I don’t sketch much. Every once in a while if I’m trying to work out an idea straight from my imagination, I’ll crack open my sketchbook and scribble out my thoughts. More often than not, I’m the kind of artist who heads straight to the drawing board, set out to do a complete piece, with nothing more than a vision in mind and a few reference images. One of the things that fascinates me about the work of other artists is the stuff they do in their sketchbooks. I often look at the sketch journals, preliminary works to final pieces and doodles of artists and feel amazed not just at the work but also their consistency in the practice of sketching. I’ve always wanted that kind of dedication but honestly, sketching isn’t something I’ve often enjoyed doing. I have a shelf full of half used sketchbooks full of random doodles of mediocre attempts at being creative and imaginative but nothing really worth looking at ever turns out. Trust me, when I say doodles, I really mean squiggly lines, shaded spheres and odd half finished shapes. Something happens to my brain when I open a sketchbook. I just go blank and with pencil in hand, resort to some rudimentary form of primitive artistry with a monkey grip. Well…that’s how it feels. Sadly, cave paintings are better than the stuff I scribble in my sketchbooks. So despite admiring the sketch work of others and desiring to at least have a halfway decent sketch practice, I never found much enjoyment in it. I had resigned to the fact that maybe I was just one of those artists who is more keen on heading straight to the final piece rather than spending time and energy on preliminary work or just sketching for skill and fun. I accepted that about myself and was content with just the line art I would do for my pieces. That was as preliminary as I could get and I left it at that.
By random chance something happened to me a few days ago. Now as a pen and ink artist you would think that something like this would have already happened but it hasn’t, until now. What had happened was something rather simple and small but greatly significant. I just randomly picked up a ballpoint pen and started sketching with it. That was it. I know, whoopdie-doo. 😒 What’s the big deal about that? The deal is it felt natural in my hand for sketching. You see, in my mind there are two types of pens; one for writing and one for drawing. I never write with my drawing pens and I never draw with my writing pens. You should see the conniption fit I have when my husband uses one of my drawing pens to write something. I’ve gone so far as to tell him he’ll disturb the creativity energy of my pens if he uses them to write on stuff. He hasn’t touched my pens since. I guess it helps that he’s a little superstitious like that.😋 Anyhoo, it never occured to me to try sketching with any of my writing pens, which are mostly ballpoints. Because I write a lot, a pen naturally feels comfortable in my hand. A pencil, I only use when I do my line drawings and that’s it. Everytime I would pick one up in the past with the intention to sketch, I always felt stiff, unable to loosen up and move freely with it. In my mind my pencil had become a specific, precise tool strictly for my base line drawings, not for the free flowing nature of sketching. But the ballpoint felt open with possibilities. So for the past two days I’ve been on a sketching kick and here’s some of the sketches I’ve done. They’re not the best but that’s fine, I’m more excited that sketching actually feels enjoyable to me. I now know to reach for a ballpoint pen instead of a pencil for sketching. Sometimes, a simple change in tools can help to expand your creativity and enthusiasm. 😊
I have a little confession, something I’m not particularly open about but felt like mentioning, rather briefly, in a short post. At the age of 43, I can honestly say that I would not have made it this far in life without art and music. In some of my darkest and lonely moments it has been music that pulled me through. And in all the times when I’ve felt that there isn’t anything in life to live for or look forward to, I could at least turn towards drawing and feel some semblance of happiness, personal satisfaction. The Arts does something to the soul that neither medicine, science or technology has been able to achieve. It’s a mystery to me but I am most grateful for it and thankful to be one of the many people in the world who have found healing and expression through it. Which is why I find it deeply disheartening that when it comes to education and budget cuts, the first thing to go are the Arts. If it has been the only thing that has gotten me through some rough times, then I’m sure it has gotten many others through difficulties in their lives. So when a society starts to devalue something that is soul saving do we really understand what we are doing to ourselves in the long run? Now I really don’t want to get into a long treatise on the value that the Arts brings to society but rather I just want you to sit there, just for a moment and try to imagine with me a world without the Arts. Imagine a world with no paintings, drawings, music, dancing, theatre, design, architecture, decorative elements or fashion. Imagine a world where everything is manufactured and mass produced. Cookie cutter homes, manicured lawns, sterile clean walls, clothing that’s only functional, no style, no pazazz…just imagine a world with no human touch to it.
How do you think that world would be? Do you think that such a world is even possible? If so, are we moving in that direction?
