For our prompt of “Message” today, my mind leapt back in time to the past, when writing letters was the primary way to communicate. As a kid, I always wanted an antique desk with all of the little wooden drawers and could imagine myself sitting there writing stories amongst all of my hidden treasures. I’ve always had a thing for furniture that has little drawers all over it. Though it was fun to imagine, my handwriting was not attractive like the old letters I’d seen in books. My own writing was, and still is, an impatient scrawl that’s legible enough to read, but not something particularly beautiful. I immediately took to using a typewriter for everything when I was young and could always type much faster than I could write, so my handwriting never really got the practice it needed. But, I was fine with that as learning to write as fast as I can now type at this point would take me years of practice. But, I still want that desk someday, even if there’s just lovely art supplies and a laptop sitting there.

As much as I’ve turned to machines for writing from the very beginning, I’ve not ended up making art the old-fashioned way. Philippe just got a new iPad and was drawing pictures on it today. The program even tried to make sounds that mimicked the scratching one might hear from a fountain pen or pencil. The effect was intriguing, but didn’t give me the same visceral reaction that I get when I hear my own real fountain pen scratching on actual paper. I gave it a try and it was fun, but didn’t have an emotional appeal. As I was sketching, I could see a tiny dot of red paint on my hand. Something that wouldn’t exist if my art were to go completely digital. And, it lacked the spontaneity of my current approach as well. Though I hadn’t realized it, I guess I kind of like that sense of danger and adventure that comes from not being able to truly fix something during the process. The many little “mistakes” that always show up in my art were just a click away from disappearing.

I’m not sure why I managed to love imperfections in my art, but didn’t like to see so many in my handwriting. I think it was because as a child, I thought I would grow up to be a writer as a profession. I wanted to focus on writing better and trying to improve my handwriting when there was a perfectly good typewriter sitting there seemed like a waste of time. As it turns out, my profession and my final degree were both art related and words took a back seat. My focus was graphic design and all of it was on computer. I rarely sketched anything and it was only to quickly communicate an idea to my team. So, when I picked up a fountain pen and started coloring with watercolor a little over five years ago, I felt like I’d found something truly unique and special. Something far removed from my job that could become a lovely hobby. Then the most amazing thing happened. I started writing these posts and sent them out into the world and found myself writing again as well. And though my stories are not on a piece of parchment with a feather quill pen, it’s nice that life has come full circle and I’ve ended up spending each day writing letters.

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About the Doodlewash

Da Vinci Paint Co.:  Yellow Ochre, Quinacridone Red, Cobalt Turquoise, Ultramarine (Green Shade), Terra Cotta, and Indigo. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? 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!
Raccoon Writing Letter Victorian Baroque Antique Desk Watercolor Illustration Painting Sketchbook Detail

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36 thoughts on “Writing Letters

  1. Fabulous Charlie! My dad made me a small rolled top desk many years ago and it sits in the hallway outside our bedroom. He knew that I had fond memories of the huge rolled top desk that his father had. Many memories shared with tons of cousins in the front room of the grandparents’ farm house.

  2. Good for you Charlie! I don’t like doing art on tech tools either, why bother. I lvoe antiques! My handwriting has the lovely patient kind I don’t see in NoteBook any more as I rush for some reason and try to write faster than I can think. Good luck. So my other writing style is cramped and illegible. And if it is important I print and then rush so I can hardly read it. I love your painting!

    1. Thanks so much! 😃💕 Yeah, my handwriting can’t keep up with my brain! lol So, I just stick to typing as that seems to work much better. I figure, whatever works as the words are the most important thing in the end!

  3. I always wanted one of those roll top desks as well. I’d want one that was hand-made, though. Like most art, carpentry isn’t quite the same with mass produced pieces. I do enjoy doing digital art once in a while. I used to use a program called Scribbler. The nice thing was that the brushes would spike with various lengths, so you weren’t able to totally control what you would get. To me, that added that variable you get with hand-drawing.

    1. Yeah, Philippe been playing on the iPad all day and sketching… he seems to enjoy it! It’s really cool, but nothing I’d trade a sketchbook in for! hehe 😉 And yay for handmade desks… that’s the only kind I’d bother spending money on!

  4. Love this, Charlie! I am very fortunate to have my grandmother’s desk…a smaller version of what you have painted. It was built sometime around 1900 and I truly cherish it…mostly because of the wonderful memories of my grandmother that are attached to it. I can’t believe it’s Friday!! Have an enjoyable weekend!!

