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Returning to My First Love

topdogArt and Design

About fifteen years ago, a local estate sale organizer tipped my wife off about a couple estate sales, strongly urging that I attend. My wife was one of her regular customers, and somehow she knew I was an artist.

So I went, and scored a huge supply of oil paints, canvas, brushes, palettes, paper stock, and even a large flat file on rollers. The flat file was an especially large wooden monster with 12 drawers at 30" x 45" each. And it was stocked with paper.

There were large sheets of 300lb. watercolor paper (very heavy and thick), sketching pads, tear-away palettes, pastel paper, colored paper and more. It was a treasure trove of variety: In short, it was an artist's dream.

Among the hoard was a stack of paper that I couldn't discern a use for. It was heavy cotton-based paper with a very fragile facing. There were 20 sheets at 19" x 24" each. I suspect it may have been used for letterpress printing.

Not being into letterpress, I left the stack alone. As an art supply hoarder, I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.

A couple weeks ago, I finally grabbed a sheet, slapped it onto my drawing table and took out my graphite pencils and gave it a go.

As drawing paper, it's not very forgiving. Any attempts at erasing will tear up the face of the paper, leaving unsightly rough spots. But as a drawing surface, I liked the texture, so I kept working at it.

conquered graphite drawing

"Conquered" (graphite, 6"x10")

Drawing is my first love as an artist. When I was a kid, if I had a pencil and a sketchbook, I would happily sit for hours drawing anything from mountain landscapes to – my favorite subject – maritime scenes and sailing ships. By the time I entered Jr. High, I was noticed by teachers who urged me to pursue a future in art.

Dad was not so pleased by this. He didn't think "art" was a viable or reliable career.

He was right. Art is a hard career field to enter. The learning curve is steep and it takes persistence and a fairly obsessive attitude to make it.

I was lucky, I had lots of teachers and professionals who offered great advice, helpfully directing me into the field of graphic design where I could grow as an artist, and earn a living by helping businesses and organizations with their marketing needs. Yay, Capitalism!

Now that I'm (mostly) retired, I'm renewing a relationship with my early love of drawing using these sheets of paper I've had lying around for so long. I will eventually get a supply of high-quality drawing paper, but for now, these are working great as I work to remember skills I used to have.

Sunrise at Redrock

Sunrise at Redrock (8x10 graphite & charcoal)

Steve in 2021

About the Author

Topdog is the online persona of Steve Merryman, a retired graphic designer, illustrator, and winner of over ninety regional and national awards. Living in the woods just west of Idaho (USA), Steve can often be found working on pet portrait commissions. His spare time is spent painting; writing; cuttin' trees an' shootin' guns; hiking with his dogs; savoring the occasional beer; searching for the perfect cheeseburger; and wondering where he left his pants.

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