One of my new years resolutions has been to get better at regularly drawing in a sketchbook. I often get so busy with commissions and projects that I don’t always have time to work on personal projects or try new techniques. I am hoping that by drawing and painting in a sketchbook regularly will not only improve my skill but also give me a few minutes each day to paint and create something just for the pleasure of creating. As much as I love doing commission (it’s the best job I could have) I need to spend some time creating pieces of work that are personally motivated so I don’t get burned out.
I have owned many sketchbooks over the years and have never actually finished one. I didn’t like having “ugly drawings” stuck in my sketchbook so I would either rip out pages I didn’t like or just hold off from drawing in my sketchbook until I got better as an artist. I think part of me was ashamed of my skill level for not being “good enough.’ It is kind of silly to think about now as a (slightly) more mature artist because the entire purpose of a sketchbook is for it to be a safe place to practice, experiment, and grow as as an artist.
Setting this goal for the year has helped me to FINALLY finish my first sketchbook. It’s far from perfect since I bought it a few months after I got back in to art in 2016. Some sketches have been torn out because I didn’t like them or used them for other projects. But I finally completed the pages that are remaining.
It may seem silly to celebrate such a small and silly thing but when trying to develop a new habit it is always important to celebrate the milestones along the way. It is also a sign of my personal growth as I am now more accepting of my shortcomings as an artist. I always want to improve my skill level but I am no longer ashamed of my journey as an artist.
Another benefit of using a sketch book (and not tearing out the pages) is that I have also been able to see how much I have grown over the years as an artist. Being able to see tangible proof of my progress is so helpful on days when I feel discouraged.
The other night my kids were all asleep by 8 PM (Hallelujah!) and my husband was gone working a 24 hour shift at the hospital. It had been a rough day; the morning was spent fixing things that hadn’t gone to plan. Kids fought, my three year old decide he didn’t want to poop in the toilet anymore, naps/quiet time didn’t happen (not for lack of trying on my part), and the list goes on and on. My anxiety and stress levels were high and all I wanted to do was binge watch TV shows on the couch while carb loading on cake. As I was about to turn on the TV I asked myself if that would really help me feel better. The answer was no. TV doesn’t help me de-stress and sugar certainty doesn’t. In fact, they usually make me feel worse because I feel regretful about the wasted time and sick from the sugar hangover the next day. Thus, causing me to feel worse and more likely to repeat it again the next day.
So with my answer I got up and made my way to my studio, A place that I had barely been in the past few weeks. Between going to visiting family, family visiting us, potty training previously mentioned 3 year old, and then getting a kidney infection there hasn’t been much time left to paint. This lack of studio time is a big reason why I could the stress and anxiety building up inside me. Painting is my job but more importantly it is what brings balance to my life. When I feel like my personal identity is threatened to be washed away by the demands of my husband’s schooling, motherhood, owning a business, and just regular adult stuff I retreat to my little studio. I shut the door and spent time with beautiful colors. On this particular night I turned on some dancing music, picked out a reference photo, and started. The picture I picked was a sunset picture from our summer trip to Seattle. I wanted to get right to work so I just used the pastels that were already sitting out.
My Goal that night wasn’t to create my best piece of work but to break the cycle of putting off painting until I had time or felt inspired. It was to feel the stress leave through my fingertips with each stroke of the pastel. It was to change my perspective of the day. Instead of feeling bad that the first part of the day went so poorly I could be happy that my kids went to bed easily and early thus, leaving me with the entire night to paint. Instead of feeling bad that I hadn’t seen my husband awake for more than an hour the day before and wouldn’t be seeing him for another fifteen hours I could be glad that he has a job he loves. Painting gives me time to process and gain perspective on my life.
I came upstairs a few hours later feeling rejuvenated. The responsibilities that are still on my shoulders felt lighter and more like an adventure pack taking me on new adventures instead of a punishment.
Ps. This painting was actually really difficult to do with it such having such strong contrasting in colors. I will have to try it again on a large piece of paper and I use what I learned from this sketch.