Let me just make it clear that I haven’t done any sketching for a few years now but reading her article brought back to me how much joy sketching can bring and all the angst that comes up when you talk to people about drawing. I have heard it countless times and to be honest I used to say the same things myself….. “I don’t have the talent”, “you’re either born with it or you’re not” “I can only draw stick people” etc. etc. The truth is that while there are those who have natural talent and need no coaching in how to create wonderful pieces of art, the vast majority of us need a bit more help and encouragement.
The first revelation I learned (in my 30’s) was that sketching is a skill and it can be learned! How exciting. As my teacher said: “you weren’t born knowing how to drive a car – it was a skill that was taught to you and it was only after much practice that you got good at it”. I still wasn’t convinced of course and I think that that was largely due to the internal critic playing in my head. You know the one that says things like: “well thats a load of rubbish isn’t it?” “You’re never going to get any better at this – might as well give up” etc. etc. At this point most of us will give up – hide our shameful attempts from view and avoid ridicule from others at all costs.
This is the point where the right teacher or creative confidante can make all the difference. Someone who you can trust enough to share your artistic endeavours without fear of judgement or ridicule. Someone who will give words of encouragement and honest feedback (notice I don’t use the word praise here because whilst we all enjoy a bit of praise there isn’t much to be gained from someone giving you “oh its lovely” all the time).
I am sharing some sketches from my sketchbook from several years ago in the hope that you will see perfection is not the aim! Rather, it is about making marks on paper that have meaning to you, no one else. Marks on paper can not be deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they are simply marks (very zen I know).
Another very ‘zen’ thing about sketching is the meditative state you enter into – this is probably the thing I miss most about it: the losing sense of time and yet being wholly present and soaking up the sights, sounds, smells so that forever more when you look at that sketch, everything about that time will come back to you in an instant.
The sketch (left) was of a little boy playing on the beach at Ricketts Point in January 2004 – when I look at it I can still remember it like it was yesterday. I am pretty certain that a photo of the same scene would not give me the same emotional connection.
The other great thing about a sketchbook is doodling. Whatever craft you are into, doodling is a fantastic way to keep new ideas rolling and Laurie at Inbox Jaunt makes absolutely brilliant use of her doodles in her quilting designs.
Another fun exercise (particularly if you’re not in the mood for taking the sketchbook out) is to take a photo from a magazine (see below) and extend it either with pencil or paint – in other words just have some fun and make your mark!
I would love to hear what you’re own experiences are with sketching and whether or not you have ever been daunted by the blank page.