Left: Instead of focusing on the ways this quick sketch doesn't have the modeling I was aiming for I can check off the ways in which my preference for interesting hair and ears helped me achieve a tolerable likeness, how the gouache puddled on the paper (a fun factor), and how I managed to reserve as many whites as I did. All of this gives me directions to focus on for future drawings, instead of stopping me in my tracks. Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and gouache, 9 x 12 inches. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
When you read the last several posts of 2013 you’ll see a theme emerge—some end of year thoughts which I hope will jump-start you into 2014 for a great year of visual journaling.
Wednesday I wrote about engaged curiosity in the hopes you’ll plan some excursions of your own. Today I am returning to a topic I’ve written on many times since I started this blog in October 2008—showing up.
A reader wrote to me sometime in 2011 and seemed caught up in the notion of “rubbishy drawings.” She wanted to cover them over or tear them out of her journal.
I pointed out, as another reader had in a comment to her comment, that there were “no rubbishy drawings.” And even if there were, who’s going to care? You are the ultimate audience for your journal and if you embrace that fact, then everything you do in your journal is part of your learning, part of your process, part of your progression. Thoughts about whether something is rubbishy or not just don’t enter into it.
If you change your thought process to allow this positive approach then you open up your mind to allow that you are where you are NOW, for NOW.
It’s important to be in the now, and even more so when you are assessing your work and deciding where to go next. If you start labeling drawings as rubbishy and editing them out of your journal you miss out on the ways in which those difficult drawings show you where to go next.
And you're denying where you are now. Which means you can't get anywhere else. (Think about it.)
That’s what I’ve been writing about a lot in the past two months.
How can we develop this mental attitude that accepts what our “old, negative” selves dismiss as rubbishy? You embrace the fact that sometimes you sketch when you are too rushed, too stressed, not focused enough, but you sketch anyway!
That’s a huge gift you give yourself. A reward for wading through what can seem like the muck of human life—time in your journal, time with your creative pursuits.
Left: I've done countless sketches of actress Angela Lansbury because I really enjoy "Murder She Wrote." In some sketches she's hardly recognizable, in others I may capture some aspect but not others that make her recognizable. It's good to look critically, in a technical sense, at our drawings, so that we can see where our propensities for error lie.(Do we always make the face too wide, the nose too long, etc.) However we shouldn't dwell on composing a laundry list of faults within a drawing to beat up ourselves with. Instead we should look at those errors as a way to make judgments about how to correct our habitual "flaws." I have "wideology." I tend to make things appear wider than they are. Knowing that I can stop myself seconds before I put down an offending (in ink no less) line, and just simply pause and check. That's a much easier and fun way to work than to live in fear of putting a line down, and dwelling on the "wrong lines" that may go down. I look instead at drawings like this and point out the dimensional flaws so I can correct them later, but then ENJOY the memory of how fun it was to put in those eyebrows and those eyelashes. And I remember how, when I made those marks I thought to myself, Angela Lansbury really was quite a babe when she was younger and it still showed in her face. That thought made me happy and it forms part of the relationship I have with the sketch. It's part of what makes sketching fun for me—the things my brain gets up to when I sketch. If I tore this sketch out of my journal because it was "rubbishy" I wouldn't get to revisit that relationship of thought and drawing. 9 x 12 inch Pentel Pocket Brush Pen sketch. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
If you start tearing out pages from your journal you’re undermining the full, wonderful display of that gift. Years from now you’ll feel kinder about those awful sketches and you’ll be glad to see them. They will remind you that you worked through a bad patch and made it to something marvelously fun and exciting.
And they stand as a testament to the strength of your creative resolve: shit was being flung everywhere and I worked ANYWAY.
Working anyway is the most important thing you can do in your creative life.
Working when you are stressed, strapped for time, sick, in pain, or otherwise inconvenienced is usually the time when your essential creativity kicks in and finds a way for you to maximize your time, your approach, and your ideas.
Real editing (of the useful type, not the judgmental type) happens because you don’t have time to waste dithering.
And so instead of being "rubbishy" those sketches are actually a testament to the nature of your creativity. They say that you are showing up to do your work.
Showing up to work anyway—make it the motto for 2014.