Found Time

I’m really tired of snow.

But today, an obligation was taken off my calendar because of it. I just couldn’t get there from here. At least, not on time. Had it been an afternoon meeting, I could certainly have gone.

Since it wasn’t and I didn’t, I decided to declare today a “found time” day. Sure, I could have caught up on the “to do” list. I could have cleaned the house or done the laundry. I could have gotten just a wee bit more of a handle on several upcoming deadlines I’m going to have to really hammer soon. (Noticeably not among the options = shoveling snow. No way.)

I could have taken one more step toward finishing out the last week of falconry season in style by flying the birds. Not really too smart, after all, though — the wind was such that they would have been blown into Franklin County, I expect.

I could have done any of those things. But I didn’t.

I decided to have a day to myself, with no gotta do’s, only wanna do’s.

So I sat down with a new toy and played.

It’s a digital pen and USB tablet, gifted to me from a very generous friend, Leigh Rainey (thanks, Leigh!). I was wondering how to get used to it. I’ve never been much for creating something out of thin air, preferring instead to use a model, so to speak. So I checked out some of my fave printed B&W photographs. I stumbled upon one that I’d taken a long time ago, on another day when late March dumped a layer of snow on us in Meadows of Dan, and thought to myself, “How appropriate.” So I photocopied it with the setting on “light” and studied it. The image really took me back.

Back to when I was working at a horse farm in Floyd. We used the photo’s subject trailer to haul manure and sawdust to our garden, after I’d hauled each horse cookie out of the stalls. Many days, we’d park the trailer at the barn so the horse s**t could be wheelbarrowed straight from the stalls to the trailer (instead of having to pitchfork it from the steaming manure pile into the trailer, to then haul to our garden/compost pile at home).

It took me back to that March snow, sometime in the 90s, before I had a digital camera. That was a warm snow; heavy and wet. It lasted only a few hours (as opposed to this, which fell yesterday, 7 fluffy inches, with another inch overnight and drifts along the driveway of 18 inches or so; and looking forward to continued sub-freezing temps for another day and night “they” say).

And when I sat down with the pen-and-tablet, it took me back to when I was high school age, and had loved pen-and-ink drawing. I haven’t done much of that since — tried a couple of things on the iPad, but you gotta keep your hand floating above the surface with my generation of iPad in drawing mode. That’s not only imprecise and fiddly — it’s tiring.

This wonderful thingie Leigh gave me is truly fun and almost-but-not-quite-exactly like a pen and pad of paper. It is pressure sensitive, just like real life. It does, however, make much more noise than the scratching of a thin nib on paper.

I’ve spent all day experimenting; creating and discarding layers; mapping out how the “paper” will be arranged with which grays/layers/nib widths would go where. After quite a few false starts and do-overs (I love being able to use layers and to save the bits I like rather than tossing the entire piece of paper out), I finished what I think is my first digital pen-and-ink artwork.

I hope you like what I finally came up with — gotta say, it was fun. Now I’m all inspired to get back to pen-and-ink — only at the digital level, though (I’m such a techno-dweeb). I just don’t want to go back to those frustrating high school days using ink, pens with thousands of expensive nibs (that need cleaning every time you’re done, and sometimes fail altogether), and paper with no do-overs.

Not sure how I’ll find the time, though.

Thanks again, Leigh, for the inspiration and the tools.

And okay — thanks, universe, for the snow. Really ready for spring, but the Found Time has been glorious.

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Here’s what the trailer looks like today:

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