Starting to Draw

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, opus 1757, acrylic painting

Q: When did you start drawing?

ReeL: I started drawing a lot by the time I was six. I’d shut everything out and just draw. My mother saw there was something extremely important about this and had a drawer with blank typing paper in it that I could use at any time and gave me a small set of pencils.

Q: But most kids draw. Was there anything different about what you were doing?

ReeL: I had two brothers. It was clear I was doing something quite different from  what they were doing, and a lot more of it. A lot more.

I was shutting myself off from the world of voices and social interactions and walling myself in by drawing.

Q: What was your favorite color?

ReeL: I only had a few pencils, at most four or five. My prized pencils were what was called a Negro, that’s a brand name, a very black, soft pencil, and a blood red pencil. That blood red was highly prized. At six-years-old, you had to have blood.

I drew a lot in panels, like a comic strip, a sequence of images, mostly with people in them. Revolutions, battles, airplanes, monsters. I liked drawing these guerrillas with bullet belts across their chests. A lot of violence. So I shut myself in to a world of my own creation, but looking back on it, it reflected a lot of TV, the news, which my father watched religiously, during the cold war, the Cuban Revolution.

Q: So mostly pencil. No colors? Crayons?

ReeL: Mostly graphite. Crayons later: when my maternal grandfather died and our grandmother came to live with us. she brought a box of 72 Crayola wax crayons for each of us. Those old flat boxes where all the crayons are laid out so you can see all the colors at one time. She also gave me an illustrated history of military uniforms, from Roman Centurions to Rommel’s’s Afrika Korps.  That upped the color ante a bit.

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