Graphic Nostalgia (Literacy Narrative Part 3)

The first significant memory I have of reading comes from the story of the children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon. I don’t directly remember reading the book when I was little, but rather, I recall finding it again on my bedroom bookshelf, looking through the small pages of the book, and remembering how much I loved the story in my earliest years of life. At this point, however, I did not actually remember the storyline of Harold’s journey, but was instead comforted by the creative feeling the book still inspired in my ten-year-old self. The nostalgia of the beautifully simplistic artistic narrative is –to this day– the most poignant aspect of the book for me. I connected my love for drawing and imagination to the visual story of Harold –as he created his own world and adventures with just a purple crayon and his mind– even though I forgot what he actually created in the story.

This wistfulness for the experience of my youth has woven itself into my consciousness throughout my life. In my Junior year of high school –one of the most stressful years for me– I found myself drawn back to the bookshelf of my childhood. Just as I did when I was ten years old, I searched my shelves for older books that struck some deep emotional chord with me. At the time I knew that a part of me wanted a distraction from my responsibilities of Junior year –grades, college, my future– so I allowed myself to delve back into the novels of my youth. Going back into these fantastical worlds coincided with a rediscovery of my own artistic expression of my imagination through drawing and painting. The easiest books for me to revisit were the more visual graphic novels, which included Bone, Calvin and Hobbes, and Amulet — along with Harold and the Purple Crayon. When I first read these books as a young child I was constantly drawing, and my drawing style was usually influenced –if not directly copied– from the visual styles of Jeff Smith and Bill Waterson (of Bone and Calvin and Hobbes respectively). Thinking back on it, rereading those novels gave me the nostalgia for that artistic passion, and pushed me to start drawing again and set up a painting studio in my basement.

In my Junior year of high school I needed an outlet to escape the stressful world of adulthood. I found that in revisiting my old graphic childhood worlds, but greater than that, it reminded me that I used to be able to create those worlds myself. I also reread other childhood books that were based solely in text, such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, and while I still found those books invigorating and a step back into the past, I did not find them as entertaining to go through as the graphic novels. I now believe this is because the visual medium allows a certain level of ambiguity in its craft. One can interpret the tone, emotion, and flow of a picture in more ways than reading a sentence from a book. So rereading those graphic novels gave me a more clear look into how I perceived the world as a child. I remembered the emotions I felt and how I interpreted various scenes in these narratives more vividly because that visual medium gave my younger self more freedom to explore the less restrained interpretations of the images. The images also stuck in my brain in their influence in my artwork. This secondhand connection furthered my appreciation for that childhood feeling as it reminded me of how I once created my own worlds through a similar type of art.

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