CHECKING IN with Matthew Cordell: Because I was getting worried about frostbite

JP: Hey, Matt! I’ve noticed that you seem to be taking a morning walk each day, sketchbook in hand, regardless of the weather. That’s cool. Or in this case, freezing. Um . . . just wondering . . . is everything okay with you? What’s up with that?
MC: For years, I’ve been trying to incorporate some light exercise into my daily routine. I’m by no means athletic, but the older I get, the more it seems I’m expected to do such a thing. (Sigh.) We have a treadmill in our house and I find it horribly boring to get on that thing, even with music or tv on. I also find it boring to just walk around our suburban neighborhood.
So what changed?
Back in November, I made this really cool trip out to Bozeman, Montana, for a book festival and school visits. And I was fortunate enough to spend some of that time in Yellowstone. I realized on that trip that I was perfectly willing to get out and exercise (walk) if the scenery was beautiful enough. And I’ve got some great forest preserves near my house, so it all just kinda clicked after that trip. Another thing I’ve been trying to do for years is keep a daily (or semi-daily) sketchbook routine going. Doing a bit of daily drawing that has nothing to do with the books I’m making. Drawing that has nothing to do with deadlines or expectations.
So this is not the next big book from you? 
I wish I could figure out a way to turn this into a book somehow, because it’s been a lot of fun for me and good for my well-being.
Maybe a picture book involving hypothermia . . . ? 
But getting a book out of it is not really the point. I guess everything like this is for the greater good anyways, so it all helps fill the well or whatever that expression is.
In my own way, I can relate to what you’ve been doing.  For the past year I’ve been trying to begin my days by writing at least one haiku. Today I wrote two bad ones about mud. Who cares! I did my best. It’s not about the finished product. It’s about the benefit of paying attention to the natural world. That’s a Mary Oliver line, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” That’s true regardless of your spiritual inclinations. In other wordsdon’t just do somethingstand there. Attend, notice. But in your case, it seems like a head space thing. You aren’t actually drawing what’s in front you, right? 
Yes, that’s exactly it! Sounds like you are doing the writer’s equivalent of what I’ve been up to. That’s cool. And no, I don’t usually draw what I’m looking out on my walks. I love drawing animals, so I’ve been doing a lot of that. I grab images off of Google and save to my phone. I’ll occasionally do a self-portrait while out in the cold. Self-portrait is great, immediate subject matter that you don’t have to think too much about. I think I’ll draw more from life when spring comes and everything starts coming alive again. It’s just not terribly inspiring to me to draw a bunch of leafless trees and snowbanks. 
Oh, I guess you didn’t read my post about the beauty of bare winter trees. It made a huge splash on the interwebs. 
One of the things holding me back was up until recently I never knew of a good pen to draw with that would emulate the sketchy desk-bound dip pens I love to use. An illustrator pal (and fountain pen aficionado), Steve Light, tipped me off to a type of refillable pen that had just the right line I’d always been looking for. So the daily morning walk/exercise doubles as a daily art/exercise. It’s all good for the soul and brain to do this stuff. It makes me feel better for the rest of the day. It clears my head. It’s good to get away from the desk and emails and studio and do it. It’s definitely cold!
We got a puppy about two months ago. A highly energetic dog that needs lots of walks. So I’m getting out there in every sort of weather –- and most of the time, I feel glad I’m out. A dog forces you to venture out into the world, wrap that wool scarf around your neck, whereas otherwise I might stay indoors, laptop open, hovering over Facebook’s angry icon.
I don’t really notice the cold after about 10 minutes into the walk. It helps to layer up. Snow pants and everything.
love my silk long johns.
It’s interesting, because this whole thing started for me in the dead of winter. I’m looking forward to experiencing this throughout the different seasons. Drawing outside is probably a lot easier when it’s 70 degrees. I wonder how it will be when it’s 90 degrees.
Um . . . sweaty? 
Different challenges in the summer. Maybe I can use the sweat for some watercolor work.
Okay, that’s pretty gross. Otherwise, I’m glad we had this little talk. I stalk you on social media, naturally, and I was growing concerned for your mental health.
It never occurred to me that any of this looks a little unusual until I started posting about it on social media. Several concerned friends have been like, “Why the heck are you out there drawing in sub-zero wind chills?”
Some days I can only tolerate taking my glove off just long enough to draw a simple line drawing. But it feels like an accomplishment when I do it. I realize I could just do walk and do the drawing indoors before or afterwards. But there’s something really invigorating about pushing myself in that way. Going outside and staying outside to do both of these things I want to do. It’s just nice to draw outside. I do really enjoy all of it. I guess when I think about it, it is kind of unusual or ridiculous in a, like,”extreme sport” sort of way. Yes, I totally just equated this very mild activity with extreme sports.
No, I mean, Matt, I’m serious. I really love my long johns . . . 
MATTHEW CORDELL IS THE AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR OF THE 2018 CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER, Wolf In the Snow.
-M
HIS NEW BOOK, Hope, COMPLETES HIS “WISH” TRILOGY. 
          

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