Saturday, October 18, 2014

Taking My Stegosaur for a Walk

10/18/14 Sailor Jentle Doyou ink, Caran d'Ache Museum water-soluble colored pencils, watercolor, Stillman & Birn Gamma

I’m enrolled in Sketchbook Skool this term.

As an urban sketcher, I think of every sketch I make as a story. Not necessarily a newsworthy one – I rarely sketch anything that would qualify as sketch reportage. The way I look at, a “story” can be as simple as a few coloring maples lighting up the parking lot of a grocery store where I shop; trees butchered to make way for power lines; the neighborhood store where I still rent videos. In other words, the “story” might be nothing more than something that caught my attention at a certain time and place.

The descriptions of the first two semesters of Sketchbook Skool didn’t interest me much, but the third one – “Storytelling” – felt like it would be right up my alley. Although I’ve enjoyed most of the video presentations of the first two instructors (especially watching Melanie Reim’s demo of the way she wields a conventional fountain pen in a most unconventional way! If I could figure out how to do that, I wouldn’t need my Sailor!), I wasn’t inspired enough to complete the homework assignments (I’m such a bad student!). The third and current instructor, however, is a different matter.

I’ve been a fan of Mattias Adolfsson’s amazingly imaginative drawings for a long time. Drawing from imagination has always felt like something that other people do – people with imaginations more vivid or at least more illustratable than mine. Imaginative storytelling is not even something I necessarily aspire to – I’m perfectly happy simply trying to sketch what I see in the real world – yet Mattias’ drawings are so strange and wondrous and his explanations so seemingly straightforward that I felt compelled by his invitation to give it a shot.

Bad student that I am, I didn’t exactly follow the first assignment, which was to sketch a childhood memory. Instead, I latched onto something else he said in a lesson: Take any real-life experience and use that memory to start the sketch.

I didn’t have to go too far back in my memory to dig up a real-life experience – just to last Tuesday, when I sketched a stegosaur skeleton at the Burke. With that skeletal structure still fresh in my mind, I sketched some flesh onto it, and voilĂ  – a fantasy childhood memory. It was much easier than I had expected – and, more important, it was fun! I’ll probably never be another Mattias, but it feels good to give myself a whack upside the brain once in a while.

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