Drawing on Memories

FEELING LOST AND LONELY IN AN ELEGANT APARTMENT.
SELF-PORTRAIT, AVENZA, CARRARA, ITALY, 1977.

I just pulled out an old sketchbook and discovered some drawings that brought back memories.  The memories that come back when I look at my old drawings are often more vivid than those that are awakened by looking at old photographs.  I think it’s the fact that I was completely engaged in the action at the time and spent more than a moment snapping a photo or awkwardly posing for posterity.

10 SEPT BECAME 11 SEPT 1980 WHILE I WAITED IN MY ’78 MAZDA GLC TO GIVE
A “FRIEND” A LIFT BACK TO BOSTON AFTER A BUSINESS RECEPTION IN CAMBRIDGE.
HIS NAME WAS STEVEN AND HE WAS MORE THAN AN HOUR LATE.

When I was 25, I landed a job in Medical Illustration at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.  I drew kidneys and muscle tissue.  I traced cross-sections of cadavers that had been cast in polyurethane.  I created art and typography for slides that were used by the medical school.  It was fun work and was what began my career in publications and communications.  At the time, I never went anywhere without a sketch book.  I would sketch unselfconsciously, and had been doing so for years. I doodled my way around Italy in the ’70s and gave away almost all the sketches as “thank you” gifts for the hospitality I received there.  I wish I had had a scanner!

BANANAS, MAY 1980, TOP FLOOR, 15 CHARLES STREET, BOSTON.

SEDUCTIVE BANANAS.

While working at Downstate, I drove up to Boston, just 4-1/2 hours away for a weekend visit with an old college friend, Mary.  I fell in love with Boston and immediately decided I had to move there.  I left  Downstate four months later after only 1-1/2 years for a job as a typesetter and graphic artist in a small, quirky (aka, cripplingly dysfunctional) studio in Cambridge, ironically named “Together Graphics.” The job in Cambridge paid a lot better, but was not as interesting nor did it offer the same opportunities for professional development and personal growth as the job in Brooklyn.  But it did get me to Boston, which is where I met Jerry a little over a year later.

SNACKING AS I SKETCHED, ENABLING NEW POSES.

HOURS OF SKETCHING.  I CONSUMED MY RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE OF POTASSIUM.

For my first month in Boston, while I looked for my own place, I stayed in a basement apartment on Gray Street in the South End with Brian, a friend I met through Mary.  He was to become my best friend over the years and was my first good gay friend.  I was still living the life of a straight person, thinking I could ignore who I really was and wanted to be.  As a good friend (and someone with “gaydar”), Brian clearly knew the truth, but he never let on and he let me come to terms at my own pace. I spent a month on his couch and many afternoons hanging out at Mary’s apartment with my sketchbook, sketching the room, the house plants, and, as shown here, bananas that happened to be left on the coffee table. Jerry and I had already moved twice by the time Brian and Mary decided to move together to Maui.  I lost touch with Mary, who met someone in Maui, married, and was living in Missouri the last I heard.  After a few years, Brian (who was a serial monogamist) had also met someone.  They moved to San Diego and stayed together about a year.  Brian remained in San Diego.  So, I was elated when Jerry and I had the opportunity in late 1992 to move to San Diego, as well.  But, just before we left Connecticut for San Diego, Brian went back to his parents’ home in Massachusetts, where he died at the age of 37 of complications from AIDS.

DARTMOUTH “T” STATION, 1981.  BACK FROM ENGLAND TWO WEEKS AFTER MY SISTER DIED.
ON MY WAY TO A PARTY WITH STEVEN AFTER DISCOVERING MY CAR HAD BEEN STOLEN.

I think it’s time to start sketching again.  It’s very therapeutic and I like the depth of the memories.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

44 thoughts on “Drawing on Memories”

  1. Hello Mitch:
    This was such a tender post with such poignant memories, beautifully caught on the pages of your sketchbook. We are sure that you are right in that it is the very process of observing and recording with the attention to detail that makes the memories rush back so vividly. And, how we have enjoyed reading these snippets of your life, rendered on paper to remember and reflect upon. Yes, nurture that creative spirit and pick up the pencil once more, your drawings are wonderful.

  2. Mark:
    Thanks for the extremely generous comment and assessment! But, having a good eye for photography and then being able to capture an image and produce a finished product that conveys something special… you are definitely an artist.

  3. J&L:
    Thank you so very much for the, as always, thoughtful comment. It's amazing how much deeper my memories go in my sketches. Time to go out and buy a new Spanish sketchbook to record some new memories. I am especially grateful for the encouragement.

  4. You are very talented, and should sketch more. I do that also, and find it very relaxing.

    Sidenote: I am intrigued by the Banana Series and I don't know why.
    Or do I?

