Handy Dandy

Handy Dandy

“Hands are so hard to draw!” said my friend Cyd. She was ready to throw her easel through the window, and I hoped she wouldn’t. It was snowing. I’d need another sweater.

“So do what Charles Schultz did—he drew hands behind peoples’ backs,” I told her.

I would know. I cut my drawing teeth on Peanuts. Hours and hours of drawing Charlie Brown’s head, over and over again, those eyes enclosed in parentheses, that funny little curl of–I guess it was hair—on his forehead. The zigzag stripe on his shirt, the little legs, the cigar-shaped shoes. Then there was Linus. His head had a different shape than Charlie Brown’s, and his hair was on top. And Lucy’s dress was easy when you studied it—just a couple of simple shapes, really. I didn’t know anyone else who spent their time that way, but hey, whatever—the other kids thought it was cool that I could draw Peanuts.

Then I grew up and started hanging out with other illustrators, and wow! Many of them had their favorite characters to copy when they were kids. Garfield was a popular choice, but there were plenty who were drawn (yeesh!) to Peanuts. A few Spiderman and Calvin and Hobbes types, but to copy Watterson…

Last week, Laura, my 14-year-old, wondered why there were suddenly 8 discs of Kimba the White Lion on our Netflix queue…

Even when you put something at the top of the queue, you still have to wait until it arrives. Peanuts got me strolling down memory lane, and I wasn’t ready to start the return trip. So I ambled over to YouTube, and found enough to continue my walk—at least until the next Netflix delivery. I watched a couple of truncated episodes of Kimba, and remembered how much I looked forward to watching it, since I could only watch it when I visited my grandparents in NJ. I liked to draw Kimba. I was into early anime, so after Kimba, Grownup Me watched Astro Boy, another of my kidhood watch-and-draw favorites. It came on around dinnertime, and I always hoped dinner would be before or after Astro Boy. Sometimes I was allowed to eat and watch, and that made me happy.

After an episode or two of Gigantor (even as a child, I really just liked the theme song), it was time to get back to the present, but it was fun to remember how me-the-kid looked forward to, hoped, was happy. As a children’s book illustrator, it’s central to what I do.

The Internet makes it so easy to stay in touch with your inner child! Amazing.

I think the mail’s here.


9 Responses to Handy Dandy

  1. dave1uk says:

    Hand drawing is great fun, like sudoku for artists! Obsession is part of being an illustrator, for me it’s not wanting to be the best, but wanting to know ‘how it works’. I guess I’m the older T2 artist, partly because my obsession with drawing led me to give it up for 20 years, after a flying start – it finally led me to the therapists door! After a session or two, I trained in therapy – and now I can draw again. Hand drawing sits comfortably. Drawing is communicating with symbols and like most things, if we have a drive – it is to find out how it works. I wouldn’t advocate a 20 year lay-off, on my return,my drawing engine was akin to a 1976 vw beetle, when I expected something more BMW or Jaguar…It feels like a smooth running vw now…which feels great. Just driving again is good and illustrating, part-time or as a day job – is a luxury. it is the obsessive nature of art – which attracts obsessive natures 🙂

  2. kathy weller says:

    I love your post.

    I had a great hand-drawing teacher, my first year in college. Nathan Goldstein. Somehow he broke it down into language that made perfect sense, and he removed any mental block on drawing hands. It then became such an organic, natural thing to do. I will always be grateful to him for his excellent teaching skills and I feel lucky to have had him as a teacher!

    I remember Kimba from when I was very young! Two favorites in my house were Kimba and Speed Racer!!

  3. nataliavasquez says:

    i love hand drawing too!! i remember my art clases at Fine Arts School of Lima.. wow… a lot of drawings! :-).. yep dave… it could be a bit obssesive work!. 😉

  4. wellerwishes says:

    Wow, I posted a comment earlier today but it has disappeared!
    (Oh where did you go, post?)

    It seems like so many artists struggle with hands, hands/feet and/or anatomy in general. It’s truly like an artistic coming-of-age to face these issues, have your “a-ha” moments, and find your way. Anyway, it was for me for sure!

    I had a great art school first-year drawing teacher.His name is Nathan Goldstein. I feel really lucky that I had the good fortune to study under him!! He had a way of explaining how to think of hands and about hands, how to “feel” hands from the inside out and as a part of the whole, that really changed fundamentally how I (and probably most of the others in the class too) thought about interpreting hands (and by extension, the figure in general). Wow, was he great!! I think he is still teaching, too!

    Kimba was a biggie in our household! I live in the northeast now but was a kid on the west coast, and just about no one remembers Kimba here. We also were big Speed Racer fans too! 🙂 Thanks for the memories!!

  5. Don says:

    Ug. I hate drawing hands. I love faces. But hands, I still puzzle over them for hours.

  6. nicoletugeau says:

    Thanks for these great posts, C. I love how actively intereted you are in touching base with your inner child. When you wrote that ‘eating and watching’ Astro Boy made you happy, well, I think that sparked three or four great childhood memories for me involving food and TV. Eating popcorn and watching ‘Dallas’ on Friday nights with my Mom always made me happy. I wasn’t sketching JR Ewing or Southfork Ranch, or anything. I did own ‘Drwaing on the Right Side of the Brain’ during those middle school years, but I wasn’t an ‘artist’ per se – more of a ‘designer.’ So it must have been those great Southern ranch interiors I was soaking up. I still love good guady drapes on a big window…

  7. carolkoeller says:

    Wow–what interesting and thoughtful responses! Hand-drawing tips would be a great thing to post over on “Technical 411” (there may be some there already–haven’t checked).

    I wonder if some of the problem with hands has to do with the sometimes obsessive nature of artists–you draw a hand, your visual training makes you see that it isn’t quite right, and you know the rest!

    I’m okay with hands most of the time, but don’t get me started on foreshortened feet and shoes!

    Speaking of “Dallas,” what was the name of the show, a lot like Dallas, that took place in Colorado? When I was living in Germany, watching TV helped me learn German, especially American shows that got translated into German. That show was one of them, but it was called “Der Denver-clan.”

    Thanks for remembering Speed Racer! How could I have forgotten old Speed? Anybody else looking forward to the movie coming out this summer?

  8. nataliavasquez says:

    speed racer !! wow.. one of my favorite until now!.. in my country its usually called “Meteoro”… (meteor)… jjjj… i remember me and my little sister watching Candy Candy , Bugs Bunny… Fantastic 4 ( Los 4 Fantásticos)… yep! 🙂 mmmmmmmmm… i miss that time! 😦

  9. wellerwishes says:

    Carol, I want to say “Knots Landing” but that’s not it — I checked a site from a Google search, so it *must* be right. 😉

    Speed Racer movie: I find it so strange!! It will be a different galaxy from the Speed Racer I knew, but my interest is definitely piqued if only in a strangely curious way. Speed is such an early childhood figure for me – it’s really strange thing for me to wrap my head around!! Maybe I will be surprised? I do like Emile Hirsch but, as Speed? I will withhold any opinions until I see the previews!! 🙂

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