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A Good Problem To Have

Once upon a time, I lived in my sketchbooks.

Geek extreme, I took a sketchbook everywhere I went. I was a natural art journalist. Today, when I pick up books on how to keep an art journal, I realize that many of those tips, I was doing back then. Maybe part of it was because I was an art student and you just pick up certain sensibilities. Or maybe it was because I was part recluse and part hoarder, collecting and stealing away all of my experiences in a book that no one else saw…I’m not sure.

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What I do know is that I appreciated them because there was no pressure. It was all about what I wanted to do at that moment, and over time, it became a record of my growth. I can look back at one of my sketchbooks and recall what I was thinking about during a certain drawing or painting. Then, there are times I look back at a drawing and think, “What the heck was I thinking?!” Like the time I drew my personal perspective of me sitting on the toilet from my knees, down to my panties, down to the floor and so on…I can’t say that was one of my finer moments, but it was a very expressive drawing.

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I can’t say for sure where I picked up how to keep an art journal. But, making pockets in my sketchbook out of postcards I got from an art museum to keep stuffs I picked up throughout the day, pasting or taping in a drawing I liked that I had done somewhere else in pastel…scribbling notes from my next class, testing a new-to-me medium, and drawing rapid gestures of my three-year old son or unsuspecting individuals on the bus in my sketchbook was all second nature.  I don’t know where that went…or maybe the tendency never really left, though the form may have.

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I keep another totally unrelated creative blog that I have to get back to soon, and I have other journals that I use to collect my thoughts in as well. Though I love them for what they are to me, there’s really no drawing or painting involved in any of those journals. I keep wondering, when did I start trading words for drawing and painting? It’s possible somewhere along the line, I got really verbal and my experiences started spilling out in text. Even with a blog, it’s really easy to still be somewhat reclusive because they can be largely anonymous. Honestly, when I began that blog, I suspected I was just talking out into a vacuum. I never expected anyone to talk back to me at the time. It was surprising and scary when that happened. But, just the fact that I started talking at all was surprising to me too. Beyond that. The fact that I started talking back to these people was even more surprising. Where’d these words come from? And where did the drawing and painting go?

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As I have been learning a little here and there on lettering, little by little, I have gotten itchier to draw and paint again. I can recall being the go-to person for bubble and block letters in elementary school. I can remember drawing and painting all throughout high school. I used to skip lunch, so afraid to talk to people. But in the art room, I was at home. I can remember going to college for math and skipping homework to draw every night instead. When I finally changed my major, it was the first time I felt right about school.

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But life happens, duties call, and bills mount. I can’t say I remember when it happened. But I do know that my sketchbook practice got buried underneath trying to keep a family together, living expenses, career moves, and everything else that it takes to keep a life afloat. Even when I went back to school for my masters, my time spent there was largely hampered by aspects of my home life that couldn’t be reconciled to pursuing art.

I’m so glad I started drawing letters. Even all of the little projects that I have done with them have started in sketchbooks. I’ve had to develop ways to travel with pens and markers, so much so that I’m beginning to develop a sketchbook practice again. Granted, I have to make time to practice it. But even that is a joy to do right now.  Much more difficult is the how of combining letters and images for me.  Though I have had an art education, typography was not included in any of my classes. And truly, had I known that drawing letters was an art form in and of itself, I may have had a double degree and more loans to pay off! 

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Actually, after nearly five years of not even having a brush in hand to painting with watercolor, a medium I avoided like the plague (I was an oily girl), this habit is starting off with some challenges. I’m rusty and my hand and eye coordination isn’t working as well as it did when I was younger. But, with age comes some wisdom. I make myself take out the good brushes now. Tomorrow is never promised.

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Fortunately, watercolor sketches has been easy on them so far.

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I’m still learning how to get a decent mark out of some of the pens and pencils I have acquired for lettering.

I’m teaching myself to think visually again. Instead of always taking purely written/typed notes, I have even been trying some sketch noting during church services.

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I think the more I train myself to do creative things, the more creative I’ll become.

And as always, I’m still learning how to see.

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This particular painting on the right shows my fight with all the greens I was trying to depict and the sun as it was setting yesterday. The greens and the sun won this time. But not before I got some pretty good color notes down. Maybe next time it will be my turn to win.  On the opposite side, I use my leftover paints to practice brush lettering, painting from imagination, doodles, and glazes. I bury notes under all the layers of marks. Sometimes, I can’t even see what I initially wrote, but it’s in there. Over it all I draw and write some more. I still need to work on being aware of edges and creating borders and developing a graphic sensibility and what not. Composition was always my biggest challenge and some things just never change.

So, putting together an image that holds together along with words whether drawn or painted or even just written on top of that, is somewhat problematic at the moment.

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But, for now, for me, they are really good problems to have.

Drawing any conclusions?

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