A few weeks ago, I was at the gym, routinely doing my yoga stretches and cardiovascular workout so that my 60-year-old body remains alive.
While climbing to nowhere on the elliptical, I saw in the corner of my eye a service dog lying on the floor near its owner who was exercising on a mat.
I had never seen a service dog in a gym before—and I have been in quite a few gyms in my life. As the man did his stretches, the harnessed dog calmly waited in what looked like child’s pose in yoga. The man reminded me of my dad, now deceased, who had become blind in his 70s. He, too, lived a life as independently as he was able.
Somehow, I wanted to honor the dog, the man, and my father. But how? Retired now, my rather obsessive goal is to try to express myself in “art,” by making comics, designing illustrations, and writing graphic non-fiction or fiction. Laughter, tears, anger, horror, and compassion are a few among many possible responses I hope to elicit from my efforts.
Although I scratch out drawings and paintings based on what I see, trying to create what’s in my mind’s eye is really, really hard. Drawing from imagination is challenging for professional artists, but my hubris has conned me into thinking I can do it, too.
Why? Because as a journalist for 30 years, I eventually learned about communicating with others, even though I began my career writing near-incomprehensible technical prose.
Comics, cartoons, and graphic narratives require creating people, places, and scenarios with and without dialogue that a reader can understand. Yet at 60, I wonder daily whether there’s enough time left in my life to hone my art as I did my writing.
But inspired by the man in the gym and by my father’s memory not to let my limitations stop me, I decided I would make a cartoon about the dog and yoga. While I didn’t feel qualified to create an image about a service dog, the idea of an inquisitive child who has grown up around yoga, asking his father during a walk in the park why a dog they see was in child’s pose rather than downward dog pose, just came to me and made me laugh.
Instead of working in paper, pen, ink, and watercolors, as I usually do, I decided that day to overcome my fear of the software Photoshop to do something relatively simple, a single-panel cartoon. For years, I have watched online instructional videos about Photoshop, scratching my head bald to understand basic concepts. I know that today, babies floating in utero, master Photoshop, but for me, even with nerdy degrees in molecular biology, Photoshop seemed insurmountable.
Nevertheless, several hours later, after screaming, bloodletting, and a depressive episode, the cartoon, above, resulted.
Would I like the lines to be smoother? Sure. Would I like the figures to be less stiff? Yes. Would I like to know how to prevent some Photoshop tools from having minds of their own like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey? Yeah.
Thank god I was able to google, “How do I stop the polygonal lasso tool from taking over my computer?” Gratefully, the answer was available and comprehensible.
Even with the cartoon’s “imperfections,” I decided I wanted to share my cartoon with others, particularly with the yoga community. I thought they would understand the joke. Also, they might appreciate my journey toward acceptance of my own abilities.
When I do yoga, I push myself to stretch into a pose, though my muscles often twitch and burn with the exertion. I live with the discomfort and breathe into it. I accept that I don’t need to do a “textbook” pose. I accept the fact that I may never be able to. And that’s okay. I am grateful for the present moment and what I can do within it.
Similarly, the next time I use Photoshop, I will stretch myself to reach deeper into its software code recesses.
Whatever outcome results, I will be thankful. However, I suspect cursing, shouting, and floor stamping might very well compete with my equanimity.
Author: Robin Eisner
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman