This weekend I gathered together my disparate containers of tools and spread them out before me.  I meditated on what was before me and considered how little I’ve paid attention to my instruments of illustration.  In my mind, I imagined a fantasy of tearing down the old house and pulling out all the old roots.  I experienced feelings akin to shattering the foundations with TNT while my heart shook from the destruction.  The courage to go through with this comes from seeing other artists doing their work.  Their magnificent work strengthens my resolve.  My inside soundtrack keeps repeating, “Everybody is in the place, everybody is in the place.”

I removed all the junk or tools that no longer serve my purpose.  I threw out some of it.  Others I put away.  All my rubber stamps will have to go in a box with my sticker-stash and mail envelope magic materials.  That project I’ll be returning to.  It’s still forming.  I looked at how low my watercolor and colored pencil collection had gotten.  My marker collection is a joke, I haven’t been serious for twenty years.  The Kohinoor pens have seen better days, and now they’re all jammed with dried ink.  Most of my brushes haven’t been cleaned or checked in years.  My poster board and paper assortment is sub-par and all over the place.  I hardly know what I have.

If I look at myself honestly, this part of my skill is in bad shape.  I’ve been coasting, getting by with abilities from a place in my life that expired a long time ago.  I sit down and get to work.  I make a list of things I need to get.  The pens receive a revivifying soak and creak back to life again, slowly, with much coaxing.  The paper and board get organized, and I cut pieces down or arrange them according to where I think my need is pointing.  My toolbox, which is the nexus of what I use when it’s time for heavy duty work, gets a makeover.  New good luck charms end up in the holding tray.  I’m not riding by the skin of my teeth anymore.  I mean business, the new organization satisfies for now.

K and I head to the Michaels store.  She finds a number of pleasant, cheap goodies to advance her need to be creative.  I find most everything I’m looking for, but it’s hard work.  I don’t have immediate access to a good starbase with everything like I used to.  That’s okay, I’ll make do until I can “plus” my collection forward to where I want to be.  The critical pencils I need I find.  It’s good to have a fresh set of Verthins between the fingers again.  I heat my electric sharpener up so much getting them all ready, I have to take a break.  Things are heating up psychologically I think, and I laugh.  My friends, the people who support and encourage me are at my back in a way I can’t describe.  The new stuff gets put in the toolbox along with the still-relevant old stuff.  I feel like reinforcements are here.  Erasers, fine and heavy blades to cut and scrape the material, and a new brush for heavy saturation.

I get down to working on my cover design, doing preliminary sketches and filling them in.  I cut a line of boards and set them up for several attack runs at drawing practice, all to the measurements I’ll be needing.  I paint more messages from the unconscious and make adjustments to several works-in-progress.  It’s all tightly organized, and I move from one dance to the next, switching tools back and forth.  Before I know it, the old gun-shy jitters are breaking up and turning fluid.  Lots more work to do, and my skill wakes like it’s been in a coma.  The therapy will be tremendous, but I surprise myself as a flourish of line or perspective shines through the cracks.

Something a friend told me back in 1996 comes out of the depths of time to my memory.  “How’s your comic doing?”  I mouth the words to myself, “Nowhere, it’s dead.”  Her response:  “Dreams don’t die.”  Which also happens to be the title of a movie I saw once, about a graffiti artist who leaves the streets behind to become a successful graphic artist by the skin of his teeth.

Another friend says a week ago in so many words, “Hey, what’s that creaking sound?”  I’m reminded of a line from Fruits Basket – “What’s that sound?  It’s the sound of something about to break.”  In Fruits Basket the line refers to a curse and a thousand years of misery coming to an end for real, because it’s already been over for years.  My friend points (in her special way of conversation) to a mailbox inside my psyche filled to bursting with letters, the same message over and over again.

“What’s the use?” I say to myself.  “I wasn’t…worthy.  And I don’t care much for Harry Potter anyway.”  Then the mailbox bursts, and I’m swimming in letters that all say the same thing:  “Try again.”  Another song cues in my inner soundtrack from The Verve:  “You can do anything you want to, all you gotta do is try.”

So yeah 1996 friend.  I was the one that was nowhere, dead asleep from a nightmare that never seemed to end.  I’m waking up and finding out the comic was just a part of what I’m supposed to do.  I didn’t have enough vision yet to see that.

UFO Girl whispers into my inner listening:  Soon you’ll be ready to walk in the center of the saucer.

Flash back to my recent trip to Michaels with K.  The check-out woman at Michaels looks at the materials I’m getting, many of which are a buck.  She makes a comment about how I’m buying everything on the dollar menu.  I’m floored, because she’s referencing my current short duration personal savior.  That guy takes something small and makes it into a story filled with fun.  Yeah, I’m trying to be creative and filled with joy about something that’s my personal insight.  We chat for a while, while K chuckles to herself.  I say I wish I was that creative.  The woman runs my pencil refreshment pack through the checker, looks at them, and says, “You are.”

The external encounter is like I’m getting another flood of letters.  Mirrors and mirrors and mirrors again in my life, and I can hardly stand the shock to my small vision of who I am.  My fear of being struck down for growing to fill the form I inhabit roars loud and hard like a song.

UFO Girl whispers again into my inner listening:  Soon your music quest will find your soundtrack.

I’m listening and readying my instruments for writing and drawing.