Elle Cosimano

A Matter of Perspective

I took art class in 9th grade.  I don’t remember the name of the class or even the name of the teacher.  I just remember this one project.

The medium was pencil and the assignment was to illustrate perspective using a horizon line. Those were the only guidelines I recall.  I came up with a sort of contemporary fantasy — a dolphin jumping out of an ocean composed of Tron-like lines.  There were ripples in the grid where the dolphin breached the surface and mountains in the background. (Don’t ask why my dolphin was surfing the Rockies in outer space… I don’t have an answer.)

I spent weeks on the damn thing.  I agonized over the contours of the dolphin.  Was he precise in size, shape, and shadow?  Were my lines technically accurate as far as measurement and proportion?  I kept my pencil lines to a whisper, so I could fix mistakes without anyone knowing I’d made them.  When I turned it in, I was sure it was perfect.

The teacher didn’t agree.  I got a B minus.

I was crushed. (Yeah, I was one of those kids.  Total Type A Brian Johnson “…and when you pull the trunk the light was s’posed to go on. My light didn’t go on…” kind of kid. Doesn’t ring a bell?  Google it.)

When I asked my teacher why my project wasn’t good enough for an A, he told me my drawing was too light.  That I didn’t push hard enough with my pencil, and while it was technically accurate, my picture felt flat.  He pointed to it and said, “What you’ve drawn is a dolphin jumping on paper, but your assignment was to make him leap off the page.”

I walked away from the conversation never really understanding what he meant.

Fast forward twenty-three years.  I’m revising my manuscript for DEAD BLUE for the third time when Brian’s damn elephant light comes on!  I get it now.

See, when I was drawing that dolphin scene, I kept my pencil tip dull.  At the time, I told myself it was intentional.  That my light hand gave the picture a gauzy mysterious feel.  But in hindsight — this post is about perspective after all — I wasn’t being honest with myself.

I wasn’t pushing that pencil hard enough because I was too chicken-shit to take the risk. Deep dark marks are hard to erase.  They reveal mistakes, and I didn’t trust myself enough to sharpen the damn pencil and really cut in.  No part of my picture really scratched below the surface.  It lacked depth and contrast.  My teacher was right.  It wasn’t airy and mood-driven. It was flat.

And I think that’s what’s been missing in all these words on the cutting room floor.  Trust.  And maybe a little fearlessness.

It’s round three and I’ve got my chewed up pencil.  My eraser’s worn down to the metal and I finally sharpened the tip.  No matter which way I hold it, it’ll cut deep.

So thanks, Brian and your elephant trunk light.

Aug

28, 2011 |

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Dead Blue,Elle's Life,Writing

One Response to “A Matter of Perspective”

  1. This is just…perfect. Love, love, love this post 🙂
    (and, for the record, *this* clicked for me on the 3rd rewrite, too)
    Happy writing, Elle!

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