Can and can’t

I wish I’d managed to push back in the moment, but somehow I just couldn’t pull together something quickly enough that would have sunk into little self-doubting ears. It broke my heart though. She seems a little young for the “creativity slump,”* but there are late bloomers and early birds in all things.

Does an uncontested statement like this begin it?

Then again, I know so, so many grown-up artists who struggle with this very thing. People who are fabulously successful and established in the illustration world will walk away from a table full of not-quite-there-yet ideas and say over a midday coffee, “I can’t draw.” They’ll think it to themselves as they try to find something to send to the editor at the end of the day. They’ll think it when they see someone else’s masterful solutions. They’ll think it if they get a weird email from an art director.

But “can’t” is a dangerous word. For one thing, it’s inaccurate — the fact that you are drawing anything at all disproves it. “Can” and “can’t” refer to rudimentary ability.

What this little girl — and many grown-ups — mean when they say “can’t” is actually something very different. They mean, “I am not making GOOD drawings when I draw,” which is something equally dangerous, if not completely irrelevant.

It’s weird — just an hour before this happened I had taken a picture of something this girl had drawn and sent it to Anthony because I loved it so much. I wish I had remembered this in the moment, so I could talk to her about it. So I could say, yes I have seen your drawings! I think they are expressive and alive and really tell good stories!

I am thinking of writing a quick note to this gal to explain about can / can’t, and maybe mention Ben Shahn or some of Picasso’s drawings, and Who Gets To Decide What Is Good, and To Be Drawing Means You Are Doing Good Drawing.

This will all probably end up expanded into a feature, like the Fennel Story, but for now I wanted to make a point. It all starts with drawing.

*(Here’s a great resource to combat this slump, which I wish I had read before I heard her “can’t” — I will hereafter and commit it to memory.)

The second weekend of July

I’m missing my usual gig as volunteer recycler Oregon Country Fair (a hippie fair, not a farm show) to come to ICON:8 this year, and while it is the obvious professional choice it was not a choice made lightly. I love those silly muppets, and you can’t beat camping in the woods for a week. Happily, there are a lot of unexpected similarities I have been noticing.


– The stunning, unannounced appearance of a wildly costumed marching band. (We got LoveBomb Go-Go, as the Marching Forth Marching Band was doubtless tied up at the ‘Fair. Also, I don’t think they would have fit in the room.)

– People dressed their best, their tip-top to impress. And also a lot of regular people dressed normally. 

– Meeting tons of fascinating, incredible people whose names I have immediately forgotten, so that I will have to go and re-introduce myself here in the coming days. (The difference here is that I have a stack of promo swag to sift through.)

– Experiencing obnoxious, unstoppable allergies.

– Reconnecting with people I sort of know through the internet, getting to REALLY know them. And meeting their friends and pretending like we are already friends.

There was a great moment last night when Laura Bifano, me, and Meg Hunt were furiously taking sketch-notes at the opening ceremonies, each in our different ways.
There was a great moment last night when Laura Bifano, me, and Meg Hunt were furiously taking sketch-notes at the opening ceremonies, each in our different ways.

– I’ve had more to drink in the last few days than I think have all month. 

– Understanding that the point of the whole event is to be open, outgoing and social, yet craving solitude.

– Being completely exhausted, sore and drained, yet eager each day to go back for more.