Keeping a Sketchbook
Many artists will tell you they’ve doodled-drawn-sketched ever since they can remember. I am no different. I always had pads scattered about with drawings I worked on, especially when I was idle. My sketching came in bursts, but there was no real method to my madness.
I recently attended two programs about “Keeping a Sketch Book.” One by Carol Siracuse of Buffalo, and the other by Bill Mancuso of Ohio. They both came with multiple sketchbooks and numerous materials. Carol makes extraordinary sketches of her world travels. Bill predominately sketches the ordinary in everyday life. Bill remarked that he sketches every day, no matter how late, or how little energy he has at the end of a teaching day. He always gets one drawing in.
As the new year unfolded, I purchased a few supplies and committed to completing at least one sketch a day, no matter how simple or rough. I am on day 43 and so far have sketched my dog, a banana, a cup, a pencil, the TV, etc. Surprisingly, this is what I’ve learned so far:
1.How to simplify my materials.I am an art-materials junkie. I love trying new brushes, colors, papers and mediums. With sketching, I don’t need expensive supplies. I purposely tried to limit my materials so as not to distract myself or to complicate the process.
2.Practicing discipline.No matter what, I manage to get a sketch on a page before I go to bed. It’s an awesome feeling of accomplishment, even after a trying day.
3.My skills are improving.I am beginning to see what is actually in front of me, not what I “think” is in front of me. I see the blemish in the banana, the beautiful colors in a mushroom.
4.How to keep a journal.Bill Mancuso used his sketchbooks similar to keeping a journal. He included ticket stubs, stickers, and weather reports. I’ve never kept an ongoing journal, but now I have my sketchbooks.
5.Living in the moment.My mind has always traveled in many directions at the speed of light. Not surprisingly, meditation has never been my strong suit. When I’m sketching, I stay in the present. I focus on that one item or place and feel incredibly relaxed. I get into an almost meditative state.
6. Learning that life is not a competition.There is a quote from the 1920s poem Desiderataby Max Ehrmann that my grandmother would read to me; “Do not compare yourself to others for you will become vain or bitter.” I am my own worst critic. I can beat myself to a pulp comparing myself to others or worse, to try be perfect. Through sketching I’m learning not to judge but to create. I don’t expect a masterpiece every time, or anytime. I don’t feel any high stakes: I’m not comparing myself to others. I’m not listening to my inner critic. I’m just enjoying myself.
7. Hold on to a memory.One of my favorite Georgia O’Keefe quotes is, “God told me if I painted a mountain enough, I could have it.” Once I sketch something, I can look at it years later and remember the day, how I felt, and what my senses were experiencing.
My sketchbook has become my way of communing with my higher power. I am feeling present, appreciating the beauty in the ordinary, and feeling gratitude for another day. Most of all, I know that there is something greater than myself.
-- Cris Metcalf