Cindy Woods has long been one of my favorite sketchbook artists. I love the quality of her line, the clarity of her observation. And she is a strong exemplar of the fact that no matter what one’s situation, drawing makes it better. She recorded her life at the Virginia Home, a nursing home for Disabled people, with grace, humor, and warmth.
I was fortunate enough to convince Cindy to include some pages from her sketchbook in my new book, An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration From The Private Sketchbooks Of Artists, Illustrators And Designers. We planned to have a chat for the book’s podcast, but time ran away from us this summer. I began to regret that more than ever when Cindy told me she had developed a form of cancer that was effecting her ability to speak and that she was not sure what her prognosis would be. Then this fall, she told me that she was worried that she might not get a chance to see the final book, because the publication date was still weeks away and she was about to enter a hospice. In shock, I called my editor, Amy, and asked her to rush the very first copy to Cindy’s bedside. She had it in her hands before I even saw a copy and was so happy to see her drawings among those of so many people that she knew and admired.
Cindy passed away last night. Her close friend Ronda called to tell me that it was peaceful and Cindy was comfortable and surrounded by family to the end.
Here is the text of my interview with Cindy in full as it appears in the book:
My journey to drawing has been a very very slow one. I don’t remember drawing much as a kid and my efforts in high school were rather timid, no more than doodles. Though I was constantly looking through children’s and art books that love of pictures didn’t translate into making many of my own until I moved away from home. It was the inspiration from Paul Hogarth’s book “Drawing People” and moving into a nursing home full of people willing to be drawn that finally got me started. There was a chess club that met with the residents here on a weekly basis and because they were so focused on their game it provided a safe way to observe people without them taking much notice of me. I gained confidence in drawing this way and started to ask folks to pose for me. These introductions through drawing are how I came to know many of the people here. Since I’ve lived here over 30 years most of these folks are deceased now, making these early drawings all the more precious to me. That’s how I began to draw and though there’ve been periods of inactivity it has in one form or another been a consistent part of my life ever since. The one odd thing is that in all that time I’d never kept a sketchbook. That’s a recent development and now that I’ve started I regret it’s not something I began early on. Even though keeping a sketchbook was encouraged in art school for some reason I just never took to it. I don’t know. Drawing in a sketchbook is sometimes a scary thing. The internet made a big difference in finally getting me started. Seeing so many beautiful pages on websites made me regret that I wasn’t able to flip through pages of my own. I liked the sense of progression through time that felt so much stronger in a book then with the loose single sheets I’d always used. And I regretted even more that as I began to explore illustration I had stopped drawing from life, drawing my friends, and that there was a huge gap of years and people that had gone unrecorded. So, with a building full of folks still willing to act as models, I began filling the pages of my very first sketchbook with their portraits. I started a second small sketchbook for travel, keeping it always at the ready in my shoulder bag and learning to scribble quick whenever there was an opportunity. I joined a figure drawing group and keep a sketchbook of just those drawings. Blogging all these sketches has made a difference in keeping me committed to the task. I’ve never drawn so consistently before over such a long period of time and the rewards of that practice have been fantastic. I notice more, always on the lookout for something interesting to draw or that I want to remember. I can look back in my books, especially my travel sketchbooks, and recall bits and pieces of a day I’d otherwise have forgotten. I’m more confident with my drawing and can capture a scene more quickly. Even when there’s barely any time I’ve started to dash off the most scribbly notes and use them to work on a sketchbook of scenes from memory. I’ve come a long way but I’ve still periods of fear, of messing up the pages, that will keep me from working in my books. I also, because of my disability, have a hard time holding some sketchbooks. I don’t want to lose this momentum I’ve gained so in addition to a sketchbook I always make sure I’ve got a cheap pad of paper from the drugstore with me so at least I have something I can switch to for when I’m feeling less confident and intimidated about using my book. I’m also still finding and am constantly inspired to try new things by the examples I find on the web. I’m curious what keeping a set time and place for sketching would feel like. Or drawing a whole book just out of my imagination. I want to try collage. Work more on composition and lettering. If I could remember them an illustrated dream journal might be neat. I’ve been slow in starting and developing this sketchbook habit but now I can’t imagine stopping.
To see more of Cindy’s work, visit her blog.