I Used to Think Non-Digital Pleasures Didn't Exist

When I was a software developer, I thought that I'd always prefer everything to be digital. Even when I first shifted to developing as an artist, I initially attempted to only craft digital pieces. I snubbed pencils and pens for drawing with a tablet. That was over two years ago.

But this is now.

On Sunday morning I pulled out a simple photo reference book and flipped through various pages. It was oddly pleasing, and productive because I could free-associate images that were disparate from one another. Free association is a large part of how my creative processes work.

There's something simple and yet complex about being able to randomly access a the pages of a physical book. Novels and non-fiction tend not to be randomly flipped through, and reference books have keywords and headings, so up to two years ago I thought that all my reading forever would be through ebooks. But photograph books, whether for artist's references or simply for art enjoyment, are a very different matter.

Afterwards, I picked up a simple sketchbook and some pencils and sketched a tiny picture.

Pencil sketch of a small fishing skiff in late afternoon.

Pencils and a sketchbook, not even a terribly fancy or expensive Moleskine, but a sufficient grained surface for the graphite to hang onto. One thing I've found about art is that it helps to have as few jumps between your brain and your method of expression (pencil to paper, or pen to Wacom tablet) as possible. With IRL pencils and paper, where I draw is directly where I see, and I don't have to make a mental translation between what I'm doing on a tablet at desk level, and what I see on the monitor.

Even pen displays--which are expensive monitors you can directly draw on--aren't nearly as convenient. My sketchbook here is the size of a 4" x 6" index card. It's light, it doesn't require power or tuned room lighting to avoid screen glare, and it doesn't generate so much heat that it can burn me.

I'm sick at the best of times. The pragmatism of reducing the barrier to creating art means I've been leaving digital methods behind.

This sketch took maybe fifteen minutes? Perhaps less. I draw much faster these days than I did when I first started drawing. Also it's a tiny picture, roughly 3 inches by 2 inches.

And yet I've gotten more pleasure from this than I ever have had when coding for a similar amount of time. This little sketch is not more difficult to me than writing a shell script to batch-process files in a specific way. It's also got about the same number of problems to solve with similar difficulty or ease, even if those problems are of a vastly different nature.

Yet here I have something that my human eyes can see and register is real. It's a human quirk to not think of the digital as having as much weight as the analog.

I'm highly pleased and relaxed in a way I never have been while coding. This sketch cannot process files on my computer in the future. It's not a reusable part of a library of script files, say.

Somehow that doesn't change how much more real that sketch is to me than all the code I've ever written in my life.

At times I wonder if, perhaps, the world could be better if everyone could do a little art. It doesn't have to be worthy of a museum, but maybe just a doodle that fills out a small space to a satisfying end. I'm pretty sure that people rediscovering coloring in adulthood falls into this category, and in some way, makes the world a better place.

Cảm ơn. Ava