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sketchbooks | utter randomonium

Tag Archives: sketchbooks

Rodin

Rodin was my friend Cheryl’s suggestion. In the photograph it looked like he was wearing a sweatshirt. Did they have those back then?

Degas

This drawing of Edgar Degas did not turn out how I’d hoped. His head is shaped weird and his hair isn’t anywhere near fabulous enough. But while I don’t share everything in my sketchbook (because wow there’s some atrocious experiments in there), I decided to go ahead with this one. The longer I go since I drew it, the less horrendous it looks to me. I mean, it’s still not great, but it doesn’t make me cringe so much anymore.

Monet

Some people use adult coloring books to destress. I apparently draw dead artists.

Sketchbook Peek: I hate trees

Okay, I really only hate drawing trees. Now I understand why so many urban sketchers stick to buildings – they’re easier. Anyway, I decided to take advantage of the morning light to draw the view out the kitchen door onto the deck. We have a gorgeous crape myrtle that blooms bright pink late into the summer, but of course it’s currently January, so it’s nothing more than sticks and some dried out berries. The deck railing is in desperate need of a good cleaning, which will also be waiting for warmer weather. But this was a bit of a fun experiment with my new pens of varying widths.

While we’re focusing on the mundane, here’s a little sketch I did of the kitchen counter as seen from the living room couch, drawn while my husband was cooking dinner.

Sketchbook Peek: Kitchen

The final week of Sketchbook Skool: Beginnings was taught by Tommy Kane. He taught me patience and persistence. He believes in capturing every detail, taking ages to finish a sketch, and finishing every drawing he starts. I drew my kitchen, which took me 90 minutes and far longer than I’d ever taken for any other drawing of that size.

I’m pleased with how this turned out, but it also taught me that even though I thought I was slowing down and taking in every detail, I definitely rushed over some parts. That’s okay; this probably won’t be the last drawing I do of my kitchen.

Learning from Danny Gregory

In July and August of this year, I took an online course called Sketchbook Skool: Beginnings. I’ve always been enamored of the idea of keeping an art journal, and this course struck me as the perfect introduction. I was right.

Danny Gregory taught the first week. His was the name I primarily recognized, famous for Everyday Matters. He explained how he started art journaling, and probably had the most influence on me of any of the teachers. His technique of drawing the entire outline of an object (or objects) before filling in any of the interior details was not something I’d tried before. I also particularly liked his purpose in drawing: not so much to capture the image, but to connect with the subject of his drawing. His example was of drawing his son’s shoes, and how while he was drawing them he was thinking about his son.

For my first assignment, I drew a stained glass bird that my grandfather made. I’ve blurred out my writing, since this is still a journal, but I did find myself remembering Grandpa as I drew. I don’t always feel that connected to my subject, but drawing does teach me to see things in ways I never did before.

This was my first foray into drawing in ink. I’d always been a pencil kind of gal, but Danny’s reasoning – that it helps build confidence because you can’t go back and erase every little flaw – was sound, and I found it really helped me get more comfortable with finishing my drawings. It’s also easier on the paper to not keep erasing all the time.

Danny also introduced me to the idea of laying down a wash of color on the page before drawing anything. Sure, they’re kind of garish and it tints the rest of the objects on the page, but I find I really love these spreads.

It’s no wonder that Danny’s inspired so many people to start keeping a sketchbook of their lives.

Sketchbook Peek: Everyday Life

Just a couple of glimpses into my regular life.

This is a recliner that currently resides in my livingroom. It used to be in my study, but we moved it earlier this year in order to make room for a second desk. I bought it used back in 2001 and it has held up quite well, serving most often as a great place to sleep when ill or injured. Nowadays the fluorescent pillows are gone (they freaked out the cat for some reason), and the blanket has been replaced with a lavender one from Disney World. But it’s still a comfy spot for humans and felines alike.

Our coffee/dining table. It’s a huge, black-painted, hardwood affair, quite scuffed and in desperate need of refinishing. My husband bought it before we met, so I don’t even know how old it is. Our laptops and water cups live there and we eat our meals there in front of the television. (Yes, I know that’s not good for us.) As you can see, other objects end up there from time to time as well.

