Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tiny Artifacts

Who remembers the pleasure of collecting treasures from the sidewalks and (all right, it sounds sketchy but it's true) gutters when you were a child?  I used to set out alone and barefoot from my house early in the mornings in summer in New Orleans in the lovely days before Safety and collect what I called "pocket contents."  I don't remember how I learned the word 'contents', but that is definitely what I called these things---the pieces of foil, fish hooks, bottle caps, beads leftover from Mardi Gras and ground into the sandy dust, and the occasional rare item such as the tiny folding knife I once found. 

I've never really gotten over the fun of collecting bottom dweller artifacts.  Sometimes collecting while walking with head hanging low and eyes trained on the ground acquires a more acceptable tone by taking place on a beach or in the woods;  sometimes it even becomes more or less professional, such as when it happens on an archaeological site.  So today I took a long walk downtown through unfamiliar neighborhoods, and I realized I was walking in the collector position.  I was a little self-conscious when I would crouch down to scoop up something questionable, but I didn't let that stop me.  When I got home I spread out my findings and drew them on the page I had started early this morning.

Beginning at top left there are two clay faces that are both from necklaces that one of my sons brought to me from a summer program in Belize when he was in high school.  They're drawn life-size, as is everything on this page.  To the right on the top row is a googly eye that I picked up on the street this afternoon!  Not only is it a moveable googly eye, but it's in full color, with a startling red pupil and a blue eyelid and a plastic dome over the whole thing. 

Row two: on the left is a smashed bottle cap peeled from the sidewalk downtown.  To its right is a copper crow that I made a number of years ago to use as a finial on an art piece.  And on the bottom row at the left is a very nice ancient bolt that I at first passed by, thinking it insignificant, then turned back to claim realizing it was a REAL artifact.  It's so old that its threads are worn flat (it must have had threads or else how could it work?) and the washer is melded to the head.  To its right is a fragment of a tire with a beautiful tread.  It reminded me of a pot shard, such as those I collected one summer while volunteering on an archaeological site.


  1. I remember! I'm on the CT shore so for me it was beach combing and finding little pieces of shells, sea glass, driftwood, bottle caps, and other bits of flotsam that washed up on shore. Just came across your blog a few days ago and have been spending way too much time reading through your posts... good thing I am on vacation this week! I recently picked up my sketchbook and art supplies after about a 15 year hiatus raising children, and find your blog so incredibly inspiring and a joy to read. I love the way you write; you are both a skilled artist and writer! Thank you for sharing your experiences. Now, on with my reading!

  2. Welcome back to drawing and blogging! So happy to hear about your collecting adventures!