Just four years ago I would never have thought of using a sketchbook. It was a thing I really had no interest in doing. Here's why.....
1. When I did my Fashion Degree at Kingston Poly, we were nagged to “keep a sketchbook’. In fact I think it brought us marks, so I doggedly sketched rather lame sketches of Japanese designer-inspired garments and glued in glossy cut-outs from Vogue (circa 1983). I reluctantly filled my black book and never looked at it again (although I think I still have it in the attic if you want a laugh one day).
2. I never found the time, (as so many others find) between trying to be self - employed and looking after the kids. It was all very well me telling myself “take some time to be creative” but to my mind I figured that creative time meant producing something of worth, something sellable i.e. a painting, on canvas that could be put on a gallery wall. So that’s what I did. What use was a sketch in private book?
3.Thirdly, I was plain scared. Just the thought of making a mark on these nice white pages filled me with some kind of dread. What if I made a mistake? Made a rotten sketch? Got all tight and fiddly again?
So it was not until I had a break away in Brittany, with a fair bit of time on my hands and a new book in my suitcase that I thought I’d have a crack at it. And this is what started me sketching.
I noticed that the time I was spending looking and starting to put some shaky lines onto the pages was time almost lost, but lost in a good way, I had stopped looking at how long I had been there and had just disappeared into a quiet, fuzzy, wholly pleasant, switched-off moment. And this, to someone as frazzled and scatty as me felt really nice and really new. I had stumbled upon mindfulness before anyone really chattered about it.
Also I realised how much I was looking at what was in front of me. But this I didn’t twig until I was back home and strangely found myself not flicking through the snaps I took on my phone but turning the sand-filled pages of my rather ratty looking sketchbook. I could recall in amazing detail; colours, sounds and smells. Even taste the sandwich that served that day on the beach and so on. This woke me up.
More revelations followed, one of the biggest eye-openers coming from urban Sketcher Felix Scheinberger who suggest not working chronologically but starting on page 17. Perfect! Why not?! Nothing worse than being faced with that dodgy warming - up sketch on page 1.
And so my habit started. Sure, there are times when sketching is not possible. Maybe I am stuck at home being busy with chores, work or whatever. Maybe I feel under the weather or weary. I do know though, that when I start I am happy and relaxed and switched-off. And the feeling is good.
Here are some other things that helped me enjoy this sketchbook thing…
Using a pen - this makes me much more confident. I can’t change my mistakes, I go with them.
Having several sketchbooks on the go - dot about, have different books for different things.
Not using top of the range sketchbooks - this comes from me. I know the fear in drawing on beautiful paper, so why not draw on something less precious….less pressure.
Showing people - mostly people love what people sketch. Anyway no-one will be horrid and mostly people are nice, which builds confidence and takes away fear.
Writing notes - to me, somehow it makes it all less serious. Add labels, observations and signs. You are creating a memory and this all helps in spades.
Only drawing on location, not painting - I don’t have the time or the right bag for loads of messy kit. Far better to draw and head home to that cold beer at the end of the day and crack the paints open whilst enjoying that. I am always amazed that I can recall colours and shade. It is because I was looking so hard!
Not focusing on “mistakes" and don’t tell people about them- I am getting better at this but if something is a bit wonky it really doesn’t matter. It will mean something to you and anyway, you are shutting the front cover so no-one need see!
And there are others. It’s very often about breaking with convention and doing away with all the crap about “not being good enough”. If I had a sound for every person who says this….
This sketching business is all about you feeling good, gathering snapshots in a very meaningful and personal way. Have faith in yourself. You’ll be glad you started messing about in that black book!