Since announcing the 2x2 Sketchbook project a year ago April, I've periodically shared my thoughts on keeping a sketchbook, my hesitancy, my fear, the contrasting pull between wanting to share it and wanting to keep it private.* Before that project I didn't write much about sketchbooks mostly because I didn't work much in sketchbooks.
Looking back on my art journey, I wish I had, especially when I read a post like this one from just over four years ago. I was fired up about working in my sketchbook (for which I had Dana to thank... I was taking her Artful Sketchbook class at the time) and I wrote:
It takes me a long time to work on sketches like that. But I'm enjoying it. I think my work with my watercolors and doing the sketches for those paintings has improved my drawing ability. I can only imagine what daily sketching will do for it! Maybe it's silly to be as excited as I am, but I've always wanted to be able to draw and have always felt intimidated by drawing. Now that I'm enjoying it (and feeling happy with my results), it feels like a whole world of possibilities has opened up for me.Sadly, after the span of that class I didn't keep up with my sketchbook, only taking it out once in a while when I was feeling inspired.
As with any practice, working in a sketchbook comes down to one thing: discipline. At first it can be very hard to overcome inertia (let's face it, it's easier not to sketch than it is to sketch), but once the practice of working in a sketchbook becomes habit it's much, much easier.
Any of you who have been following me from the beginning know that I am not one of those people who sat down to paint for the first time and discovered a natural talent (Susan Branch and Anna Mason come to mind as examples of that kind of story). No, my journey has been a lot slower.
Although I've been making art since 2010, I didn't truly embrace sketchbooks until late in 2014. The turning point came with my work preparing a piece for Hudson Valley Seed Library's Red Flower Carpet contest.
The painting I did for it depicts 13 varieties of red flower, some of which I had never heard of before the call for art for the contest.
I worked in sketchbooks as a necessity for the project.
Learning the flowers.
Planning colors and layout for the painting.
I began using this process for most of my paintings.
This time period marks another turning point as I began narrowing my creative focus. Until then I had been straddling craft and art, but I was slowly discovering that my true passion was art. I'm not sure if sketchbooks helped me to see this or if working in them was just a natural progression in my development as an artist, but sketchbooks were a big part of the creative unfurling I was doing at the time.
Between painting planning and practice, the 2x2 Sketchbook collaboration with Dana, a daily sketchbook challenge, a daily painting challenge and other sketchbook work, I was spending a lot of time with my sketchbooks. I still do, although perhaps not quite as much as I did while working on those projects.
I think I'm still transitioning. Still figuring things out. Still learning. Still growing.
I hope that my story encourages you to try what you've been wanting to tackle, whether it's a sketchbook or some other endeavor. In doing so you may end up looking back and wondering why you didn't start sooner.
Other than starting in the first place, my advice is: don't get discouraged if the going is slow. Society loves an overnight success story. It's glamorous and romantic. It's easy. We all like easy. But even those "overnight" successes spent years planning and practicing beforehand.
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."
So get to work.
But don't forget to have some fun, too, because without joy our work is empty.
*some blog posts where I talk about my feelings about sketchbooks:
- Here I announce my collaboration with Dana and share my fears surrounding keeping a sketchbook.
- Here I write about beginning a daily sketchbook and share thoughts after the first 30 pages.
- This post at the halfway point in the 2x2 Sketchbook project shares how committing to the project affected my sketchbook and general art practices.
- Here I share my thoughts about Instagram and sharing daily art practices.
- This post is about experimenting and trying new things in my sketchbook, specifically using markers (not my favorite medium).
- Here I share my thoughts about sketchbooks after reaching the 1 year point of sharing the 2x2 Sketchbook pages.