Why me?


20130821-091348.jpgI try to be good.

I take a multivitamin each morning. I floss each night. I give to my local public radio station. I rarely beat or kick my child. Then this….

So this morning, I take my dogs to the park and plan to begin the day with a small drawing, nothing too challenging, a little amuse bouche. I see this guy on the bench nearby and it seems he is planning to sit immobile for a couple of minutes so I dash off the drawing above. At home I write a little caption with a dip pen and white ink and I am happier with a journal page than I have been in weeks.

After breakfast, I decide to inventory my pens. I am going through a period of transition, easing away from markery sorts of pens like the PITTs and tending more to my dip pens. But I have a big messy box of steel nibs and I decide it’s high time to clean and inventory them. So I make a little page in my journal and chart my favorites.



It’s a messy business, prying nibs off the holder, rummaging around in the vat of pen cleaner, ink and paper towels all over the place. I am trying to be fastidious but it really goes against my nature. An astrologer once did my star chart and told me I am something called “a triple Virgo” which mean I should be incredibly anal and neat and able to change a pen nib without courting disaster.

Hah ha. Not so fast.

I look back at the left hand side of my spread, and somehow, mysteriously, damnably, I have managed to smear black ink across my writing. What the hell? You can see below, I try to fix it up with another layer of white ink but it probably looks even worse.

God. Damn. It.


I tell you this sad story for a number of reasons. First because I am still in the grip of the anguish it caused. Secondly, I guess I can try to extract some sort of life lesson from it to share with you so at least we can profit from this disaster. What would that  be?

Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” WTF? That’s clearly not the case. That smear is a big, annoying mistake. It may not look it to you but to me, it’s a huge festering boil in the middle of Kate Moss’s forehead.

It’s the journey not the destination.” Again, I guess so, but the ink blot was part of the journey, the Montezuma’s revenge, the Metro pickpocket, the cancelled hotel reservation of the journey. Thanks for not much.

Slow down, butthead.” I guess. But I was trying to be slow and deliberate. Granted my whole dining table was covered with bottles and boxes and crumpled paper towels and my hands were black up to the wristwatch. I am a klutz and a slob so I should try to operate at 1/2 speed.

Maybe I should stick to crayons. And wear rubber gloves.

46 thoughts on “Why me?”

  1. Hi Danny
    I recently lost a very dear family friend and Cello teacher to cancer. I miss her very badly.
    She told me; ‘life’s SHIT, get used to it.’ I’ve resisted buying a dog ever since.

    Bless you. Err….well…you did say respond.

    Isle of Arran
    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone


  2. I’m a triple virgo too and I connect with your pain. I think one of my life’s hardest lessons has been to forgive myself and let go when I discover that I’ve messed up!!!! In the big picture that little blot is nothing but a gnat bite!!!!


  3. Ha ha ha. Feisty & hilarious writing, raw and ripping–as delicious as tearing through a whole buffala mozzarella standing by the sink. Self-flagellation vom feinsten. Do you know I hadn’t spotted the blotch until you pointed it out? I thought it was a line; I thought the meditating guy was wearing some kinky boot which you’d indicated with one fell swoop-de-line.

    Delicious description of the nibs, too.

    Any more alive than this, you die (as the French say).

    Ha ha ha. Why you indeed.


  4. OMG, this CRACKED me UP! I could SO relate – to how it happened, and to your feelings of anguish. But I still love your journal page. Smear or no smear. 🙂 You sure have a gift of great communication skills – be it drawing or writing – thank you for sharing it!


  5. As a printmaker, I’ve had many times when due to some error of chemistry, ink consistency, a slipped knife, a lost wax ground, or just forgetting my metal plate in the acid, my plans and pieces have been foiled causing me to start from scratch or, at the very least, work up a sad result into an artwork again.

    In your first picture, I didn’t even notice the little ink blot until you pointed it out! And I think it’s those little marks of our hand (even if it is a mark of a mistake) that often make drawing, especially the intimacy of sketchbook drawing, dear to our hearts.

    My mother is a ceramicist, and she often intentionally puts these little fingerprints into her mugs. She uses them as a symbol of her touch, and every time I drink out of them, I enjoy putting my own finger down into the holes. It makes it more human, somehow. I think about how similar the size of our hands are.

    To see your little ink blot and your rage about it is all too familiar! I hope you cheer up soon.


  6. I was so focused on the man’s face, expression and earphones that I didn’t notice the “mistake” until it was pointed out. Really–it looks like the cuff of the pant and top of a boot or shoe. I like it because it draws attention to the writing, which might otherwise not be noticed as much.


  7. You are so funny! It’s a good thing when we can laugh at our selves … Sorry for your little blunder, of course it’s no fun to mess up a good drawing, how disappointing, poor you, poor you! Feel better now!? No? Ohhhh dear, sorry! I too just hate when this happens!!!


