Exercise Book Encyclopaedia

Self portrait aged 17 in  my Batley art college days. Page 683, the title page volume 11.
Self portrait aged 17 in my Batley art college days. Page 683, the title page volume 11. Perhaps I was being a bit over ambitious in my subject matter!

exercise booksThis little pile of exercise books spans a decade of my creative endeavours.

In the winter of 1971 in volume 14 (page 741 as I’d numbered it as if it was part-work) I wrote; ‘Exercise Book Encyclopaedia apologizes for any incovienience (I didn’t have access to a spell-checker in those days!) caused by the intrusion of notes for a thesis, an enquiry into the nature and causes of invertebrate illustration . . . ‘

In the final year of my diploma in art and design, I finally accepted that my real life projects had finally caught up with this naturalist’s notebook come comic strip part-work. It had been my blank canvas. I remember the milestone of starting a fresh, crisp new exercise book, but every fresh page was an opportunity to experiment with a different layout.

I walked past Mr Chapel’s print workshop on my way to school and dreamt of walking in there with my book and getting it printed. As he worked in letterpress, monochrome only, that would have been impossible. How on earth did people break into print?

eclipse 1961
Eclipse of the Sun, from my exercise book, Thursday, 16 February 1961.

exercise booksI’d started, aged nine on Tuesday 14 February 1961, by writing about a journey through the Pennines, collecting a sample of millstone grit for our natural history club museum and ended in 1971 as I started work on my thesis, on a geological theme too with an article reflecting the buzz of excitement that I felt about the then fairly new theory of plate tectonics.

I’m impressed by how far my work came on in ten years (which doesn’t seem a terribly long period from the perspective of my present age) and I’m glad that I’ve still got my schoolboy enthusiasm for geology and astronomy. I’m still so keen to try and understand the world.

Here’s part of that first article from 1961:

“I brought some rock back for the museum and found out about the life of heather. A parable goes seed thrown on rocks withers away. But this is not so with the heather. The seed falls on the rock the roots sprout and go along the rock with new plants sprouting all the time (this is why we find heather growing in clumps). The roots will not stop growing until they reach the soil. We also saw some fieldfares which I will tell you about tomorrow.”

My first drawing in the 'encyclopaedia', 15 February 2015.
My first drawing in the ‘encyclopaedia’, 15 February 2015.

I think that I could surreptitiously slip that passage into my present day Dalesman nature diary and it would just about get past my editor with little more than a raised eyebrow.

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