Tick Tock

I created this image for the July/August 2013 issue of the SCBWI Bulletin:

scbwi web

I had been waiting for an opportunity to return to the “rip in the sky” idea since, well, my sophomore year of high school.

This is my first encounter with that idea, in a piece that became known in my family simply as, “The Clock”.

The Clock web

I’m guessing, but I think it was during the summer, in between 9th and 10th grade. I can recall sitting in my room, on the bed, with a 14” X 17” pad of paper and a black felt tip marker.

I had discovered the Surrealists in a big way, initially through the Time/Life books about the history of art. The strange, yet precisely rendered worlds in those paintings  blew me away. One of the ideas I was intrigued by was, “automatic drawing”. Accessing the subconscious by letting the hand move about the paper without a preconceived idea of the goal.

I attempted my own 15-year-old versions of this. I would just start drawing something and keep adding imagery that I thought was cool, whether it made sense or not.

So, I drew the clock hands and gears.


Then I made the hands three dimensional, as if their space was a deep negative space (See the shadows).


Next I made the 12. Went way overboard with the dark lines (I could fix that now in Photoshop. But, I won’t, even though it drives me crazy).

Then I did the 6, as a hole in the ground (No color yet).

And then I asked – how differently could I make each number? That’s when I gave up the free association, moved over to my drawing table, and got down to work.

Gone was the felt tip marker (What had I been thinking!) and out came the India ink, pens and watercolors.

The 1 was just okay, but 2,3,4,5 were terrific. The 6 was already there, so I added the grass and the barbed wire fence. 7 and 8 are good, 9 is a bit weird and the melting 10 isn’t bad but could have been executed better. I like the 11, with the day and night motif. And I was stuck with the 12. Grrr…

But, there was all this space left at the top, so why stop? And, clearly, I couldn’t.

There was a horizon line and mountains – how about a cliff? And a cityscape. And more clocks – in the sky! (The one running off the top of the page in the middle is the face of the pocket watch I carried from about 7th grade until college).

Let’s see, what else could I add? Of course! Numbers streaming into the sky from the far distance.

It’s pretty full now – but wait! A knife cutting through the fabric of the universe to reveal the cosmos behind our “reality”.

The Clock detail

NOW it was done. And I loved it. This was something that went beyond any of my previous pictures. I had been doing “weird” images for a while, but this was conceptually and visually in a whole other place.

This picture has always felt to me like the moment when I began heading down an artistic path that was fully “me” – when my imagination really kicked into gear. Less and less was I copying other’s work. New ideas, both “automatic” and planned out began to appear at a startling rate.

The proverbial floodgates had opened.

After “The Clock” came classics like:


I started with a pepper and that’s where it went.

Refrigerator Heaven

Flying things – my eternal muse. Okay, so they are refrigerators. On giant coins. So what?

And “The Heart With Arms”, as my kids call it:

heart with arms b

What can I say about it? Friends and teachers began to get concerned.

Those (and many more) happened shortly after “The Clock”, that summer and into 10th grade.

I liked “The Clock” so much that, despite having done it so long before, I included it in the portfolio I submitted to RISD with my application.

I liked it so much that, despite having done it so long before, I submitted it to a juried art contest in my senior year (The only time I ever did that growing up). I got an honorable mention:

Epstein Award web

Note this:

Epstein Award detail

My principal never presented the certificate to me. But, I didn’t care, as I was already at RISD, deeply immersed in a life of art.

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