Unless artists can remember what it was to be a little boy, they are only half complete as artist and as man. – James Thurber
I stumbled over James Thurber again today.
I remember reading him as a child, remember the humour and pictures and laughing.
And then three decades seem to have passed.
So, I went back and looked at some of his work, starting with The beast in me and other animals.
This time, I’ve been looking at the drawings – his way of capturing what is going on around him, and what goes on in between the lines – in between what is obvious.
I gravitated towards the drawings because they seem to capture something that few other things seem to do – an essence that is lost in other forms of media.
For example, all parents take millions of pictures of their children.
But the images I remember are the sketches I dashed off as I watched mine play near a river or draw during a train journey.
They are not good drawings – they lack any pretence at being art.
They are doodles, dashed off in the moment, but they capture a memory differently than a photograph – which retains every detail but that which matters.
So, it’s reassuring to learn that Thurber took a similar approach to his drawings as well – despite being featured on the New Yorker and around the world they were dashed off in minutes and somehow drastically reduce complexity to comedic brilliance.
And observation – of the small things that make up our world today.
I tried to do a Thurberesque sketch of a scene we see all too often these days – a child with a device and other children gravitating towards it.
We see this more and more as children (and adults) consume content – while once we might have had them creating it, sat on the floor drawing and doodling instead.
Which makes me wonder – if children grow up too quickly – too aware of perfect images before they have time to doodle – then what happens to their ability to create?
The thing that Thurber did was observe – look around and see humour and contradiction in everyday life.
It’s not perfect.
But it can be amusing.