I was thinking, recently, about how voracious my sketchbook-keeping was when I was younger. There were multiple reasons why that would have been the case — the primary being that I was in art school and, you know, sketchbooks are kind of important for that whole kind of thing — but nonetheless, I would eagerly, happily, endlessly work in my sketchbooks, keeping multiple at any one time and having different purposes for each of them: one was a mark-making sketchbook, one was a diary of sorts (one that turned into a diary comic, once the influence of Eddie Campbell had settled in fully), and so on. This was my primary way of passing the time, for a number of years: just… recording the world in some inexplicable, unconscious manner.

(It helped that, very early in my art school career, I came across books in the library that explored in detail the sketchbooks of Paul Klee, Egon Schiele, and Gustav Klimt, who in a very real way were as influential to me because of their sketchbook approach than for the “finished art” they produced that is more familiar and celebrated.)

When I was having this train of thought, I marveled at my productivity of the era with no small amount of jealousy: where did this energy come from, I asked myself, and where did it go? Is it really just that I’m three decades older? And then I realized: all of this was in the pre-Internet era, a thought that made me impossibly glad that I’d gone to school when I had. I know myself too well to pretend that I wouldn’t have found excuses to spend far too much time fucking around online if I’d had the chance back in the day. If I’d had the internet available to me when I was a student — with all its rabbit holes and dark alleys and all of its everything right there at the touch of a button — I can’t imagine I would have gotten anything of any note done at all.

It’s a strange thought to think of so much of my life being, essentially, “pre-internet,” given how ubiquitous it is today, but… half of my life was spent that way, and it might have been so much better because of that. What a weird, sobering thought to start the year I turn 50 with.

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