I’ve shared in the past that I have a hang-up when it comes to sketchbooks. Several hang-ups, actually. I always want to be the person who is filling up stacks of sketchbooks, making notes, sketches, and drawings, capturing thoughts and ideas, practicing. I’ve gotten much better about it over the past couple of years and I actually filled a notebook with a journal and did several paintings and sketches when I went to Europe in the fall of 2019. I’ve been more consistent with getting my sketchbooks out to draw quick thumbnails before starting a painting, to make notes when I’m reading books or taking an art class, or to doodle.
Here are some of sketchbook hang-ups…
- I feel like there is a bit of magic that happens with certain paintings that is difficult to repeat. Some paintings just end up being very special. What if one of those paintings ends up stuck in a sketchbook? In other words, what if I create something really good and can’t replicate it on a canvas?
- On the flip side, what if I create something really bad and ugly and now there is a record of it? I realize this is silly when I can just rip out the page OR who really cares if a book that’s meant for practice has some less-than-awesome works?? The whole point of practicing is to get better and see a progression and I already appreciate my journey when I look at the sketches and paintings I did even a year ago. If I didn’t have a record of those, I don’t know if I’d be as aware of my growth. Even so, I have always been the kind of person to go so far as to rewrite a shopping list if it’s too messy for my liking.
- I feel a little self-conscious when I create. That might surprise some of you since I create all the time and share it online, but art is a little different than decorating and refinishing furniture. It’s more personal and, therefore, vulnerable. I feel a little hesitant to create a record of my practice, ideas, and creative play to later be read by someone at an estate sale. Morbid, I know. A little silly and way too self-important? Yes. But when you’ve combed antique stores, auctions, and estate sales regularly, you learn that everything ends up at one of those places eventually!
One of my goals during my time off over Thanksgiving and Christmas was to spend time creating and playing in my sketchbooks. I wanted to break through some of my hang-ups and create for the process of creating, work with new materials and mediums, get outside of my box and play creatively, and not even think about whether what I’m making is sellable, social-media-worthy, or bloggable.
And I did. It got to the point where I was working on 4-6 sketchbooks at a time, bouncing between them as paint and glue dried. I felt like I didn’t have enough free pages, so I kept pulling out another sketchbook to add to the chaos happening on my work surface.
I played with oils, acrylics, pastels, watercolor, charcoal, graphite, pen & ink, mixed media, and even did some stitching. I was cutting, pasting, painting, working, and reworking.
When I was running out of room, I even decided to make an old book, with beautiful green borders and heavy pages, into a sketchbook by applying gesso to the pages. I was brimming with ideas and felt the collaboration with the papers, materials, supplies, and tools I was using.
I glued a French postcard to the front of it, applied clear gesso, and added a little painting. Sorry, George Barr McCutcheon!
These pages were just too pretty and perfect for painting…
I also learned that I love watercolor so much more when I mixed it with a little bit of white acrylic gouache…
These paintings look a lot more like my oils but have the benefit of drying quickly…
And I have continued past the holidays, taking a little time most days to do a quick painting or sketch. I’m not in my sketchbooks daily, but that is the goal.
Most recently, I did a Van Gogh study in my own color palette, which was fun. It’s such a departure from my style, but I love how it turned out!
And, of course, everything looks better on that pretty deckled-edged paper.
I’ve had a fun time collecting bits of old paper to eventually use…
Although some of the letters just might be too pretty to use in a sketchbook. I might have to frame a few.
In addition to playing creatively in my sketchbooks, I have been taking more time each day to work on paintings to sell. I’m hoping to have another sale in March.
Have you given yourself the gift of creative playtime lately? It’s so easy to put it off in favor of more practical pursuits, but it’s so good for the soul. If at all possible, take that time to nurture your creative heart, doing whatever lifts your spirit. As you’re organizing your supplies and materials specifically, set some things aside that spark your creativity and make something.
The laundry can wait just a little longer…
PS – I thought I shared the classes I took that inspired me to dive into my sketchbooks more, but that section must’ve been deleted when I was editing the post. The first picture was a project for a class with Pam Carriker (The Working Art Journal) and I was inspired to do the charcoal portrait as a study for a class with Renee Mueller (Graceful Muse), both on Jeanne Oliver’s website. Renee’s class called Conversations, offered on her own website, was also so inspiring for working with old papers.