Hello, Drawgerites. I am finally finding my sea legs as I settle into Great Barrington, Massachusetts, my new home. I hope to hang around Drawger more often now, checking other’s postings and adding some of my own. Life has been quite discombobulating at times ever since my wife, rep and creative partner, Maggie Pickard died just over two years ago. I now live in a lovely old home on Castle Street with my new companion, Janice Kittner.
For the past several weeks, I’ve been preparing for a workshop, talk and book-signing to launch my newest book, "How To Draw With Your Funny Bone" that will take place at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA on May 2nd. I intend to have a lot of fun and I hope those attending the event will join in on helping me create Funnyville, a small town in Elwood’s World. I’ll begin with a short drawing class and then we’ll begin making drawings to inhabit Funnyville’s landscape. I’ll be right there at their side, encouraging and coaching each participant.
It’s my contention that everyone can draw, even though they often think they cannot. We all drew wonderful pictures; fanciful, often funny characters when we were kids. We were not inhibited by our inability to make representational imagery. We just hunkered down with a fistful of pencils or crayons and created small worlds. By the time most kids became teenagers, they began to abandon drawing, possibly intimidated by other kids who had better hand/eye coordination and made more “realistic” pictures. Or maybe they jettisoned picture making because greater emphasis was given by their educational system to learn spelling, sports and math.
It’s interesting, though, that later in life many adults take up life drawing classes or watercolor and oil painting classes. The art of imagery, like the sound of music, is a great source of joy and, while we delight in visiting art museums and attending concerts, it is equally (or possibly more) satisfying to the soul, to make our own music and art.
Encouraging people without formal training to begin creating art again is not an original idea, but I think the emphasis on creating art as an unobtainable goal for ordinary people, is silly and there is not nearly enough support for alternative ways of artistic self expression. I wrote my Funny Bone book--and I am creating this workshop--with intentions of inspiring those who attend, old & young, to begin drawing again, to create meaningful imagery without intimidation. I will show them great artwork that has been created by self-taught, “naïve” artists and by more well known artists, like Picasso, Paul Klee and Dubuffet who embraced childlike imagery. Sophisticated drawing skills are not important in Elwood’s World. In fact, traditional drawing techniques are not welcome. I want everyone to draw pure, simple, wobbly shapes infused with childlike fancy for Funnyville, even if it means drawing with the wrong hand or scrawling on paper while blindfolded to get them out on the page.
So, if you know someone who might benefit from this workshop at the Norman Rockwell Museum, please send them this link:
I've been away from Drawger for much too long. I'm in the process of moving to Great Barrington, MA from Rhinebeck, NY and I might not post often until the dust settles, but I'll check in here as often as possible. It's been one hell of a roller coaster since Maggie died on March 25th of last year. So much has happened since that day in February when we found out she had Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. I still can't believe she's gone. I look forward to the move to my new home. There's much more to tell, but I won't bore those who've taken the time to peek at this entry. I'll add more to the saga in upcoming posts.
My favorite gig these is creating art for the New York Times Science Section. The marvelous art director is Peter Morance, someone I've known since my earliest days in New York City. The editor & writer is Dennis Overbye and the two of them are an illustrator's dream team. At least they are for me. Here's my latest illustration for the column.
I was blindsided by Maggie's ravenous cancer. Maggie was trim and fit. She dragged me to daily 4.5 mile walks most days. She cooked simple, delicious, wholesome meals like cod & spinach and salmon & kale. She occasionally had a beer or a martini, but mostly she was happy with a few sips of my nightly ales. She had very few health issues over the years and she was easy going--not always an easy thing, considering she was snagged into the hyperactive vortex of Elwood's World. I am a worrier, I take a daily blood pressure pill plus one for a slight heart murmur and I have acid reflux. I carry around a spare tire--no surprise, since I drink at least two beers nightly and sit for hours on my ass at a drawing table or in front of my computer most days. But I am (for the moment, at least) alive and Maggie is not. It makes no sense.
In late autumn, 2012, Maggie began having ever-increasing heartburn and gas pains. The docs figured it was acid reflux. Treatment didn't help much and her discomfort increased. Something was wrong with her intestinal tract, we knew that, but we were unprepared when we received news on February 6, 2013 that her ultra sound results showed a suspicious image in her liver. She had a CT scan the next day, two days before our 30th wedding anniversary. Five days later, we were sitting in the office of the highly respected oncologist, Dr. Yuman Fong at Memorial Sloan Kettering discussing three possible treatments for Maggie's Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. (1) palliative care (2) a somewhat more gentle form of chemo or (3) a much more aggressive version of chemo. Her biopsy revealed cancer cells scattered about her pancreas, which had invaded 50% of her liver. We were shocked but Maggie remained steady and calm, accepting the course of events that unfolded from that day until the morning she departed.
I am devastated. Many years ago, I sat with a friend as she died while I held her hand. Later, I was with my mother when she died and still later on I sat at the bedside of another friend when he died. I had some closeup experience with death, but I was woefully unprepared for this shattering loss. For 32 years, Maggie was in my life nearly constantly. We worked in studios across the hall from each other for most of the day. We loved and walked and slept together. We attended concerts and movies together and we joined friends for dinner and played music and life was interesting and good. Sure, we bickered and griped like all couples do, but we held tight for 32 years.
It has been five days since Maggie's death and the pain has not lessened. No surprise. I have been cast at sea by opportunistic cancer cells. My compass, my dear companion is gone--not for a short trip to Italy with friends while I stay home to tend to the cats, but for the rest of my days and I cannot take it in. I am living in two realities. I can laugh and eat and drink with friends and, during those spells, my life feels almost normal in its way. Without warning, I am drawn into the alternate reality of deep, profound, heart-wrenching loss. It is unlike any emotional pain I have ever known. Friends offer advice, not knowing that the hell to say to me. Who would? I burst into tears at the drop of a memory and it can be unnerving to those who want to help me mend. Please allow me to break down. I am wounded to the core, but I don't need grief therapy. Really I don't. I don't need to be told anything, I need only to be allowed to weep when I am overtaken with intense sadness and loss. Don't worry, I regularly switch gears and engage for a while in normal conversation and laughter. I know I'll mend down the line, but not tomorrow, not for a good long while. I'll get through this ordeal, but this feeling of loss is profound. It won't disappear altogether, but it will fade to haze. I need time. I need Maggie. I'll get one, not the other.