I have been keeping sketchbooks for about four years, but just about daily during the last year and a half. Prior to that I kept written diaries, often with things glued into them or doodled in the margins. There is just something wonderful about putting thoughts into books that can be closed and opened at the writer's or artist's convenience that has always appealed to me. I was an over-achiever in school, got 2 Masters degrees and a Doctorate at a fancy university, and became a college professor, and my ideas became my identity, which was good, because I had many ideas... but serious and pressure-filled. I needed a place to play, where ideas could simply be ideas, where I could write about the fun things I read, unrelated to my field of study. I always felt that books made me feel whole, and my journals, and then sketchbooks, give me the same feeling. I became very ill, needed major brain surgery, other surgeries, and my life became very different. After teaching for a grueling two years after I had recovered from the brain surgery, I realized my mind and body were not up to the task anymore. I packed up my life and returned to my parents' house, feeling shattered and useless. I did enjoy knitting and spending time with my family, but I longed to feel whole again, and my body just would not heal.
Eventually I landed on some youtube videos about art journaling and sketchbooks. I loved the idea of art journaling, because I could paint and collage without having to draw--something that I had never been able to do, and certainly never thought I could do. I started tentatively to gather up scraps of patterns, from papers, placemats, ribbons, really anything, and glue it down in my art journal. While I still was and am a knitter, I became more and more obsessed with my journals. At first I hoarded them, but eventually I joined a local art group and we shared our work with each other. It was fun and low pressure. I realized that drawing is a skill that can be learned! So I practiced and practiced in my sketchbooks. I started sharing images from my journals/sketchbooks on Instagram (@patricia.nordeen) and that keeps me accountable. Last year I participated in a 100 day collage project with Sharon Nullmeyer aka @nullsie, and that was really fun. I now have so many wonderful internet art friends! In 2016, I'm posting a sketchbook page per day on Instagram and am winding down a 100 day project with art friends, who are so close we call each other art sisters. Encouragement from my friends really helps.
Yes, I paint in bed, but if I am trapped in bed because my body does not feel well, I want to be creating. It makes me feel whole. I love these books with their crumpled pages and worn covers, many of which I have bound myself. There is always something new to learn, and that makes my inner over-achiever happy. Getting lost in drawing and painting soothes me. I can happily spend all day in my art journals and sketchbooks, playing with colors, styles, textures, and media. As someone who came to art later in life, I have much to explore, and that is a wonderful feeling. The pre-brain surgery me would rather be exploring the world, but there is a world to discover in art. Sketchbooks are private. I can choose to share what I would like, but ultimately, they are for me. The ones I bind myself are even more personal, and that privacy allows me to play without the kind of tortured-artist pressure staring at a canvas can induce. The practice of keeping a sketchbook gives my day structure and prompts me to notice the brightness of creativity all around me. I certainly hope to turn to the canvas at some point, but for now, I am content to play in my books and see how the pages unfold. As you can see from my images, my style is still kind of all over the place. For now, I am okay with that!
I love to paint weird, abstract, flowers and "ladies". These are just a sample. I love using acrylics for building layers with collage, and I love using watercolor and gouache, and fluid India ink, for their expressive powers. I'm really not above trying to use all the media, all the time. Why not? That is the beauty of sketchbook practice. It gets one thinking "why not?" about life and possibilities in general!
Thank you, Patricia, for sharing your story and your sketchbooks with us!
Dear reader, you can catch up with the other Sketchbook Conversations and find more inspiration here.
*Photos in this post © Patricia Nordeen. Used with permission.