What It Is: A Not So Magical Marker

While we were discussing Lynda Barry’s book What It Is, our discussion turned to when we stopped drawing. As I listened to others tell their story, I began thinking of my own; however, I did not share it during class because it I did not think that I could do it justice.

Every Saturday morning, I watched the cartoon Fat Albert religiously. I enjoyed the cartoon, but the highlight of my viewing experience was when Bill Cosby would do his Picture Pages with his magic pen Mortimer Ichabod Marker. I wanted to learn to draw so bad, and each week, Bill would teach kids how to draw (it was draw by number, but I didn’t really understand) with his trusty magic marker that made awesome eighties space-age sound effects as it moved from one number to the next. And, at the end of every segment, Bill reminded each child that they too could own Mortimer Ichabod Marker for a small fee and parental permission.

Every week I tried my hardest to draw along with Bill and Mortimer, but my pictures never looked like theirs. One Saturday morning, my picture of a boat was so bad in comparison to theirs that I decided that the only way to fix the situation was to talk my dad into making Mortimer mine (I knew that my mother would be a no go, so I went straight to the softy). After two weeks of begging and showing adequate proof of my need for the magic marker, my dad caved in and ordered Mortimer for me.

For four weeks I waited and plotted mine and Mortimer’s drawing adventures. I had so many pictures in my mind that I knew I could draw with his help. When Mortimer Ichabod Marker finally arrived, I was ready to get down to drawing business.

I decided that we should start simple; we were going to draw a tree under some clouds. I took Mortimer out of his packaging, whipped out a piece of blue construction paper, and pressed the marker down on the paper, anticipating the space-age sound to emanated out of the marker, but nothing happened. No sound came out. I thought that maybe he needed to wake up. I knew he would if I just kept drawing, but that did not happen. Then I thought that maybe Mortimer was too busy to make his trademark sound; the picture was more important than the sound, right? So I kept on drawing; however, the actual picture was not looking the way I envisioned it. In fact, it was terrible.

That is when I stopped drawing. If a magic marker endorsed by Bill Cosby did not help, then I was hopeless. At least, that is what I thought then.


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