|Sketched on Nov. 2, 2011 -- one of my first urban sketches. (The view out|
my studio window.)
Yesterday at the opening of our Urban Sketchers outing in the International District, a few new people showed up. (Happily, we see new faces at almost every meeting.) Jane suggested that we go around the circle to introduce ourselves and say, briefly, what we enjoy about urban sketching. (This is the moment I dread at any meeting: I don’t speak well on my feet, and I’m convinced that no one listens to what others are saying because they are too busy thinking about what they are going to say when it’s their turn.)
The people who came before me all said things that rang true for me: “When I sketch, I learn about my city,” “Drawing helps me see things more clearly,” “It’s fun.” What could I come up with that hadn’t already been said? Then it was my turn, and wanting to quickly get on with sketching, I blurted something like, “Uh. . . I like urban sketching because it helps me learn about myself.”
At that point, I was not listening to what the people who came after me were saying because I was thinking, “What a stupid thing to say! I don’t do urban sketching to learn about myself! Why did I say that?”
|Sketched on Nov. 2, 2011 (Green Lake)|
As a writer (commercial, creative and introspective) for most of my life, I know that writing teaches me not only about my subject matter but also about myself. The process of composing a sentence, an article or a poem requires understanding my own thoughts enough to arrange them into coherence. And sometimes (often) the actual process of writing is what clarifies the thinking that I thought I had already understood. As a result, I learn about myself.
Four years ago today, I started drawing. I had tried many times in the past to learn to draw, but it wasn’t until I discovered urban sketching that the subject matter resonated strongly enough to keep me practicing. And the reason I wanted to learn to draw in the first place was that I already knew how to tell stories with words. I wanted to be able to tell stories with pictures. Urban sketching is the best way I know of to tell stories with pictures.
I realize now that what I blurted out yesterday was, in fact, true. When I decide what to sketch, when I choose the medium that seems best for describing the subject, when I think about the “story” told by that sketch (as simple as that story might be), when I make the necessary intellectual and visual calculations to render the subject as accurately as I can, when I decide to forget all the calculations and instead just wing it – all of these choices teach me a bit more about drawing. And the act of drawing clarifies my own creative process just a bit more.
Urban sketching teaches me about myself.