the butterfly drawing.


Small wooden cubbys, low standing shelves filled with colorful, oversized books for little hands, wooden building blocks, puzzle pieces strewn about, kindergarten-sized easels with fresh rolls of white paper looped over the fronts. The childhood smell of primary colors.

As I lay on the floor, head supported by the kickstand of my bent arm, blue slacks and brown shoes moved past me, placing small, square cartons of chocolate milk with paper straws onto a miniature table.

I spotted the brand new box of 64 Crayola crayons sitting patiently amongst the other art supplies. My imagination immediately saturated with the vibrant image of a beautifully drawn butterfly. I walked over to the box of crayons, picked them up, and set them in the tray on the easel as I pulled down a fresh piece of paper from the roll.

I could see the entire completed image in my head. Very carefully, I drew from memory the flowing black outline of the butterfly, making sure I used up all of the space on the paper. I filled the wings one at a time, tenaciously, with a great number of intricate and varied circles. This took a long time, I think, but I was deliciously lost.

With consummate attention, I delighted in liberating each and every crayon from the box. Meticulously I withdrew each virgin crayon, one at a time, each perfectly pointed tip coloring in a different circle. I know I used every crayon and had to start over again, so there were at least 64 circles in those wings, conjured by my five year old spirit.

Occasionally, I would feel the vague presence of a teacher passing behind or hear the voices of the other children playing, in a faraway muted background. I was busy walking around inside of that butterfly. I was part of it, and it of me. It was at that precise moment that I made up my mind to be an artist. It was my first taste of losing myself, being transported, of sweet escape. This would prove to be a feeling I chased, in many ways, for many years.

34 replies

        • I started off with a collection of short essay style, observational comedy…had it just about complete, and realized that was not the direction I needed to go. I’m sure you have noticed the shift in my writing over the past month or so, it is evolving, as am I, and I wound up starting over and reworking into what will be a memoir…but coming at it sort of sideways and inside out if that makes any sense.

              • Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I enjoy writing with humor the most. Writers like Harlan Coben and Aaron Allston are my favorites because not only do they write compelling stories, but they also make me laugh while doing so.

                I’d say that’s a good direction to go. Have you ever tried fiction? I’ve only followed you for a short while so I’m not really sure what you’ve done in the past.

  1. i love crayons. markers suck. crayons are great for shading. can’t shade with markers. you just end up with darker lines instead of smooth gradient filling.

    • In art school I developed a technique for sketching with marker. It would have to be a thick, pointed high-quality one just beginning to dry out. Used in conjunction with a new one, I was able to create some pretty cool shading, I used it mostly for quick figure gesture drawing. But yes, I still go nuts with my kids’ crayons.

    • It’s really the best, I chase it now with writing all the time. I used to chase it with a paint brush, then drugs, then vodka, and chased it all the way into oblivion and unrewarding emptiness.

    • I know! I remember the teacher had pulled another teacher into the class to show her the drawing when I was finished, and the look of shock and awe on their faces. She even had a talk with my mom about it, but mom had seen me lose myself just about every time I would draw or paint. I remember sitting in my room for hours at a very young age, doing really intricate paint by number canvases. It was all I ever wanted for birthday’s or holiday’s…art stuff.

      • Me, too! When I was lost in my construction paper, scissors, glue, and markers, my mom would slip a plate of bite-sized morsels next to me so I’d get a little sustenance while I played. I wasn’t even aware of eating it!

  2. here’s my asshole: do what you feel. I remember coloring a rose in a coloring book. i had to be so young – 4? My grandmother (born somewhere at the turn of the century – 1900) saw what I did and questioned my use of a blue crayon for a rose. i had outlined it dark and colored it in lightly – for visual effect. I remember to this day thinking – “It’s a coloring book – seriously, nothing so important for harsh judgement. I was 3, 4 or 5 and she was an adult. Go figure.

    • Isn’t it amazing the clarity in which we remember those very early artistic experiences? I have more distinct memories of specific drawings and crafts than anything else in my early childhood.

  3. As much as I enjoy your humor posts, Tracy, the direction you are taking with your writing lately–I just feel like I’m in these moments with you. Powerful…lovely. This one made me want to go buy a new box of crayons and some manilla paper and get lost in a coloring day with the kiddo. But my dog has been eating all of her crayons lately and shitting rainbows in the yard so I guess I’ll stick with the vicarious experience for now. Beautiful post!

    • Rachelle,
      Honestly, that means a lot to me for you to say that. Everything has shifted, I’ve softened and so has my writing. It is a different direction, but one that is not happening consciously, I’m just following the natural progression.
      Thanks again,

  4. I love that poignant moment of realization what you wanted and immersion into something so significant for you. You describe and relate the emotions of these moments so well. I could almost smell the crayons!

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