Mel Birnkrant's
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The First Quick Pencil Sketches
          These scribbles are a throwback, newly discovered reminders of lost abilities and better times.  The date on a related letter tells me that they were done around Christmas time of 1995.  That would be nearly twenty years ago, an era when I was in my prime, and had the ability to draw in “shorthand,” and the power to see things in the markings that were invisible to all other eyes, but mine.  I had come a long way in the thirty years since I had done the Outer Space Men.  In those days, I needed to rifle through the pages of  Famous Monsters Magazine to find a jumping off place.  But in 1995, I had merely to explore the easily accessible recesses of my mind.

So while these images might look wild and loose and free, and little more than doodles to anyone but me, they were all that I required to visualize the final drawings, complete.  Can you read these rough sketches and complete them in your mind?  Alas, now, neither can I. I lost that ability, over time.  It faded slowly, along with all memory that this project ever happened.
          Over the years, I could no longer find bond paper that offered me that ability.  I figured that nothing like it was still being manufactured.  Finding these original drawings, on the original paper, has suddenly made me realize that it wasn’t the paper that was changing, over time; it was my eyes!  Even though I recently had cataracts corrected, and can now see, in some respects, even better than I ever could before, I can’t see through this, the very same bond paper, anymore.
          I chose a dozen of these sketches and carried them one step further.  They are on the page that follows, more fully realized and refined.  But, before you go to the next page I’ll mention something that I find curious, even somewhat mysterious.  It’s taken me a long time to realize and come to grips with this.  Discovering these original drawing has made the answer clear to me.  In the heyday of my creativity, I must have possessed X-ray Vision, and didn’t realize it at the time. 

I was working in an era when all drawings were done, or at least begun, in pencil.  And I was dependent upon, one might even say addicted to, an inexpensive paper known as “Bond.”  I bought large quantities of it in pads of many sizes, at Sam Flax, in NYC.  While this particular kind of Bond could be considered opaque, it was just transparent enough to enable me to clearly see another image placed beneath it.  So, that is how I worked, how I would develop an idea.  I’d begin with an sketch as quick and rough as these, and place it back in the pad again, under a blank sheet.  Then, I’d do a second drawing, refining the one that I could clearly see, beneath it.  On some occasions, I’d refine the image even further with an additional third overlay.