Travel Sketchbook: the Southwest Edition

When I was in Sedona, AZ, a few weeks ago, I did a very quick watercolor sketch of the colorful rock hills that make the town so famous.

After returning home, I looked at that sketch and decided it needed sprucing up. So I made it into a Pueblo city, inspired by the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, New Mexico — a place I visited many years ago, when I was a little squirt.

Because who said travel sketches can’t be composites of different adventures I’ve had over the course of my life?  Such sketches are like slices of my brain, transcending regular time and space. They’re documents from the part of my mind where memories have been a’stir (going about their business of building up on themselves, shifting shape, and assimilating new information). I guess you could think of them as travel sketches from my trips down “memory lane”.  Which is kinda cool, I think.
New Mexican Cliff Dwelling Illustration

(watercolor and ink)

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Illustrating Plaid, Illustrating Life

Colors. Patterns. Repeating shapes.Plaid, Plaid, Plaid

What, you want me to say something more?

Ok.

I love color. I love patterns. I love repeating shapes.

(What, I should keep going? OK.)

I love collecting colorful, patterned, repetitive things in my sketchbook. I love looking at something and interpreting it by splashing color around in blips and blobs that bleed into each other and congeal into unpredictable new forms. First, I put on my HYPER-COLOR-VISION goggles and play around in a world where shapes and structure are lost and all I see are layers and layers of vibrant, deliciously varied hues. Then I put on my pattern-seekers (another pair of goggles. Sorry, they’re not available in stores) and superimpose some sort of organizing structure on top of the color blobs below. I love tying up my amorphous pools of color-impressions with sturdy (but still expressive) defining lines. It’s just like life, where we sort of wing-it through experiences happening in real time and then, retrospectively, give them a conceptual framework by defining what occurred and what it meant to us.

So, yeah. There’s a certain thrill to filling a page in my sketchbook with a bunch of colorful, repeating things. I love the process (and yeah, fine, I’ll admit it: it’s fun to see an end result, too). It’s all really just an excuse to play around with shapes and color and try to figure out why these things mean so much to me. It’s engaging and it makes me feel good.

You know what else makes me feel good? Plaid. It’s nostalgic and trustworthy. Wearing it makes me feel like me.

Hence, this drawing. Sometimes, that’s all I’m doing: finding things that catch my eye — things that hook my imagination — and trying to understand them (and myself) through the process of interpretation/creation that’s called, apparently, “making art”. And all the while, I’m clinging to the hope that the end results will be things worth sharing with others so that I might have the opportunity to make them feel good, too. Because that’s the best.

Plaid and making art. They make me feel like me. What makes you feel like you?

The End. (or, if you’d like: “Die Geschichte ist aus und hier lauft eine Maus.”)

 

 

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Urban Sketching: Winter Street

Winter_StreetI did this at the end of last week. If you walk down that street now, the trees have LEAVES on them!

 

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Recent Sketches and Artistic Life Lessons

Eee! I’m so excited! I’ve finally started to make sketching a regular habit in my day-to-day routine. (It’s a habit that I’ve been meaning to cultivate for a long time).

Why? Because I was hoping that sketching would pacify the frenetic voice in my brain that is always yelling “Draw (paint) this! Draw that! And that over there, too! And WHOA!!!…wouldn’t THAT make a great art project?! What’s the matter, missy, can’t keep up?! Chop chop!”

It’s the exhilaration of finding everything I see to be just. so. darn. interesting, and wanting to give due attention to it all. It’s a blessing to see and feel this way — who doesn’t like feeling creative and inspired? But it can also be very crushing. I constantly have to remind myself not to get caught up in thinking that I actually can and must draw everything. And I have to discipline myself to focus on completing whatever serious art I’m working on (you know, like the bigger projects – commissions and my growing body of fine art paintings), even though my imagination has already moved on to the next 3 or 4 things that I want to paint.

So I started sketching more – while eating, while on the potty…(oops, too much information?…) – hoping that doing so would declutter my head and allow me to focus more on my serious art projects without feeling so hyped up on other ideas.

Well, what do you know? Sketching hasn’t stopped the madness. In fact, now, when I look around me, I see even MORE possible art projects. Sketching (as I’ve said before) increases my awareness of how interesting life is, so of course, my plan has only left me with eyes even bigger than they were before. It’s like that saying: “my eyes were bigger than my stomach” only in reference to visual snacks. So now I feel even more excited about making art, but also feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions instead of a mere thousand.

So then I sat down to think about why it’s SOOO important to me that I get everything out there on the paper. Why do I feel awful when I don’t get around to creating things? And I stumbled upon this:

The desire I have to “draw it all” is really a desire to share and connect with people. I want to show you all how great things are, make you feel the greatness too, so you don’t miss it. It’s the same desire that makes me want to cook “all the things” for my husband, to make people laugh, and to understand whomever I’m conversing with.

