After a day or two of recovery, on January 25th, I sat down at my desk to begin composing a “long drawing” about Egypt, in the tradition of a 25 foot drawing that I did while living in Rome. I had anticipated that the project would be a few feet long and take about a week’s time, and I would then recommence the projects I had left in December when I went home to Christmas break. But Egypt had other ideas, and I immediately discovered that a long drawing was all wrong. ‘Longer!’ a voice demanded. ‘Panels!’ It said. ‘No!’ I cried, ‘I have to do a thesis project! I’m already behind! GO AWAY!’
But the voice just didn’t listen to me. ‘You have to draw it out! Think of what you saw, what you learned, what you thought about…’
Now, about three weeks later, I find myself closing in on finishing the thumbnailing for a graphic novel. Am I crazy? Probably. Yes. Most definitely. But tackling this isn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I am leaning on our 4,200 photos and all of my notes and sketches to draw out the things I remember, impressions and thoughts, wisps of conversations and my experience in a new culture.
This is my first test drawing, seeing if I could steal some style from Baudoin of L’Association (“Steal from the best!!” Thanks Alec!) and approach this story in a whole new way. It’s just the beginning, a little scratch at what I want to do with it. How do you capture thoughts on paper? Sear a reader’s soul with ink? How do you convey the experience of the spirit on the desert edge of the world? I don’t know. But I am determined to finish a first draft of this story by February 23rd, one month after we returned, so that I can put it away for a time, that it may resurface with clarity later.
But I am filled with renewed hope in what the arts can do.