Monday, October 18, 2010


For years, when my kids were around, I thought that the way to really make summers creatively productive would be to aim for a drawing a day. It was always hard to actually get to more substantive studio work during that time. Intentions then, and later for other regular drawing "devotions" always gave less than satisfying results. Only an occasional drawing, but when I did them, how revealing.

dog sitting, Sam: my own dog Tuck moves around too much

Two Surface Design Association (SDA) Conferences ago, and looking at the course offerings of Penland School of Crafts, I realized that although the array of techniques and workshops was stunning, what I really want most is to draw. To expand my visual vocabulary. For my hand to be more in touch with what I see and what I want to express. A drawing a day would do it.

Still, it's hard to fit that in, hard to be the observer instead of the doer.

This year, I learned about The Sketchbook Project, where you sign up to participate by receiving and filling a blank "moleskine" type of sketchbook, which then goes to sketchbook library in Brooklyn, and potentially on display. Yes, it costs a bit to join and needs to be done by a certain date. Hey, we pay tuition for classes. Since this seemed like a good way to force myself into a habit, I gladly signed up.

Receiving the sketchbook was  a bit of a disappointment. Such thin cardboard covers. There's no reason why participants can't deconstruct the book, and insert new pages, as long as the size conforms to the guidelines.

I spent time being intimidated by the empty pages. How to start with a bang, not a wimper. Most of us who draw at all know that only 1 of 10 drawings is any good though all have something to teach or can jog our memories as to place and locations. Starting a new sketchbook meant for others was definitely intimidating. My solution? start in the middle. Add pages randomly, numbered as Page 1, Page 2, etc. That seems to be working. Other solution? Use three sketchbooks- my regular journal one, my larger pad, and the Sketchbook Project one. Start my day in one, and migrate to the others. Copy and collage when needed. It's starting to happen.

I'm also adopting some techniques about holding a brush and using washes that I learned in a Chinese Painting class, with a teacher from China who spoke no English and his interpreter, who was hard to understand. We sat in a basement and drew symbolic landscape on a beautiful spring day. Ironic, but the techniques have truly been useful.

Along the way, I've also found some interesting web communities of sketchers, like Urban Sketchers. Like Life Sketcher, Stan Fellows, and others.

I haven't done enough yet to really have an effect on my paintings and prints on fabrics, but that should come. For now, it's a rich time of year to draw outside, to see potential in any view. For really, anything can be made into a drawing, and the most mundane subject matter can be the most interesting.  My sketchbook will not be glamorous, but it will be a step in the right direction, for me, made fun by sitting outside - and - simply - drawing.

what happens with modular repeats: dried Roma tomato


  1. Astrid- I am mourning my vegetable garden already, even tho' I haven't yet 'deconstructed' it for winter. I have a few red Roma tomatoes hanging on vines that look dead. You've inspired me to spend some time out there with my sketchbook. Thanks!
    Sue Jones in Ohio

  2. Yes, the dried vines are actually very fiber-y!
    nice to hear from you, Sue!