And you feel it, too. It’s the desire that pulls you towards doing and saying what you think is meaningful. Maybe, like me, you sometimes feel selfish pursuing your creative dreams, fearing that what you contribute won’t be of value to the world, that it will just be a waste. BUT THAT’S WRONG. Things are never black and white. Creating is selfish and it’s not. Yeah, I get to revel in the joy of making stuff. And of COURSE I share my art with the hope that you give me compliments and make me feel like I’m doing good things. But that’s just the surface stuff. Deep down, it’s the sharing itself that I really come back for, over and over again. I want to give YOU things — things like awareness, beauty, and appreciation for the simple goodness that surrounds you. Making art, and feeling chronically angsty about making ALL of it, is at the core, just the unquenchable longing to connect with you. To understand and be understood.

So I’ll keep sketching, even though it didn’t serve the purpose I had hoped it would. And I’ll share some of my sketches from time to time because, even though they are nothing to brag about, they help achieve the goal that this whole crazy art making adventure is aimed towards: connecting, communicating, and giving.

AAAND I’ll keep feeling crazy over needing to make more…

….and more…

…and more.

…but that’s kind of a beautiful feeling, I decided.

WinterTrees_Sketch WinterTrees2_sketch Teapots_Sketch_Inked Teapot_Sketch_1
Teapot_3
 Fruits_sketchApartment_Snow_sketchTable_sketchCats_Bathtub_Sketch

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Travel Sketch: the Italian Alps

I really like the idea of keeping travel sketchbooks. Part of what I love about traveling is all the artistic inspiration I get from observing nature, people, architecture, culture — how life unfolds, in general, in places the world over. When I’m traveling, though, I end up struggling to actually keep a sketchbook because I’m so busy taking it all in. There are so many stimuli, and I feel so immersed in the experience that I can’t sit still long enough to draw it. The thought of trying to translate a slice of it onto paper overwhelms me because I’m afraid that it won’t do justice to the realtime experience that I’m having.  And of course, I’m self conscious about making something…ugly.

But whenever I DO manage to sketch places I visit, I always really appreciate it afterwards. A sketch is able to capture “the feel” of a moment and place in a way that a photo cannot. Looking back at my travel sketches brings me back to that snippet of time, and I suddenly remember details like what thoughts I was having and what the sounds were like on the street. I often say that sketching is an excellent way to slow down and appreciate, on a deep level, what is going on around you. The act of doing it helps attach you to the moment, so that when you look at the sketches later, you remember (quite viscerally actually) so, so many things that you thought you’d forgotten.

So I’m going to be less self conscious and do more travel sketches. But in the meantime, I’ve been doing some sketches based on photos I took from past travels, and it has been a worthy exercise too. It also helps me remember the experience and reminds me how much I appreciate life. As always, art brings me back to the realization that to simply exist in this world is a rich, heart-filling adventure.

This is somewhere in the Italian Alps. June 2013:

ItalySketch

 

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Some Sketches (and 5 Reasons Why You Should Sketch)

I’m going to try to post more of the sketches that I do throughout the week, just in case anyone is interested in seeing that aspect of the creative process. So, here are some sketches of the lilies my husband bought me when I returned home after being away for a week. (Isn’t he great?). (Also, feel free to enjoy the mysteriousness of the notes I scribbled to myself on the corner of the page):

Lily_Sketches

 

There are MANY reasons why I sketch. Here are 5 that I can think of off the top of my head:

1) To keep up on my drawing skills. Like any skill, a person’s ability to draw can get out of shape. I sketch so that I can keep my skills at a certain level. Then I don’t have to put energy into re-discovering how to draw every time I have a commission.

2) To improve my powers of observation. Sketching increases my awareness of all things visual. Things like shadow, light, texture, form…

3) To discover new techniques. It seems there are ALWAYS more things that I can learn about my art-making materials. Sketching helps me learn different ways that I can use my pencils, pens, and brushes to get certain effects.

4) To connect to my surroundings and the present moment. It can be a rather meditative and spirit-nurturing experience!

5) To take quick note of something interesting, whether it be an interesting composition, object, scene, or idea. Noting such things helps me to remember ideas that I want to use for future projects.

Sharing my sketches is something I’ve been reluctant to do. It means that I have to swallow my pride. There’s a large part of me that doesn’t want to reveal the not-so-pretty things that regularly show up amongst my doodles. I am, after all, trying to show you why I’m a GOOD artist, not a bad one. But another part of me thinks that maybe, just maybe, you’ll find my sketches interesting enough to be worth looking at from time to time– the same way you’d find watching a behind-the-scenes documentary of a band or movie interesting.

Maybe?

Well anyway, sketching is part of being an artist. And making mistakes and BAD looking drawings is part of being an artist. Goodness knows, we all need to be realistic about how “perfect” we really aren’t. Then, making “mistakes” isn’t so scary! If everything is part of the process, then there’s no such things as “mistakes”! Just opportunities to learn.

And isn’t learning great?!

Oh, and since you listened to me ramble just now, here’s a bonus sketch of a birch tree.

Birch_Tree

M’kay, bye.

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