Sandboxes

Desert Mystery Woman by Michael Hay based off a sketch by Timothy Keller

The late Tim Keller and I wanted to make a place where we, and some artists we liked could post our art. That was Illustrators Social Club. Now that it is over, I still wanted a place to occasionally post whatever I was working on somewhere besides social media. I wanted something connected to my portfolio site. Hence the new blog. I had a couple posts in line about some artists I wanted to chat about. But then I found a drawing in one of Tim’s sketchbooks that put me in a trance.

Tim’s original sketch

For almost 30 years Tim and I made sandboxes, meaning that as a sort of fictional universe. We had futuristic-noir detectives alongside genetically augmented soldiers caught up in corporate conspiracies. A splintered family at the heart of a world-wide shadow government set during the first Crusades. People rebuilding society after a failed alien invasion left part of the population with superpowers. A western that explored the genre’s tropes. The story of a failing P.I. who lost his family to substance abuse. On and on. They were just fun, creative exercises for us to keep our creativity nimble, and to better understand the process of storytelling.

Tim’s desert woman sketch stuck with me. A woman with a gas mask and sophisticated body armor wearing a desert pith helmet with goggles? What is the story there? Who is she? What has she done and seen? Maybe it was going to be the start of another sandbox? I couldn’t stop trying to recreate, in my own way, one of Tim’s final sketches. One of his final possible sandbox ideas. I knew I couldn’t post about anything else for the first post here.

Is that some weird catharsis? A way to feel as though he’s still with us in some manner? Am I just nostalgic for the times when we would hang out and just draw for hours? After hours of recreating that sketch and then making a final color piece, it did become a catharsis, a way to feel he was still with us, albeit briefly. And yes, I am very nostalgic for the times when Tim and I would just hang out and draw for hours.