Dad was a builder, and while I was a kid living in the family house that was slowly built around us I was Dad’s apprentice on Sundays. I was really good at handing Dad what he needed and learnt all the names of the tools (Stanley, Dumpy, Phillips). I still know the recipe for concrete and have developed immense respect for plasterers who can attach cornice to the ceiling.
I was never a great apprentice, I wasn’t (and still am not) strong, I hit my thumb more times than the actual nail and I spent most of the time daydreaming, interested in the lines of the grain of the wood or thinking about Jim Maxwell’s obsession with telling us exactly how many seagulls were on the pitch at any given time during the cricket on the radio.
Those Sundays are very fond memories of mine. I saw my Dad being creative, problem solving and I got to experience his wealth of knowledge… and I always remember it being hot… like disgustingly hot in the massive tin roofed shed, which drove Dad to drink a pint of cold Ribena at tea like a man finally out of the desert.
As an illustrator and designer my days as
cheap child labor Dad’s apprentice don’t have too many parallels. It has taught me to draw objects and people while keeping in mind shapes and forms that lay beneath the surface. It gave me a greater appreciation for allocating planning time in order to make a more solid artwork and for some reason I picked up the habit of keeping my pencil behind my ear and only using a chisel or knife to sharpen that pencil.
And here’s the thing about those pencils… Those pencils that could well be Dad’s pencils. At their tip they all have a unique shape. As they are all whittled down to a sharp edge, they all look a bit cartoonish and hold a shape that is abstracted from the very familiar image of a pencil sharpened with your run-of-the-mill sharpener. They each hold shapes that are never the same as the last, which means that even before I’ve started literally putting pencil to paper I have unconsciously sculpted the pencil to hold a new original line and form. The tip of the object I’m using is subconsciously helping me think outside the norm and create something new… and even though Dad is kilometres away and my habit to carve my pencils was founded decades ago, Dad is also subconsciously helping me construct the next artwork that is just about to pour from that unique scrappy looking pencil.