Desk Job

my-deskIt’s taken me months to get around to cleaning my desk. I’ve just chucked things into the back of it, and they’ve accumulated in tectonic layers. I have a general sense where important things are and can root around in the heap and eventually find them. There’s a letter rack back there on the left and my drawing book, watercolors and favorite pens tend to be stacked somewhere on the front left. My color theory homework tends to be somewhere in the back right, there are second-string pens unsorted in cups and jars somewhere in the back and my Wacom tablet’s there too, I think. My passport is in one of the top drawers and the charger for my camera is probably in the second drawer from the top, underneath. The other 90% of the stuff is just an undistinguished mass. Loads of things have just disappeared into the swamp unlabeled, un-databased, unremembered, and I forget they ever existed.
I’ll take some or even most of the blame. Other factors: Patti’s desk tends to accumulate junk at a far faster rate and regularly disappears under the enormous pile like the Collier Brother’s dining table. The other factor is that my cool teak 1950′s Swedish desk is just to damned small. It’s just 40″ across . Once my laptop is opened and room cleared for the mouse, I have barely enough room to plant my elbows on either side. It’s basically impossible to draw at, so I use my lap and balance my paints on the corner.
Before Jack was born, we went shopping for a house in the country, an idle sort of thing, with no real conviction behind it. The place I remember best was an early 19th century place that belonged to an 80-year old widow, somewhere near Connecticut. Her husband had been an illustrator and we were shown into his spectacular studio with loads of room for drawing tables and easels and leather chairs and various tables still set with his cans of brushes and pens. It had an enormous floor-to-ceiling window, a good twenty feet high, looking out into the garden and the forest beyond which flood the studio with light.
I mentioned that memory to Patti a few months ago (it had prompted me to write an essay called “Art Supply porn” ) and she though that maybe we could do something to give our own apartment more of that feeling. After all, we rarely have people over to sit in all of our arm chairs and eat at our dining table maybe once a month. Most of the time the place is piled high with half-finished projects and games and musical instruments and stuffed dead animals. The decor is still pretending we have some sort of normal life we never actually had. So one of these days we will move out credenzas and knicknacks and move in drawings tables and flat files and the like.
In the meantime, I have to deal with this reality. So I set to straightening my desk on Sunday morning. I sorted drawings projects into individual manilla envelopes, labeled some boxes and files and sorted through the papers I didn’t toss, and uncovered a handful things I would have bet money that I’d never owned or even seen before:
- A Superman-in-chains rubber stamp
- An unopened 2 oz. bottle of black sumi ink
- A badge from the Webelos with three woven ribbons studded with 12 pins depicting a car, a ghost, gears, the constitution,a palette, a swimmer, a mountain and various other doodads
- My grandmother’s hammer/tool kit
- A pin from a Peruvian restaurant called Bajo el Puente
- One left brown glass eye in a case
- A box of linoleum carving tools
- The Speedy Stitcher® sewing awl
- An unused box of 24 Conté crayons
I used the last item to draw an ‘After’ picture. I don’t think I’ve used them before. A little smudgy but they have a distinctive chalky feeling I quite like. I sprayed the whole deal with stinky fixative afterwards, hoping that would keep it from mucking up my journal and my nice clean desk.

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