I am truly thankful for boredom. I know that may sound weird but it’s true. Unfortunately it gets a bad rap. Culturally we’ll do almost anything to avoid it and we often treat it like it’s some sort of disease that needs to be cured. But I think boredom is nothing to be afraid of or avoided. Actually it’s a very important part of my artistic process. You see, for me, inspiration, imagination and creativity are the sparks that get my artistic energy flowing but it’s boredom that often fuels my work.
My creative ideas are infinite. I can always think up something of interest to create so I’m never short of ideas, it’s getting around to sitting down and actually creating that’s the problem. And in this day and age that can be a difficult task. We have so many things that we can busy ourselves with that we can easily mistaken busyness for productivity without ever realizing that we’re not being productive at all. It reminds me of something I once read in regards to writers back when I was taking a creative writing class. There are two kinds of writers, the first is the kind of writer who reads writing books, joins writing groups, does writing exercises, goes to writing seminars and takes writing courses. The second kind of writer just sits down and writes. One writer is caught up in what I call “busy work”, the other is being productive. Sometimes busy work can lead to something productive but a lot of times it just creates the illusion of productivity. This can easily apply to artists as well so I often think about it to keep myself in line. It’s easy to get wrapped up in cruising the art supply store, buying new pens, sketchbooks and paper. I could easily spend time thumbing through art magazines, keeping tabs on other artists who inspire me and chit chatting with other artists and followers on social media. Now this isn’t to say that doing any of this is bad, it all has its part, it’s just that to be a productive artist I need to sit down and create art. That’s just the reality of it all. I can have the best art supplies, have a lot of artist connections and be surrounded with amazing artistic inspiration but it doesn’t count for doing the work and doing it well. There is no way around it. And for me to get to that point I personally need to get bored. It’s only when I’m face to face with boredom that I have no other choice but to sit down and do the work. It’s there in the stillness and silence of boredom that I am forced to be creative. I can no longer do the dance of avoidance. Without anything else to tantalize my senses or stimulate my mind, I pick up my pen and draw.
I now have the lineart drawn out for what I will be calling the “Koi Pond” series. So far it looks good but what I’m a bit intimidate by is all the ink that will be required to fill in the background to give the appearance of actually being in a pond…or at least some kind of body of water. Thank goodness I have some extra pens on hand because it may take two or three to finish this series out. Wish me luck.
On another note while drawing out this series, creativity struck me and I found myself scribbling out thumbnail sketches for another three piece series. I’m pretty excited about it but I’m not going to mention much right now. What I will say is that it will be a black and white series that may prove to be the most challenging for me for what I have in mind. I’m calling it “Broken Wing” but that is all that I’m going to hint at for now. 😊
Here’s to all the long forgotten things I find hidden in old sketchpads. I don’t remember drawing this but I signed it and dated it 2006, so I guess I did it. But this whole signing my name to my creations may one day be my undoing (I’m knocking on wood right now in hopes that it won’t). It brings to mind of my very first drawing as a child when all I could do was scribble up some stick figures, triangles, circles and squares. On one evening I decided to get creative and to the best of my perverse imagination (yeah… it starts young), I drew up the most provocative image of a stick man that my eight year old mind could hash out. (To my defense it was the 80s and I’m not sure my mother knew what actually came on late at night on HBO.) Upon completion I sat back and admired my handy work with a smile. But my glee soon came to a halt when I heard my mother coming into the living room. That little voice inside said “Quick, hide it!”…or maybe it was that little red creature with horns that periodically pops up out of no where on my shoulder. Anywho, I quickly shoved it under the couch and said what all children say when mother comes into the room and asks “What are you doing?” “Oh…nothing.” I answered with a innocent dose of big brown puppy dog eyes. And that was that. Before long it was dinner time and my young, easily distracted mind had moved on to other things.
Over the weekend I was doing that never ending weekly chore of cleaning my bedroom when I heard the vacuum cleaner come to an abrupt stop and my mother was suddenly summoning me out into the living room. That long hosed dust monster leaned strategically against her hip as she held out before me a slightly crumpled piece of paper with what was…well…an over “exaggerated” drawing of a naked stick man. She glared down at me and asked “Did you draw this?” I mustered up the most convincing voice my little body could squeak out.
And then there was the pause. She leaned down and glared at me harder and with a tone of suspicion she said, “Then why is your name on it?”
That was the moment when I realized I would make a terrible criminal.
I’m not drawing naked stick men anymore, thank goodness. I think my skills have developed enough to get beyond drawing sticks anyway but coming across this drawing conjured up that old memory of my first attempt at being creative. I guess we all have to start somewhere. 😋