This book began by looking for something.
More precisely, it began by sorting through flat file drawers filled with artwork, in an attempt to determine what pieces I should select for my first proper gallery show.
I stacked the work in piles: these are probably good candidates, those are good, but don’t seem to fit the general feel of the show. I was looking for only thirty or so pieces of artwork. I was removing hundreds of pieces of Bristol board from the drawers.
It slowly dawned on me that the “good but doesn’t fit” pile was quite massive. I thought that perhaps I should make a list of all of this work, most of which I’d forgotten about entirely since its completion. In no time I had a list of what I calculated was a couple hundred pages of material.
This was a revelation, like someone coming into the room and telling me I was adopted or that I was a brain in a vat. A broader reality of my life came into weird, sudden focus. So this is what I’d been doing these past years? Really? It hadn’t all just been evaporated time?
There is such a pervasive feeling in my life of always working (I feel this is all I ever have to offer when asked by friends what I’ve been doing lately: “Oh, just working…”), but when I look to the meager stack of books my time has produced, I feel I must be deluding myself. Based on the evidence, I’m routinely forced to conclude that I am far lazier than I usually presume. Things trickle by so slowly, it’s easy to let the accumulation go unnoticed.
So this book is, in a way, a sort of validation. A morale boost. You are holding an ink and paper pat on the back. Horribly narcissistic? Arguably, yes. But are there dick and vagina jokes? Also yes. In the end, hopefully we all win out.
And in another way, this book offers itself as an apology and peace offering to those disappointed readers who have asked, at this event or that, what I was working on. I never seemed to have a satisfying answer. “Paying my bills,” or “letting my brain barf ” never seemed to satiate.
The contents of this book are broken into two sections, which I’ve titled “Drawings and Stories” and “Sketches and Notes.” Those are somewhat oversimplified monikers. The first section contains drawings, illustrations, illustrated prose, and comics. The second section pulls from sketches, doodles, layouts, and notes drawn in airports, at comic conventions, on newspaper clippings, on placemats, and in sketchbooks of various papers ranging in size from the palm of my hand to the size of my torso. I considered titling the sections “Finished Work” and “Unfinished Work,” but that seemed wildly presumptuous. There are any number of sketches in the latter section that will never see other levels of fruition, and there are seemingly completed strips which I continue to adjust and whose characters I continue to revise.
I also considered breaking each of these larger sections into smaller sections, but realized that this is a practice in which I’ve lost interest entirely. Over the past several years, in the absence of producing a series of books and focusing more on producing The Book (whichever that may be at the time), I missed the ability to move to whichever part of the pictorialtextual spectrum I wished. My mind has never worked exclusively in comics, prose, or drawings. It is always a jumble of these media. And so I wanted this book, as much as would make any sort of logistical sense, to reflect that nebulous construct. In that way this volume represents a bridge between this time period and the series of books to which I plan a return.
So you’re holding a pat on the back, an olive branch, a nebula, and a bridge. I think I’m well on my way to mixing metaphors. Throw in the obligatory reference to a time capsule or cartography and we’ve arrived at full-blown nonsense.
Because of the relatively brief time period from which this work is culled, I’ve elected to arrange the contents of “Drawings and Stories” not in any strict chronology, but rather by theme or whatever seemed a common aesthetic or subject. Put less verbosely: I moved things around until they looked good or “felt” right.
The “Sketches and Notes” section, however – due in no small part to my obsessive dating of those doodles and notes – is presented in strict chronological order. Not that this is helpful in the slightest. Perhaps there is a discernible progression or development, but for the most part it seems to me like someone gave a raccoon a marker.
For the purist: welcome to disappointment. The “All” in this book’s title is inaccurate and overly ambitious (it would have been more aptly titled simply “Sundry”). There are a good many covers, comics, illustrations, and other ephemera that have been excluded from this book for a variety of reasons, but most often that they simply didn’t feel right. Again with the “feeling” right.
And as to the “purity” of the sketchbooks (the preservation of my sketchbook pages precisely as they would appear if one went through them page by page), this was abandoned from the outset. As referenced by the marker-wielding raccoon comment, there is page after page of my sketchbooks that is indiscernible to no one other than the inhabitants of my skull. So some editing, digital pasting, and other general mixing was done in creating this section. Some “virgin” pages remain, but I don’t think them any more meritorious for their abstinence.
I began by looking for something. That’s how things will end, with any luck. One of my favorite memories from childhood is watching mysteries on television with my mother; my favorite toys and games always involved trap doors and riddles.
I’ll keep digging through these piles of paper and brain barf, looking for whatever it is. Like a grave robber, or a dung beetle.
More books by Paul Hornschemeier (click covers for complete product details)