A manipulated ink & Sharpie blind contour drawing of my canine best friend, Murphy.
Blind contour captures the essence better than anything.
If you've been to college or university to study art, you no doubt have been asked to be consistent with using a sketchbook. In fact, the two schools where I have attended, it was mandatory in most classes. In the college I attended as a kid out of high school, along with the three hours we spent every day in the drawing studio doing mostly gesture drawing, we were also required to bring a full sketchbook back after summer holidays. (I think my next blog will be about the importance and freedom found in blind contour and gesture drawing.) Perhaps I was one of the lucky ones because I loved this exercise, and still do, but like it or not, my drawing skills would never be remotely what they are today without these age old traditions.
I have currently embarked on a new mission: more sketchbook - less screen. Or, as Corey R. Tabor, an illustrator that I found online stated - more drawing, less clicking! So whether my chosen format for keeping sharp and developing ideas is a traditional bound notebook, dollar store canvas, chunks of cardboard, walls, the floor, or the back of old wrapping paper, one thing is for sure, ideas rarely, if ever, fall out of my brain onto a canvas fully developed. They always need tweaking and exploration. Any worthwhile depth I have achieved in my work has never happened while I was sitting and thinking about an idea; it takes roll-up-the-sleeves action.
As I draw daily, one thing accumulates on top of another and leads me forward to places that would have been left undiscovered without this process. Picasso said, "I have an idea, and then it becomes something else." I love this. For me, 'the something else' is what I'm hunting for, and the greatest success with leading me to that 'something else' is to use a sketchbook.
Ideas frequently arrive while I'm driving, so I'm often alongside the road jotting something down, therefore, it is pretty handy to have a travel sized sketchbook in hand. Having one by my bed is a great asset as well. I find a nicely bound notebook type easier to carry around than canvas, cardboard, or the floor, so it is my preferred method.
Right now, I'm concentrating on an exhibition that will be held in the fall of 2018. In the past three weeks things have loosened up dramatically because I've been consistent with my sketchbook. It's like when I haven't been consistent with daily walking and drinking enough water. It's a no-brainer, but I allow life to get in the way and I fall off the wagon. So, in the first week of using my sketchbook faithfully, I went from feeling like I was drowning to being ready to bring some transformed ideas to fruition. Now, don't get me wrong, there will always be unique things transpire on the canvas when it comes to the finished work; this is another crucial step in my process, but the initial development stage, for me, is vital, if I want something fresh to emerge. If you've never earnestly tried it, it may also be a wellspring for you.
So here are the 7 summarized reasons a sketchbook is my best friend as an artist:
1. I can trust it to always loosen up and uncover latent ideas and images that would otherwise stay dormant and locked away in the dark recesses of my brain.
2. One idea unleashes another idea and another and another; they multiply without fail if I just follow their lead.
3. It keeps my skill set sharp. Just like a musician, you have to work at honing your chops. I guess a person really does have to put in those 10,000 hours.
4. I feel so much better having thoughts and idea out on paper, or cardboard, or cheap canvas, or napkins, or, or...instead of them having them trapped inside my head.
5. I'm always looking for something new in my art practice. Doing a daily drawing can relieve the stressful anxiety that comes along with these uncharted waters. Most artists have felt like there were drowning at one time or another...this is an effective form of venting. Sketchbook therapy.
6. Barring fire and flood, it's a secure place to preserve ideas. As I mentioned, I spend time on the side of the road getting an idea down before it floats away. Ideas can be elusive, capturing them is especially important for me before I go to bed. If I draw it, write it, or record it somehow, I have at least given myself a better chance that my insomnia may leave me alone for the night.
7. It's exciting to know that there is a guaranteed new frontier within the pages of a $15 sketchbook; a world beckoning and waiting to be uncovered. What an exhilarating prospect! I literally just need to show up.
So, I have challenged myself, again, to dare to uncover all the nuggets that I know exist along this journey. Will a segue to the next body of work emerge? Most likely.
I challenge you to do the same. I dare you. I triple double dare you. What do you have to lose? 15 minutes from your day that you may otherwise spend in front of a screen, perhaps? It's all there, just waiting for us to step up to the plate. I'm dead serious when I say that it could change your life for the better. I'm on Day 25, so you better get started, or I'll whoop your butt! Like I said, what I uncovered in the first week of this recent journey rather blew my mind.
Heading into new territory without leaving home,
The Podunk Howler