a childhood saved


sketchbook page

One of the few memories I have of my mother, who died when I was eight, is drawing with her in the kitchen. She used to put a big roll of shelf paper on the floor, and I would draw on it for hours while she sat at the table, smoking cigarettes and sketching. Later, amazingly, we drew on the kitchen wall itself. She drew big, abstract swans that looked like the number "2" and I drew dinosaurs, whales, insects, and cartoon people. After she died the drawings remained until my stepmother had the kitchen wall papered over. Sometimes I would stand in the kitchen and imagine the drawings, still there, behind the wallpaper.

I never had any formal art training, as is obvious from the rather primitive sketches you'll see here, but I worked hard at improving my skills. The later sketchbook pages from 1973 have a few drawings that are really quite good. I often drew in the field, but when drawing birds and mammals and other things that I caught only fleeting glimpses of, I drew from memory aided by photographs or artwork from books and magazines.

As I mentioned in the introduction to this site, my sketchbooks were inspired by those of H. Wayne Trimm, staff artist and art director for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's magazine, The Conservationist. Pages from his annotated sketchbooks frequently appeared on the inside back cover of the magazine, and I imitated his style. When the magazine published an article that I had submitted, Wayne Trimm encouraged my artwork, offering helpful criticism of the pieces I sent him.

The late Kaye Anderson of the Saw Mill River Audubon Society supported my artwork in her role as editor of the society's newsletter. When I was 11 or 12 years old, I sent her a few pen and ink sketches of birds and other wildlife, which she published. At one point when my stepmother threatened to throw out all my artwork, I sent Mrs. Anderson a bunch of my favorite drawings for safekeeping.

The sketchbooks here cover the period from early May, 1972, to early October, 1973, when I was 13-14 years old. I can't remember exactly why I stopped, but I know it was a lot of work to keep up a sketchbook along with the journals and other records I was maintaining. I remember that it started feeling like a chore after a while, like I had a "duty" to keep up my sketchbook, and I just didn't have time. I had also become more interested in writing than drawing, and my aspirations had shifted.