  8. Sh** happens! Ink happens! This is REAL journalling , sketching, life drawing….drawing life.
    Thanks for sharing this moment with us! My mother, also an artist, would have suggested making a couple more, yet fainter smudges to make it intent! Me….I’d say, Wabi Sabi….or Ah, so!……or SH**!!!!! Not only would I have ink on the page, but in my elbow that would put it on my new shirt, and…and….and!


  9. I think that is a hyperfocus thing – so engrossed in counting nibs that you don’t see what is happening around you. Artists NEVER do that….Brings to mind a few oopsies of my own:
    1) Art School. Working on project at 3 am. Spilling entire bottle of India ink on rug. Trying to clean it up. Spot only gets bigger. Chair remains over vinyl-record-sized spot until we move out.
    2) Art School. Design project involving cutting styrofoam tubes on a slant at regular intervals and gluing them together to create a twisted monstrosity. Dog eats it overnite. I actually get to use that excuse.
    3) Bringing calligraphy projects home at end of semester. As I drive away, I see another student in the rearview mirror waving madly and shouting. I stop. And pick up all the beautiful and now dirty pieces of artwork I left on the roof as I drove away. I still have one with a tire print. I love it.

    Creative efforts: creating the most interesting stories of our lives.

    Thanks for sharing your oopsy.


  10. There’s something Zen about that spot, it balances the page, it is real, it has no pretense, and has its own beauty. We live our lives and gather wrinkles and scars and impacts along the way. That mark is just like that. Sweet serendipity that where fell on the page, it touches and connects these words: “A Meditation Listening”. Your wise subconscious has labeled your sketch.


  11. At first I thought it was something on my computer screen or another one of my annoying eye floaters…i feel your frustration, but I’ve come to believe that perfection sucks. i LOVE your drawing, and your honesty. I’ve got alot to say on this subject, but i won’t…”slow down butthead” made me laugh. Thanks for reminding me about how wonderful a sense of humor is!!! It could not have been more perfectly timed.


  12. Nice post again! Actually, living the life and thinking about it are two separate things. Thinking about life and its challenges is, of course, an inevitable part of living, but a very very very small part of the whole experience. So, try just living the life without thinking about how you live your life. You see, that’s why dogs live more easily than us. Yes, they think (and they dream, and they feel), but they do not analyze. Which is the trap in which most of us fall, on our path to enlightenment. Cheers. 🙂


  13. I agree with Barbara Parker, perfection sucks. It’s the enemy of creation, as the saying goes. As a mere double Virgo, I still find it hard to show any of my work because all I see are the mistakes, the blots, the accidents. But I also feel that everyone, even the mistake prone and imperfect, need to be a part of the conversations and art of life. Thanks for inspiring so many to practice art with the small a.


  14. Ugh, I would have felt the same way. Definitely. I have been working on my “don’t freak out, shit happens” mantra. But I still totally understand. It’s frustrating. HOWEVER. While the original is not “fixable”, you can take it onto the computer and play with it on Photoshop, and I am sure you could get it to look “post-drip” then! 🙂


  15. If you are anything like me, you like to talk the talk about creativity being a journey and the end result not being as important as the process. But let’s face it. When we think we have made something beautiful, it’s a bummer to do something that tarnishes it in our own mind, even a little. Let’s be frank. Lots of us like to produce things that have a pleasing end result. Only we can judge a good “finished piece” and we definitely know when we like our own work. Very honest entry Danny. Thanks.


  16. I thought you were going to say you spilled India Ink all over your dining room rug. That would be something spilled to cry over! At least your blob was not on the drawing which I love by the way. I can accept that nice drawing even with the blob. I usually screw up with the writing by misspelling or writing a stupid caption that takes away from a nice drawing. And I am a Virgo, way more of a perfectionist than you I would guess. I’m glad to hear other people have angst over their snafus.


  17. Danny love your posts. especially this line: “it’s a huge festering boil in the middle of Kate Moss’s forehead.”
    I relate to the mess. After spending years in the sanitary confines of Graphic Design venturing out into printmaking and drawing has proved challenging in getting comfortable in the mess. Getting there but i still wish there was a key command for easy clean up!


  18. Native Americans (or someone, my mind may have muddled that by now) traditionally made a mistake on purpose in a work so as not to affront the Great Spirit . . . I always liked that. Just love it as a reminder of your humanness!


  19. How about ‘Keep your work away from anything wet.’? Which, of course, translates to coffee, milk, tea, soda, water, open bottles of ink, and so on. In other words you didn’t protect your creation….do so next time. So maybe you wrecked this one so you’ll not wreck another one down the road….


  20. Yep I did a similar thing yesterday – finished a sketch in my journal, gave it some text and started spelling something incorrectly. All I could see after that was the irritating mark left by part of an ‘e’ that should not have been there. The picture paled into insignificance as my eye was caught each time by this extra small mark. Only two things were possible: sprinkle similar marks randomly within the rest of the text – mistake then becomes part of a pattern or snap the journal closed and go for a nice cup of tea ……


  21. This is triple virgo fate: the yin in the yang; an irony that reads: perfection is for the gods, you are a human being, move on, and the enjoy the gift of being alive.

