Rolling out Some Major News

The sound you hear is the creaking and clattering of metal. I am opening the garage door on a project I have been working on for an entire decade. That might sound like an exaggeration, but nope. In the second half of 2008, at the end of a long personal and professional slog, I closed up my shop, active since 2000 with employees and steady commercial work, and moved everything into storage. The process, and the reasoning, are described here, in a contemporaneous narrative.

I got in my car and I drove to the Utah desert, where I spent two months almost totally alone, drawing, thinking, and writing. The personal and intellectual spadework of 2008 matured, over time, into a grand project: a unified field theory of drawing as something that all people do, fundamentally tethered to symbolic communication (as opposed to illusion-making, associated with painting). I also wanted to write about, to theorize, the artifacts of drawing–disdained by art historians, overlooked by others–illustrations and cartoons. 

In a series of episodes (2008-09, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017-18) I worked on successive incarnations of a book, engaging in dialogue with many university presses, before concluding that I would have to issue the book independently, in association with an enlightened partner, to create the work that the subject deserves. And that, I am pleased to say, is what I have done.

On July 10, I will publish Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice with Spartan Holiday Books, in  association with Norman Rockwell Museum and the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies. In the coming 10 days or so, we will be promoting the book launch on various social media networks, in anticipation of my speaking at ICON 10 (the Illustration Conference) in Detroit, July 11-14. 

The book is an ambitious offering, beautifully designed by my longtime collaborator Scott Gericke, and richly illustrated. (200 pages, 100 illustrations.) It includes a politics as well as a poetics of drawing, and is well-timed for our particular cultural moment. If you are an illustrator, cartoonist, designer or printmaker, I think this book will put a spring in your step: It argues for such practices on their own cultural terms, sidestepping Art-capital-A on philosophical grounds. If you are a humanist with an interest in visual culture, I think it will provide a taxonomy worth testing and useful vocabulary for discussing printed images.

Whatever judgment is rendered by readers, I can say in good faith that this is the book I meant to produce. 

Many people have had a hand in this project over a period of years. I am full of gratitude and excited to share our work with a broad audience, beginning with students and practitioners. 

Order your book here, starting now! Shipping July 10! 

Excerpts to come, in this space and on Twitter


Inside front cover, Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice. Hand lettered signage, Robinson's Pecan House, north of Perry, Florida. 

Scott Gericke, cover design, Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice. Published by Spartan Holiday Books and Norman Rockwell Museum, July 2018. Photograph by Stan Strembicki. 

Doug DowdComment