29 August 2009

The First Time

Do you remember when it began? When you realized that art was more than stick figures and jagged clouds scrawled with crayons?  When it occurred to you that there was a spark of talent within that would let your innate creativity emerge in a meaningful way?  Do you remember?  

My moment didn't arrive until I was in my mid-forties.  Here's the tale in brief:

"How did you get started drawing?"  

It's the first thing I'm asked, and my answer is: "O. J. Simpson."  

As a journalist for the past thirty-five years, I've covered a lot of big stories. One of the most sensational was the 1995 Simpson murder trial. My assignment for CBS Radio News (when I wasn't in the courtroom in Los Angeles) was to sit in a New York studio and anchor the network's gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial. With the lion's share of time taken up by testimony, I had long stretches with little to say. I began sketching the faces of the witnesses on paper napkins that had been left in the studio. When I finished one, I'd thumbtack it to the wall. After a while, I'd accumulated a small collection. And co-workers took note. Armed with their encouragement, I decided to give drawing a try in my off hours. My first effort was a small portrait of the great bluesman John Lee Hooker. Not bad, I said to myself, not bad at all. But for reasons that elude me, it didn't last. After only a few other drawings, I stopped.  

And I didn't pick up the pencils and pad for thirteen years.  

What prodded me to start again? My good friend Jim Davis loaned me John Daido Loori's The Zen of Creativity. It's a wonderful book, and it showed me the way back. That was in the spring of 2008, and I'm still at it.

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