I was working at my desk when the news flashed on the screen. Notre Dame was burning. The videos and pictures were heart-stopping and across the world we were joined by a sense of helplessness as a thousand years of history and culture exploded in flames. I had visions of a charred wreck left to hulk on the Seine, a post-modern monument to human fragility surrounded by rioting yellow vests. The toppling spire sparked a deep sense of dread in me, that our civilization itself was toppling, that our history was being erased, that humanity was all too vulnerable, that I too would soon be forgotten dust.
Twenty-four hours later, the fire was out, the damage assessed. It was extensive but appears confined to the roof. I read with relief that the cathedral had been heavily damaged and rebuilt several other times in its long history, and by day’s end almost a billion dollars had been raised to start the restoration. Within a day, we had gone from annihilation to resiliency to the Mueller report. Next.
Earlier this week, I got the results from my most recent post surgical checkup. It’s been less than five months since we drove up Fifth Avenue at dawn and I looked out the window of the cab, convinced I was seeing New York for the last time. A large part of me was sure I would die on the operating table and never see the Empire State Building or the Plaza or Central Park or Uniqlo ever again. Now Spring in here and so are my latest blood test results. My PSA levels are undetectable. I am cancer-free. My surgeon reminds me that we must delay the celebrations until the 10th anniversary but I can’t help feeling relieved and, for the moment, safe.
Last month, we released a new SketchBook Skool kourse and, as happens every time, I worry that no one will sign up. A fair number of people always do on Day One, but the next day fewer do and I start to wonder if we have finally reached the point where people have ceased to be interested and that I will have to start making other plans with my life. Over the two or three weeks before the kourse begins, we see fluctuating waves of customers until, eventually, enough people have signed up that we can breathe a sigh of relief and start working on the next kourse. This time was the same as all the dozens of times before, but I have little doubt that in a few months, I will board the same jarring roller coaster of self-doubt again.
I told you recently that I was concerned about my publisher declaring bankruptcy. I went from thunder-struck to pissed off to worried to beating myself up for not being able to get a better company to work with. I’d put so much into my new book and I hated the idea that I’d never get a chance to put it in your hands. But earlier this week, I got the final set of digital proofs and the catalog is already being printed. Despite my darkest 3 a.m. fears, it looks like How To Draw Without Talent will indeed be shipping as planned in October. (I really love this book and I hope you do too. You can see a sneak preview of the entire book above.)
One of the by-products of my drawing practice is that I am much more able to live in the present, in reality, in the moment, rather than in the dark labyrinth of my mind. Looking intently at an object and translating it into lines and curves on the page forces my mind to clear and focus. But I wonder if that grounding in the Now also makes me a little myopic. I am a student of history but yet I often seem to be looking at life through the small, hazed window of a grounded airplane, a small slice of reality hemmed in and blocked by obstacles. I am belted in, locked and upright, the door closed, the PA above my head crackling in foreign languages, and, like Major Tom, there is nothing I can do.
I yearn for clarity and truth. I want to always be able to take off and see from 50,000 feet, the world spread out before me, the past, the present and the future clear and unobscured by clouds, beautiful, awesome, stretching to the horizon and beyond.