Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Questions Answered

     I love seeing how your sketching is developing.  I know you are sorting through your angst and I'm confident that you will figure how, or whether, sketching fits into where you want your creative life to go.  I've been plugging away at the Every Day in May sketching challenge, although I do it loosely.  For me, my goal is to sketch SOMEthing every day, whether or not it's on the official EDIM list, and I don't worry about whether I am doing that day's challenge on that same day.  Here is the page spread for #15 (cookie) and #16 (stapler).  Do you get Girl Scout cookies in the UK, and have you ever had a Samoa?  They have a shortbread base, then a layer of caramel and coconut, then it's all coated in chocolate on the bottom.  Delicious!

 I made a small journal (using Cathy Johnson's maze book structure which she shows here) and it has just enough pages for all of May as long as I remember to put two things on one page at some point!  Each page is about 5x7 inches.

I never did answer the questions you asked in your last post, so I thought I would do that, finally! 

Has sketching made a difference to anything you do?

    Yes, actually.  In part it’s seeing things differently.  Noticing details, appreciating the beauty in simple things.  Nowadays, as the result of having discovered how much I like sketching buildings, I notice architectural detail more than I ever did.  I found that photography has had this effect on me, as well, but with sketching my sense of detail and really looking closely at things has changed even more.  I think I’ve come to appreciate funky or run down things more, too.  Something that can look junky and dreadful in person can actually be very fun to sketch, I have found. 

        And it has made its way into my quilting a bit. You might remember that I used sketches for one of the last 12x12 quilts on the theme Maverick:

 A while ago I had one of my sketches printed onto fabric via Spoonflower and I intend to turn that into a quilt.  Soon.  I have to finish a few other things in the work first! 

    Mostly, I think it has changed my level of confidence in myself as an artist.  I’ve told you how I always viewed my sister as “the one who could draw” which, be definition, meant that I was the one who couldn’t.  It has been such a pleasurable experience for me to discover that I can learn it and improve at it. 

I think you said to me once how when you see another person's messy, quick, gestural sketches you love them but when you do that yourself you hate them. Do you still feel like that? I certainly do.

    Yep.  And what’s more, I think that’s quite common. What seems charming and full of personality in someone else’s work seems distorted and wrong in our own.  But I think I’ve told you before that I try to remember to “embrace the wonky” and it has become a little mantra to myself.  I frequently find that I can do a sketch and feel dissatisfied, and then I’ll see it after a few days later and like it better.  And I ask myself how I’d feel if I saw that in someone else’s sketchbook, and almost always I realize I’d like it a lot.

     Here was my breakthrough on that.  In one of Jane LaFazio's classes (mixed media I think it was) she had us prepare page background by painting and stencilling a bunch of pages at one time.  I found it kind of pointless, preparing a page when I didn't know what I was going to do on it. One evening, I was in the mood to sketch, but just wanted to hang out in front of the tv.  So I opened my sketchbook to one of the pages I'd prepared, figuring I didn't like it already so I couldn't ruin it, and I figured a fast contour drawing would be fun. I did this, and when I was done, I loved it, wonkiness and all.

     In my Urban Sketching outings, I’ve made a friend named Pip who has (to my eye) a gorgeous style with very delicate and amazing watercolor skills.  I always see what she does and my heart sinks a bit and I wish I could have done something JUST LIKE HERS.  But she tells me she feels exactly the same way when she looks at my sketches.  So we make a good sketching pair, I guess .  But it’s a funny example of how so many artists judge themselves far more harshly than they judge others.

How I got into sketching–

    Some years ago (hmm, before we adopted Miss C so maybe around 1994ish) when I lived in New Hampshire, I was talked into taking a watercolor painting class with a friend of mind named Judy.  I mainly wanted to see her more often, and she persuaded me that the class was for beginners and I’d like it.  And I did, although many people in the class were serious painters who used it as workshop time to paint work they would then sell.  But it was the first sense I had that I could learn to draw.  I remember in the very first class, we were to draw and then paint using one color a chinese food takeout carton.  I was struggling with perspective, and the teacher came over and with one pencil stroke, changed ONE line and the whole thing sort of popped into place.  It amazed me and made me realized I’d not been that far off.  So I did a few sessions of that class, and started learning a bit about watercolor and paper and paints.