    “Everytime you judge yourself you break your own heart.
    You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality.”
    Swami Kripaluanandaji:


  22. I never make mistakes so I cannot understand your feelings.

    Best of luck next time.

    Just kidding. That’s why I use photoshop so much. I require an ‘undo’ button on my whole life.

    PS I was talking to someone the other day about how my Mum was caned by her teacher for a similar infraction. It seems that in the olden days if you blotted your copybook you were caned until you got it right. Trouble was she had very poor eyesight and very poor glasses. Oddly the caning only made things worse. Strange.

    PPS What’s the best thing about acrylics? Answer: They dry quick. What’s the worst thing about acrylics? Answer: They dry quick.

    Ink is messy – that’s what’s great about it and what is awful about it.


  23. I LOVE the bird poop comment. Shit..and ink…does happen. it’s hard to embrace either one. I too did not notice the blotch in a bad way, but almost as a signature.


  24. My constant method for handling the splotches and drips is to turn them into something that works with the drawing. Like others, I thought the black spot was part of the drawing that you’d written over. Love this discussion, though!


  25. Love this! So relevant to my week. I get into that “hell of a mess but who cares” art frenzy every time I am loving the process. The other day I kept looking at a waterbrush filled with black acrylic ink thinking “this one is leaking, must replace with a new brush” and what do I do? snap the cap shut spraying fine ink dots everywhere including my new blouse, and of course, instantly and permanently dry.


  26. What Mr. Kane said.
    And really? It’s the ink blob you’re unhappy about? What is up with that little heart in the cable? What about that awkward bulb that is erecting underneath his shirt there? Why is that cable growing out of his chin and ending in midair? And he should sue that hairdresser.


  27. I sympathise!! I have a lovely new Rodia Webb notebook which I have started to write in daily as an extra to my drawn journals. One day, I think to myself, someone will discover this after I’m gone and I will become the Samuel Pepys of the 21st Century. I wrote in my very best writing with my lovely Cross pen sitting outside in the sunshine at the garden table. I got up, the table jerked and my teacup shook… And the tea in the teacup made a great leap and landed on my page. Funny, I had only just been saying to my husband that if my book got wet everything would be ruined because Quink Ink is not waterproof and as I stared down at my page whose perfection had been snatched away in an instant I wondered at the old manuscripts that survive for years without this happening to them. Indeed… Why me????


  28. Oh, you made me laugh so much – You are so obviously a Virgo – triple or otherwise [to quote Prince Charles: ‘…whatever that means’]. I wonder how many of your correspondents [or total readership] actually noticed that smear until you pointed it out? i didn’t and I’m a Virgo! Some religious/spiritual paths say that only god is perfect and therefore all art and craft works carry a small mistake as they are made by human hands – I quite like that and it is certainly the reason why my work always contains muck ups 🙂 I enjoyed this post very much, thank you!


  29. I can relate…….after fInishing a watercolor of an old rusty truck my grandson who is 5 came for a visit. He spotted the painting in my studio and told me he would like that for his room. After coming home the next day I noticed s strange orange blur across the hood of the truck!
    After a little work and an orange wash the truck looks fine🎨


  30. So, dear Danny…why can’t you mix up a little qray paint and fix the darn thing. Such a small little blob. Then go over with white paint. Done, fixed! Geech! I am laughing at the itsy, bitty problem when ALL your magnificent drawings are intact. My sad self is grieving the loss of “my life in photos” from Chicago & Sedona, AZ 4 days ago. My beloved Mac died the day I was going to add more RAM and FINALLY put those photos on Flash drives. Fine metaphor for letting the past go…but I wasn’t ready. Oh well. My own darn fault. Think of me…while you’re patching that fine drawing…which, by the way, I love and did not even notice the blotch. No sympathy from me today. But I luv ya!!!!!!!


  31. Who hasn’t had this happen in some way or other? But this has NOTHING to do with blotches, smears, leaks, runny paint or ink or any other artsy error. The other day, cleaning my deck became a necessity so my daughter hired a truck, loaded it up and off we went to the local dump. My daughter was heaving things into the garbage pile when I heard the clatter of broken plates–it was a box of new dishes (about 20) that I had bought a few years ago. I have too much stuff but I hadn’t actually made a final decision on this box . The next day I looked up these dishes online. Turns out they are collectibles that will continue to increase in value!! YEEKS!! I am still feeling the frustration–and it feels much the same as when I make a mistake in my sketchbook–just as you have described, Danny. Ah!–the pain of our attachment to things!


  32. I just love this drawing with white earbuds. I too didn’t notice your smear, but clearly if I was you, I’d be kicking my dog! Still. . .those white earbuds, modern contraption with a gent meditating, is just classic. And of course he isn’t meditating to new wave music, it’s definitely head banger music. I know. I have three boys.

    I look forward to your first online teaching course. Inspired by your work and blog for years.


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