  5. So cute! 💜 I think technology is wonderful, but NOTHING beats hand made, handwritten, hand crafted, hand painted. It is what makes it alive! It makes it real! Not a copy. People always ask me why I have such beautiful handwriting. When I tell them that I handwrite my cards and letters, they either look at me like I am koo-koo or they laugh. “Hand write? Just send send a text!” Not quite the same. Cards and letters can be held and touched and kept close in a special place. As you know , I do rubber stamping. We have gone from wood handled stamps to rubber cling stamps to clear photopolymer stamps to now digital stamps. I hate that! I want something in my hand! Coming from someone’s hand is coming from their heart.

    1. Thanks so much, Marisela! 😃💕 Yeah, I’ll take handmade any day over the tech. But it is much better and faster for commercial use, of course! But, I’m so happy to see artists and crafters making such wonderful things by hand. It’s always more special that way!

  6. I have one of those desks too. It belonged to the mother of my best friend. I don’t write very well either. One of those lost arts I suppose. We were all up in arms when we heard that they were no longer going to teach cursive in school, but since we don’t use it much ourselves, I suppose it’s a logical thing to go away. I still write cursive, but Joe mostly prints everything. We do have analog clocks in our house though, so there’s that.

  7. Such an exquisite grandfatherly racoon. The antique desk reminds me of my grandparents desk which my mother now has. Its a great-looking piece from those older days with lots of compartments and a lock and key. Wonderful illustration!

  8. Nice doodle Charlie. My hand writing is awful. My wife likes to do calligraphy occasionally and it looks great. I may give it a go one day. We are currently watching A Secret History of Handwriting on TV. Very interesting, it goes back to Egyptian hieroglyphics.

  9. Hello Charlie,

    Lord Raccoon looks very regal at his writing desk! I love his cushion. And the desk itself is wonderful! I love to write with my hand and still do. I’ve had fairly good handwriting since I was a kid, except when I forced to write only in cursive. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t get the hang of it for a long time. Now my writing is a mix of cursive and non-cursive. But yes, when writing articles, I end up typing coz my hand isn’t able to keep up wih my thoughts using a pen. And I could never NEVER imagine painting digitally. That would really take all the fun out of things.


    1. Thanks so much, Mugdha! 😃💕 Glad you enjoyed this! Yeah, I agree… I definitely think it’s more fun to create art by hand. Though for commercial art, I definitely think tech would come in handy. But for a hobby… it’s all by hand for me! Except the words… I have to type those or I get frustrating that my hand can’t keep up my crazy brain! lol

  10. It’s been a busy morning and I had an extensive comment, I had to answer something and viola’-it’s gone! If it was in pen, pencil or crayon it would still be here! I loved all the responses to this painting, and it is quite endearing to this community hearing their love of an old desk. Indeed I can echo that love of our communal history. I still own that sacrosanct item of my Grammie’s. It holds a tiny glimpse of her history, a couple of newspaper clippings about our loved ones in one of those hidden spaces. It’s small and indescript, a copy of very nice desk but perfect for folk like us. Nothing fancy, just cherished. A place for business and memories. I don’t keep my art supplies in it, I’m too messy. I am stationed on the corner of the kitchen counter😄😁😆 Grammie would give me the wink for being so practical and I think she’d appreciate finding some traces of her heart still hidden in the desk🥰

    1. Aww I adore that you have Grammie’s desk! 😃💕 What a wonderful thing to have and so many memories that it keeps. I think that’s a beautiful thing indeed. Something that bits and bytes can never really replace!

  11. Too funny! Now I know what those pesky raccoons do on their down time. Wonderful! Yes I prefer the old school way of sketching. I love the feel and smell of paper. AND, when the power goes out, I always have something to work on. 😉

  12. Although I have never experienced the joy you describe I likened your explanation to that of my connections with reading a “real” book compared to a digital alternative. However, I do have first hand knowledge of the emotional power of letter writing. The first post I wrote on my was based on a letter written by a nurse to my mother in 1955 on the death of my brother who died when I was 2 years old. That simple, heartfelt letter, that spoke of my brother as a “lovely little boy”, will stay with me forever. It was also the first time I was able to write the words, “My brother” Thanks to your post the emotions and the words are mine again.

    1. Oh, what a lovely story, Vicki! 😃💕 That is the most wonderful version of letter writing to be found. I think writing letters, in whatever form we choose, does help us find the voice to tell the stories that actually matter most. And in those words you wrote, you not only had, but still have in your heart a lovely brother. That’s a very beautiful gift indeed! 💕

  13. That’s a beautiful sketch! And those antique letter writing desks are a work off art. I remember them particularly from Downton Abbey (if you’ve watched the show) – they look so elegant writing letters on those little treasures.

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