  5. I am ENORMOUSLY impressed. If you'd just posted the sketches without your interspersed anecdotes I would have felt the same way, though the stories do give your visuals added 'colour'. It's a rare talent you have, Mitch. Please return to it and give us all added pleasure. But whatever you do, don't let it whither away, PLEASE!

  6. Bob:
    I love to do it, but have only really doodled for a while now. I am encouraged to start again right away. Thanks!

    And regarding the bananas… that was before I came out. I wonder if they would be as seductive if I drew them now.

  7. Raybeard:
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so grateful for the encouragement. I used to feel a pressure to try and make a living at it. Now, I feel like I can just enjoy it again.

  8. John:
    I remember him seeming a bit addled. I sketched him quickly as he shuffled past, and I then sat and definitely overdid it while we waited a long time for a train. But it amazed me when I pulled out the drawing today that I could still remember his face and even the tone of his skin.

  9. It was good to learn more about you Mitch. So that is your background professionally. You are good at what you do! And holy cow…have you ever traveled a lot!
    Now this question is coming right out of the blue: Are you left handed?

  10. Go for it Mitch…you are so talented and to let this go by the wayside would be a travesty….Don't you just love Boston!…we do so much. I'm partial to the 2nd drawing..must be the lines I can feel them move as you sketch. Just as a side..I used to manage an art and drafting supply store for a few years so understand the world of art and artists…so definitely get back to it especially since you are in a beautiful part of the world.
    Ron

  11. Ron (aka sophie…^5):
    Thanks so much! I fell in love with Boston the minute I saw it, and then it grew on me. Lots of life changing went on when I lived there. It's where I lived when my sister died. Where I came out of the closet. Where I met Jerry. It's funny. That second drawing is not much, but it made me want to go back to Harvard Square and find that spot, so I google-mapped it tonight and looked at it from the same angle. Such a strange feeling.

  12. I hope I haven't made you feel sad…wasn't my intention…now sleep on all this information and being refreshed tomorrow look at your life from a new and fresh perspective.

  13. Such talent! That brooklyn job sounds interesting. Did it ever creep you out to be sketching organs or cadavers (you could have been in the movies: I draw dead people)?

    And your photography ain't too shabby, either.

  14. Walt the Fourth:
    Thanks! The cadavers I got to draw from were cut horizontally into 2-inch-thick slabs and then individually cast in polyurethane. It was strange at first, but fascinating. I never got to draw an entire person… just parts.

  15. Those sketches are superb Mitch. You're clearly a very gifted graphic artist…

    …with a banana fixation 😉

    Typesetting – remember that!

  16. Chris:
    Thanks!

    And LOL! I hadn't even thought about the fact that there are some people reading this blog who might not even know what typesetting is!

    I was very cutting edge in the '70s and '80s! I actually developed programs to set entire blocks and pages of text in position so that all you had to do was process it in a huge reprographics developer (floating in deadly chemicals), hang it to dry, run it through a hot wax machine, and paste it up. Imagine that!

  17. Wow! I really love Mitchell Is Moving!
    What a handsome & interesting man.

    Our little places ar similar in that we both use our blogs as memoirs of sorts. I am going to deeper in your archives to learn more about both of you.

    Best wishes from Portland!

  18. Wow … so much going on in this post. I love it. I love the sketches. The bananas are great … reminds me of Warhol in a way. : )

    I'm so glad I popped over to return your visit. This was a wondrous little post you had here. Keep sketching!

  19. You have talent! It's important not to neglect it. And now you are in a new and visually fascinating place (though anyplace can be that if you look clearly) and it's important to reconnect with your creating self. (You don't cook! Draw!)

    (Partly I'm preaching to myself. I have an art degree with which I am doing almost nothing.But I live in hope!)

  20. I loved the first drawing — my father's father, his two brothers and other relatives emigrated from Carrara to the U.S. late in the 19th century. All were marble workers and/or sculptors.

  21. Will:
    That first drawing brings back vivid memories. Amazing that your family is from Carrara. My friend and her sister owned a marble export company and lived there part of the year. I used to go enjoy myself and work (a bit) in their factory polishing marble. Rode up into the mountains a couple of times so she could select the marble she wanted. What an experience. Probably walked the same paths as your ancestors.

  22. Very touching commentary to go along with those marvelous sketches. It is so interesting how our individual lives take twists and turns as we make choices about career or love or where we want to be. Very poignant.

  23. Wow, it is sooooooo long since I have seen any of your drawings. Looking at them gave me a really weird feeling, like a twisted deja vu, or time warp. You are an incredible artist and capture so much emotion in what you are calling sketches or doodles – and I think are wonderful works of art.

    And you should send me the 11 Sep sketch since it was done on my birthday :o)

    -Rosalinda

  24. Rosalinda:
    I can't thank you enough for always following my blog and for your comments tonight. It warms my heart to think of you seeing my work now and all those years ago. Thanks! So, do you remember what you were doing on your birthday in 1980?

Share your thoughts and experiences. It's always nice to know I'm not alone.