When I was younger, I learned my first name was Gallic in origin and meant “dark one.” I was amused by the fact that this meant my name was a kind of linguistic yin-yang. I began doodling as a child, as most children do. I loved it. In third grade I sent a letter to Penguin proposing a “Doodle” book. Each page had a simple beginning doodle – a shape or idea of a line – and asked the reader to use it as inspiration and continue the doodle. I sent drawings with my proposal. Penguin sent me a generously worded rejection letter3.
As a teenager I attended both pig roasts and debutante balls4, yet another strange pairing of contrasts. This may explain why I am lazy enough to go for days without doing the dishes and snobbish enough to argue for the importance of the Oxford comma5. I continued to doodle, and found my favorite medium was pen and ink. Something about the depth of the black ink as it seeped into the pristine white paper hypnotically caught and held my attention. Sometimes I would simply fill an entire page slowly with ink, intrigued by the way the strokes of the pen were still visible even when every last inch of white had been drowned in black. Sometimes I would etch very small thin-lined sketches in the corner of the page, leaving the majority of the white page untouched and shimmering with the grain of the pulp.
I spent several years in the beautiful dark labyrinths of the theatre (aka, frantically running around backstage doing god-knows-what – the foundation of any theatre career6). The smell of old wood, fresh paint, musty stage curtains, and burning Fresnels still seems like home in a way no other smell quite does.
I finished my first full pen and ink drawing, Black Night, backstage while running the sound board for a one-act festival for work by women artists. My favorite performance7 was one in which a woman would enter the stage and do laundry, and when she walked away a small lint puppet would pop up out of the washing machine, grab a sock, and slowly sink back down out of sight8. The puppet became larger and larger until he emerged as a full-grown man, and the woman and the lint-man-puppet danced in front of the washing machine to Sinatra’s “Cheek to Cheek9.” Every night there were several one-acts for which I was frantically setting and running sound cues, and several one-acts which had no sound. This meant, in my cramped spot in the booth, I was bored for at least part of the evening. One night I began drawing during these lulls, loving the way the ink looked in the eerie blue of the dim backstage lights10. Each night after that I added a bit more11.
Over the years drawing has become a kind of meditation. Each drawing tends to take a long time to complete, and I work on whatever seems to resonate with me at the moment, with many projects in process12.
Now, after several years working in the non-profit arts world, I have returned to academia. The soothing feeling of ink soaking into paper provides relief from the busy stress of academic life and grounds me after hours spent in the ephemeral mediums of electronica. Ink feels real in a way the computer screen doesn't.
I am currently working toward a doctoral degree while simultaneously preparing to join the circus if the whole academic thing doesn't work out13. Somehow, these two things don't seem all that dissimilar. Once again the pairing of contrasts is absurdly appropriate. Life is funny like that.