1972 Drawings

When he isn’t running his own animation Studio, my friend Steve publishes an excellent web magazine for animators called FLIP. Recently, for an up-coming article, he asked his animation friends for some of their childhood drawings. This sent me on a hunt for a pile of old, yellowed paper I knew I had some place…. Here are a few scans from that stash. First, behold this epic battle-spread of German Knights VS English Knights. Gasp!

I’ve always drawn, for as long as I can remember, and these drawings here are certainly not my earliest (my toddler-scribbles are probably in a pile, along with those of all my siblings, collected by my Mother and hopefully still at my Dad’s house). These date from that period when I began to take an active interest in drawing, not simply doing it but also thinking about it; consciously trying to get “better” by understanding how other people did it. In my case, this fascination began in 1972, the year that I turned 8 years old.

The previous year, we had just moved to a new town. I often wonder if the period of alienation that followed inspired the escapism of drawing. But it is quite possible that this interest would have happened anyway. I had always loved animation and you can see some attempts to draw famous cartoon characters were there right from the very beginning. Though these few scribbles shown here are of famous DISNEY characters, the cartoons that played most often on TV were by WARNER BROTHERS and they were the ones that made me laugh the hardest and consequently got most of my attention.

I became even more fascinated by cartoons, beyond the fact that they made me laugh. I tried to figure out why the drawings were so good. “How come I can’t draw like that?” I have never understood why the inability to do something “well” was sometimes off-puting to me; leading to the abandonment of certain pursuits (mathematics, sport) whereas, my inability to draw was an obstacle to overcome and explore. Of course, this choice is unique to each individual. Other people (most, in fact) give up drawing to pursue other things.

Seeing this crude page of BIRD drawings (an attempt to draw the Warner Brothers CHICKEN HAWK so obsessed with Foghorn Leghorn) brings back a vivid memory of a frustrating day trying to draw BEAKS… “How do they make the beaks look so good in cartoons?” I still have a scrapbook of images cut from magazines that I would look at, from this period. Single-panel gag-cartoons, pages from Mad magazine and so on… Hilariously, around this time I also compiled a crude “portfolio” (using some left-over wallpaper from the renovation of our new house for the cover) because someone had told me that artists needed a portfolio. These drawings survive mainly because I had kept them in that binder.

A few years later, when my drawings began to improve, I became ashamed of these early scribblings and almost threw them out in a fit of self-consciousness. But I am glad now that I did not. I will post more from later years when I have scanned them.

15 thoughts on “1972 Drawings”

  1. I was just listening to an episode of Radio Lab during which the hosts interviewed Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote the book ‘Outliers’, a book that theorizes how so called geniuses become successful. He attributes a true LOVE for *something* as being the main motivator and initial catalyst causing a person to explore, test and learn until that person eventually arrives at their goal. he uses the example of Wayne Gretzsky, hockey player extraordinaire, who at the age of 3 became obsessed with hockey on tv. Reading your post reminds me of the same desire; the desire to pursue something you love endlessly until your mind feels some sort of resolve. I don’t know what it is that causes artists to become so obsessed with pursuing how to draw or paint. Whatever it is, I’m really glad you have it and have figured things out in a way that say who you are quite beautifully!

  2. Oh man! Secret origins! I love it. These are so amazing Jamie. I would love wall paper or a T-shirt with your BIRD drawings (and those beaks…the madness!) Is that big Foghorn Leghorn rocking a beard? hee! Too good my friend, thanks for sharing!

  3. Julia>> YES, the love for the thing has to be there from the beginning, I think. With it, the lifetime of never measuring up to what you WANT to do, having to make do with what you ACTUALLY can do is then bearable. (I’ve heard that STYLE is what we use to plug the gap between the two)

    Rhode>> Ok, it’s YOUR turn now; you gotta post those super-rad DARK KNIGHT drawings you showed me one time. Tee hee!

  4. Hey John. Funnily enough I didn't draw battles that often (hard to believe, I know) though I did sometimes get into it when OTHER kids did. At this age here (7-8) other kids in my class were still drawing too, so there would be a frenzy of battle-drawing once in a while. I remember this one was partly inspired by a book about medieval knights and I guess a British war movie on TV (hence the GERMANY v ENGLAND thing). I remember being pumped on the idea that two cannon-balls would hit each-other in mid air.Underground caves, eh? I like it!

  5. These are awesome. They clearly show an large degree of sophistication for an 8-year old. Your knights drawing clearly shows that you were already developing routines and formulas for drawing things, and that you had a grasp of perspective ( I remember a lot of kids at that age would still portray the sky as an inch-thick blue strip at the top of the page, and would line up all the figures on a green one at the bottom). Your duck drawings were already showing an understanding of the idea of form rather than purely iconic drawing. I remember some of my own drawings from that age (even if I don’t own them anymore) and they weren’t anywhere near as sophisticated! Wow! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Anson>> hah hah! I hadn’t seen any sophistication here until you said so! Perhaps what you are seeing is due to the fact that I was looking at OTHER images (in magazines etc) when drawing most of these.

  7. At least you can see improvement! I have some cards that you gave me years ago. I should find them and share, but I have a feeling they're stored somewhere.

  8. As someone who is trawling through your blog and admiring all your work, I would have to say this post is my favourite. I’m a 30-something year old who has finally decided to pick up my pencil and get back into drawing. As an 8 year old, my drawings were very similar to yours – though I didn’t draw knights, my subjects were kangaroos, trucks and sheep (I lived in a remote town in Australia). As a teen I started copying Disney and Hanna Barbara characters only to become frustrated with why my teacups weren’t the same as those in Beauty and the Beast. So after a few more years of frustration and immature views on “perfectionism” at age 17 I put my pencil to paper for the last time. So where am I going with this story? Well, your post has showed me that even the best artists out there had to start somewhere. The golden rule of “Patience, Practise, Passion and more Practise” rings true and maybe one day I may just get to that place of drawing the right teacup or bird beak.

    Thank you so much for the inspiration James.

    • Katie, Thanks very much for reading, but also for taking the time to tell me your own story. I have never regretted having drawing in my life. So I am happy that you are giving it a go again. I think the trick is to enjoy all there is out there, and now via the web there is more than ever, but then to pull back sometimes and do your own thing, free of comparisons, just for the enjoyment of it.

      Happy scribbles!!

      PS: from where inland are you from? I grew up in Armidale NSW

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement. I love drawing, even back when I was a teen. I know my biggest problem was being too hard on myself for better results. When I look back at some of my drawings, I can see they’re quite good and with a little more practice and anatomy study I can get to my end goal. My passion has come forth with more vigour then ever before and I’m LOVING it. I’m so excited about starting all over again. I have heard the word “finally” being said by my family and friends a lot lately.

      I realised when reading further into your blog today that you’re from Armidale and felt slightly embarrassed I hadn’t discovered that fact before I posted my comment here. I’m a drongo at times lol. My hometown is Cobar NSW, a small mining town of around 6000 people, I reside near Port Macquarie these days. More water here you see. I’ve been to Armidale a few times and have a couple of friends who live there and in the surrounding towns. It’s a beautiful part of the country – although a little too cold for me thanks. Other than family are there many things you miss about Armidale or even Australia?

  9. Katie
    Ah, Port Macquarrie. Lovely place. We would go there often. In answer to your question, I miss many things about home. After I think of the many people I miss, the first that springs to mind is Aussie pies!


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