Drawing from Photographs

When an artist goes to hell he is assigned to a certain circle. Specifically, it’s the fourth circle just off from the misers and spendthrifts. He’s given a small room in a small tangential circle off to the side. Upon entering his new home, he’s given a crappy spiral bound sketchbook and six plastic mechanical pencils. Then comes the real torment! There’s an eternal pile of photographs that are there for drawing. They are the only thing he can draw. Artists in hell have to draw from photographs forever.

Perhaps the artist gets tired of copying photographs and screams out in despair something along the lines of, “Aaaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhh! I feel like a machine, a photocopier! Am I not a man? A human? Can’t I use my eyes to draw from life!? Must I copy?!”

The answer, of course, is “yes”. He must copy forever. The demon assigned to artists is named Simulachrymose. His eyes are made of camera lenses and they are always leaky. He hands out lead for their plastic mechanical pencils and makes sure the spiral thingy on their spiral-bound sketchbooks is always wonky. He also enforces the copying-photos-only rule. If they try to break free and draw from their imagination or – worse – from life, he takes away their belnding stumps (tortillons?)  and makes them rub in the crappy plastic mechanical pencil lead with their fingers. Then they smear it



on themselves when they wipe the sweat off their faces and look like a doofuses forever.

As eternity stretches on (can eternity be said to stretch on? Isn’t it just eternity? It’s not like it’s a succession of moments, it just is), anyway, as eternity stretches on, the copiers become very good copiers. All of their drawings eventually look exactly like photographs. This leads to further despair and also illuminates the deviltry inherent in the torment. The eternal pile of photographs keeps getting larger. The drawings become indistinguishable from the original photographs. So, eventually, in hell, there are no drawings! Only copies of photographs.

(Trust me, it’s all in Dante in Inferno Canto XXXV.)

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