So there you have it. As I continue to keep a sketchbook more regularly, I am starting to learn that what you’re drawing isn’t always as important as just drawing at all. There’s plenty of stuff to sketch out there, and even the most mundane can turn into an interesting piece of art.

Art Journals, Sketchbooks, and Diaries

I’ve kept a regular paper diary since 1991, and in that time I’ve never really varied in format: handwritten, text only. For years I even used a special ten-color pen, using a different color of ink each day, though these days I use whatever pen is handy. It’s rare for me to paste something into it, with the exception of the occasional random sticker. When I do paste things into journals, it’s a special book, like a journal set aside for a single trip, or my current GST book. When I draw, that goes into sketchbooks, some of which are separated into specific types. For example, I have one book dedicated entirely to faces drawn with #2 pencil. Everything has its place.

I’m torn on the matter, however. Separate books work well when you only want to do one thing at a time, but that often means packing a bunch of stuff when going somewhere, just on the off chance that I might want to do one thing or the other. And I really love the idea of art journals. I like the idea of writing about your day/life amidst the doodles and collage. I like the pages created by Daisy Yellow, Seaweed Kisses, and iHanna. I’ve even gone so far as to sign up for the gorgeous weekly prompts from Journal52 (and have as of yet completed only one of them).

Some people combine their art journals with commonplace books – collections of interesting quotes and information encountered in books and everyday life. These are usually worked into the art in some fashion, rather than organized into a repository of wisdom, but they share the notion of saving these sorts of things in a central location.

I also like artifact journals, like those of my friend KateKintail, where she glues in one item from her day, as a memento, with often no more than a few lines describing the story behind it. Often she doesn’t even cut it up – just pastes in the whole brochure or whatever in a way so you can still unfold it. No Tetris-esque collages necessary, and there’s still plenty of room to write more if that’s what you want to do. It also doesn’t face the limitation that my GST book has: that is, if there isn’t enough to fill a page, it doesn’t make it into the book at all.

A while back, I came across a nifty set of scans from Austin Kleon’s tour sketchbook (hat tip to Notebook Stories for the link). This in particular really struck me:

I’m on the move a lot, so I don’t have a lot of time to sketch while I’m walking around, but I do have time to collage when I’m back in the hotel room, so I’ve started carrying transparent tape, Japanese Washi tape that my wife gave me, and a pair of safety scissors (TSA says under 4 inches is okay).

This probably sounds strange, but it never occurred to me to just carry around the tape and scissors with you and do your journaling on the go. If you look at his pages, they’re a mixture of writing, clippings, and sketches. The only time I’ve ever come close to this sort of beautiful hodgepodge is in my trip journals, and even with those I only did the collage at the very end, after I got back home. My Japan journal is a good example. I also made journals for my trip to Amsterdam in 2010, Disney World in 2012, and this past April’s Eurotrip. At Disney World in particular I did a fair amount of drawing, something I almost never do in my regular diary.

I think my biggest issue is a feeling of required perfection. The only place I ever feel comfortable in freewriting or doodling or jotting down little notes is in whatever beat-up old spiral notebook I have going at the moment. Diaries are for the chronology of my life; sketchbooks are for completed drawings (not even, perhaps ironically, unfinished sketches); gluebooks are for collages of clippings. And yet, I don’t want to glue stuff into the spiral notebooks because they are so ephemeral (and often too fally-aparty). That’s the place for my first drafts, for straightening out my whirling thoughts, for mock-ups and grocery lists and calculating my hours. If there’s anything worth keeping, I copy it out elsewhere.

So now I’m trying something new. I’ve signed up for the first “kourse” of Sketchbook Skool. Aside from their somewhat irritating obsession with the letter K, it looks like a neat concept: lots of well-known art journalers, such as Danny Gregory and Andrea Joseph (from whom I learned about this), are teaching about illustrated journals and drawing more often in general. I hope it’ll help me figure out what works best for me, as well as give me the kick in the pants I need to get out of this creative rut I’ve been stuck in.

Do you keep any kind of journal? How do you organize things?

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