    But then Caroline arrived and life changed and I didn’t do it any longer.  But a few years back, I knew someone who had taken a class from Jane LaFazio.  And I so liked the sketchbook style of painting – not aiming for a formal, perfectly glazed watercolor effect, but just doing wonky drawings and using paint to add color, and I figured I’d give it a try.  And away I went.  Since then, I’ve taken a bunch of online classes that have been helpful – from Jane LaFazio, Val Webb, Sandy Holtzman, Laure Ferlita, Cathy Johnson... but really, I think mostly those have been most useful because they make me keep sketching and painting. 

How important is being part of a sketching group to me in whether I keep going?

    It’s not that important actually.  But I think that might be because my sister is always sketching in some fashion or another, and she inspires me... and now I have other friends who are pretty regular sketchers too.  I think I get inspired seeing other sketchers’ work, on Facebook and Flickr, and the various Urban Sketcher blogs.  And I enjoy posting my work on Flickr and Facebook at times because positive reactions are encouraging.  I really do like having others to sketch with, and to talk about it with, and to go someplace with and then see what they choose to sketch in the same location, that sort of thing.  But really, the biggest satisfaction I get from sketching has to do with the zen-like, meditative feeling I get when I’m sketching.  It brings me to the present moment and makes me look closely at something and every day life stuff just evaporates for a little bit.  It’s THAT feeling that keeps me sketching, and so I think I’d keep sketching even if I weren’t connected up with other sketchers. 

Did I do art stuff when I worked in an office full time?

    Yes, I did, mostly.  Maybe more crafty than actual art, but I always needed to do creative stuff to balance out the lawyerly side of life.   When I first started working as a lawyer, I was sewing clothes a lot.  I actually made a lot of my suits because as a new lawyer I couldn’t afford the tailored clothes I needed, and I have long arms and so it was hard to find blouses and jackets with the sleeves long enough!  So I made my own.  (I will always remember one of the first hearings I went to on my own, which ended up in front of one of the few (at that time) female judges.  And she was wildly complimentary about my suit, a gorgeous winter white wool suit if I do say so myself, and I didn’t want to say that I’d made it because I thought that would sound too girly and unlawyer-like! )

    And I grew up in a household where crafty stuff was encouraged, so I did needlework all through law school, and I did a whole lot of knitting when I was first working as a lawyer – that was how I first learned of Kaffe Fassett and even undertook one of his really complicated patterned sweaters. But as work got busier, I spent less time at it.  I’ve told you about the period of time when I was feeling burnt out about trying medical malpractice cases, and I started having some chronic fatigue health issues, and ended up taking a sabbatical from practice to address my health and sort out my career goals.  During that time, I remember the first thing (and only thing in a long while) that got me excited was discovering using fimo clay to make jewelry.  I became obsessed with just mixing clay colors!  And I remember thinking that I was definitely recovering if something creative was getting me excited again.  I felt that part of my sliding down into chronic fatigue had to do with the lack of balance in my life – work had far overtaken creative activities – and I concluded that doing creative things is necessary to my health on a lot of levels. 

    But even with all of that, I do understand how very hard it is to have time to work full time and manage a house and spend time with family members and then explore all of the wonderful creative things there are out there, too.  So I can appreciate your frustration with trying to find yet another 20-minutes-a-day for sketching when your days are jam-packed as it is.

   At present, I don't work full-time outside of the house, but at times I have long days of work at my desk, and on others I have a lot of ferrying of Miss C to appointments and events.  So my goal is to try to do something creative everyday.  Maybe sketching, maybe sewing -- and some days I figure that watching videos or looking at inspiration online via videos and flickr is all I have time or energy for.  But that's okay.  I feel happier when I relax about it.

  But now it is dinnertime, and the dog is staring at my intently to tell me it is past time for hers, so I will post this.  I look forward to see where you are going with all of this.   

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