A long way
Sunday, 10 May 2009
A few years ago I stored some boxes with comic books and documents in the garage of a friend. Yesterday we brought the boxes back into our home. We don’t have any space, so we will have to get rid of much of the content of the boxes. Correspondences, artwork, the originals of all my old zines, it will be a difficult process to decide what to do with all this!
I found a box with some of my earliest drawings. Well, everything I did before I was seventeen has been thrown away. But around that age some of my drawings were published in small magazines and from then on I tried to save as much as possible. Much of what I saw today is pretty bad. I was not very talented and I had absolutely nothing to tell until I was in my mid-twenties. But all this old artwork is too old to be embarrassed about it.
This drawing is the eldest I could find:
It was used as the cover of a photo-yearbook of the school that I attended back then. I was already seventeen when I did this. I remember that I had absolutely no idea how to make a decent drawing. I come from a family where nobody had any talent, except maybe for one uncle, who once gave me some of his calligraphy pens when I was sixteen. This drawing was made with one of my first Rotring pens, that I bought after reading in an interview that Joost Swarte used these. These Rotring pens completely changed my life!
Almost all the drawings in the box that were made before I went to Curacao are of the same quality. When I was 22 I went to Curacao for a month and there I made some illustrations for a friend who had an advertisement agency. I made a drawing for a local newspaper in which the Atari game computer was introduced. Back then I had hardly ever seen a game computer, so I got some pictures and magazines with material that I should incorporate in the drawing. The idea (not mine) was that first Columbus discovered Curacao, and now he brought Atari to Curacao. I remember that I got 200 guilders for the drawing; more money than I ever got before for any drawing. And somehow the circumstances inspired me to come up with a drawing that looked ten times better then anything I had produced so far:
In the years after that I still made a lot of pretty lousy drawings, but never as bad as what I made before I did this Atari ad. Somehow this drawing became a standard for me. Not only the result, but also the way I made it. I used to be nervous when I inked a pencil drawing, but now I began to enjoy it, and that certainly showed in the results.
Soon I discovered that I was more into lettering and designing than in pure drawing. In the box were some early sketches and designs that I probably would never have remembered if they didn’t showed up yesterday. Here are some of the more interesting examples:
I tried to make living from making illustrations, but more and more it became clear to me that I was better at lettering comics. And somewhere around the late eighties I stopped doing illustrations for work. For many years I hardly made any drawings at all. Only when I was in my late thirties I discovered that I enjoyed making semi-abstract illustrations, that serve no other purpose than the pleasure of making them.
Sorting out this box made me realise what a long way many people have to come. Of course, there are a few people who are born with a specific talent. But for most people, like me, it takes half a lifetime to discover what your talent is.