to get away from things, I go to the forest preserve nearby and draw the trees and rocks and birdfeeders. (One of these times I’ll try the birds, but the things don’t stay put!)

I like painting, too – though I’m only just starting, so it could just be the novelty, and I don’t know how good I’ll be, or how much I’ll like it once I understand how to use the tools.

I have always loved to create things, and I’m rediscovering that. My mom always told me that I need to do something “with my head and with my hands” to stay out of trouble. (She was right, of course.)

This “art thing” is what I love to do right now, and I’ve been excited about it for a year – which is a looooooong time for me to be excited about anything new.

So, what do you do with that?



  1. Hi, Brian. It feels sort of strange to be on this side of the comments, you know? Strange…but good! I think it’s very cool that you’ve chosen blogging as a way of documenting this very important journey you’re on. Thanks so much for letting me know about it. I hope you won’t mind if I tell a few others.

    Man, am I impressed with your skill at drawing! What a great gift. My brother’s an artist — that’s not his profession, but it could be if he took the risk of doing it. But he got all of that kind of talent in our family. I’m not jealous, exactly — I’ve got gifts and talents he doesn’t have — but it’s one that I do sometimes wish I had more of.

    You mentioned Julie Neidlinger. My advice is to ask her how an artist’s gifts are useful in doing God’s work. She can give you some great real life examples.

    God’s going to honor your sincere quest, I guarantee it. I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out…it’s going to be awesome! So, as Arnie would say…I’ll be back. ;-)

    Comment by Eric — February 3, 2006 @ 4:21 am

  2. Thanks, Eric. I’m glad you stopped by. I had actually been thinking about contacting Julie – I signed up for her e-mail newsletter just yesterday.

    The whole ‘art’ track just seems so impractical as a profession – I’m the sole income at my house. But I see (from the examples of Julie and others) that I could do it “on the side” and see what happens. If its the One Bean, then it’ll work out.

    (I’m far enough along with this, that saying that no longer feels wierd.)

    Comment by Brian — February 3, 2006 @ 11:45 am

  3. Brian, one thing I’d caution you about is falling into the trap of thinking that spiritual gifts can only be — or even best be — exercised within the context of a “full-time” profession. That’s not the case. In fact, I’d venture to say that far more ministry takes place outside that context than within it.

    I think you’ve got a good perspective on how this works…the trick is in hanging onto it, because you’ll sometimes get mixed signals, even from within the church.

    Comment by Eric — February 3, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

  4. Wow! I love your style!

    Comment by globalscribe — February 18, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

  5. Hey, thanks, globalscribe!

    I’m flattered to think that I even *have* a style!

    Somehow, I didn’t see your comment until now. I need to check my dashboard more often…

    Comment by Brian — March 5, 2006 @ 9:18 pm

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