Wednesday, 28 August 2019

How to draw everything

I borrowed a book called 'How to draw almost everything' from North Fitzroy library. I already know how to draw almost everything, as indeed does everybody, whether or not they are prepared to admit it; I borrowed it for Lenny, who really likes books of this kind; they seem to work for him as suggestions or prompts about things to draw rather than as instructions to be closely followed.

Well, I was sitting with him and flipping though the book and I saw a couple of pages of tiny line portraits. The page is headed 'Famous Faces'. There are 25 musicians on one page, 25 artists on another, then another page with a few more artists and a few random famous people.

About seventy famous people; one woman; Mother Theresa.

I felt helplessly depressed and angry about it for a couple of days; discussed it with Lenny; vented my feelings to friends, who suggested a range of actions ranging from writing to the publisher to burning the book.

But on the way home from work one afternoon I stopped at an art supplies shop and bought a couple of markers. Then I spent four evenings really happily absorbed in forging a new page to add to the book.  One side has 25 women musicians on it, the other has 25 women artists. I've taped the new page into the book and returned it to the library.

I don't need to unpack everything about this project for you; in fact, the thing I enjoy most about it is thinking about the ideas, the trains of thought and the conclusions in the work (and it is a work) which are unspoken but nevertheless there for being unavoidably drawn out by anybody who happens across it, either in the actual library book or via this post.


Fyodor said...

I’m grinning from ear to ear. How delightfully BATSHIT BONKERS of you.

I now await eagerly your addendum to Moby Dick, in which the midget Samoan harpooner (Squeegee, IIRC) bobs up from the wreckage to be saved by Ishmael.

Jokes aside, it is weird not to see any women at all, but then I had a close look at the pages you highlight and there’s something quite strange about the selection. At first I thought it must be one of those ancient books one finds in libraries that are horribly –ist, commensurate with their time*, but then saw Basquiat, which means it can’t be older than the 1980s, 1990s more likely. But then all the musicians – ALL OF THEM – are known for classical music. And there’s one Japanese bloke. Which is the giveaway, isn’t it? So the author is a Japanese lady, Miyata Chika and it seems that, like many Japanese, she has an over-developed appreciation for the greats of Western classical culture (e.g. painting and classical music), but less awareness of contemporary arts. Or perhaps that’s the audience she was pitching to, i.e. the Japanese market who wouldn’t know many, if any, of the female artists you mention.

Anyhoo, Miyata-san has a website (, and seems quite lovely so perhaps she wouldn’t mind being alerted to suggestions for improvement in the next edition? Her email’s on her site…

*Poor Enid Blyton and her 50p coin. FFFS, that raging TERF Austen got a ten-quid note.

Ampersand Duck said...

This is the pure definition of an Altered Book, which is an entire genre of creative publishing. Joe Orton would be proud of you, but no prouder than I am :)

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

This is just brilliant. Your Alison Bechdel in particular is a thing of beauty.