Nearly everything I talk about on this site is a bit nostalgic, our prompt for today. So, I decided to jump a bit farther back in time with this quick little doodlewash of a phonograph, an invention created by Thomas Edison back in 1877. Nostalgia is defined as a wistful yearning of happiness for a former place or time. What makes this idea rather fun is that it’s not required that one has actually lived through that time in order to enjoy the experience. This is proven by the fact that you can still buy record players and bluetooth stereos in the shape of a phonograph today. In this case, it’s an imagined time that seems simpler and more alluring than the present. Truly, we do have a lot of new inventions and tons of social media feeds to check these days, so perhaps things were a touch simpler back then. But, it can also simply be a trick of the mind. My memories of childhood, for example, have a beautiful way of glossing over the bad bits and focusing on only the truly happy ones. That, and simply giving something a bit of distance always makes it seem less troublesome than it might in the moment. Either way you look at it, the past is always here to stay.
It’s fun to see so many young people enjoying vintage objects they themselves have never experienced. And, it’s certainly nice to know that ornate and beautifully created things are still enjoyed in today’s “make it as plain, simple and cheap as you can” world. Objects of the past were created as bits of sculpture. They were wildly ornate as if anything less would somehow defile the amazing creativity involved in the invention itself. And they are still considered valuable objects in antique shops to this day. Many of the objects made today, simply won’t survive for over 100 years, the time required for something to be considered truly antique. In many ways, it feels like we’re moving into a perfectly disposable world where there won’t be many objects of memory left behind. Far less than earlier generations, dating back hundreds of years. And yet, something like this old phonograph, will still manage to exist well more than 200 years later. As the world becomes more virtual, it’s not surprising that people of all ages are craving something to cling to, something tangible. Something that will actually last for years to come.
That’s certainly why I love sketching and painting each day. It’s wonderful to experience doing something that people have enjoyed now for hundreds of years. From those cave paintings of Paleolithic Europe to 1780 when William Reeves created those first hard cakes of soluble watercolor. Each time we grab that brush to paint, we’re part of a rich history. Nothing that requires a hard drive or electricity, but something far more complex. An act that demands our creativity and attention to detail. A visceral and immediate moment with no way to erase, delete, or start over. As more and more inventions come along to make our lives easier, I’m thrilled to be enjoying the original and often more difficult ones. My mind works in a much different way when permanence is involved, and I love the ideas that it produces while in this state. While there are certainly more memories we are able to capture in this day and age, we can just as easily erase them with a touch of button. So, yes, that’s why you’ll often find me longing for and celebrating the good old days.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Vermilion, Indigo (my “Vintage” Trio!). Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!