Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Practice and a Discipline: 365 Days of Sketching

12/7/14 (from photo)
When I first started sketching in the fall of 2011, I committed to trying to sketch every day, but I also told myself that if I sometimes fell behind or just got so busy that I couldn’t manage a sketch one day, I wouldn’t beat myself up over it. As a result, I’d sketched almost every day, but occasionally when the weather was bad, and I didn’t feel like going out, I didn’t do one. Or if I’d had a really hectic, busy day, and squeezing in a sketch just felt like too much “work,” I gave myself a break. That’s how it went the first couple of years.

On Jan. 1, 2014, I tried something new. I again made a commitment, but this time I made it to draw every day for a year (“Draw or draw not – there is no try”). I didn’t want it to become a chore – another to-do item to check off – and I didn’t want it to become a mundane habit that I do because it’s good for me, like flossing or taking a calcium supplement.

I decided to think of drawing as if it were yoga. (No, I’m afraid I don’t do yoga daily . . . I can commit to only one daily thing at a time!) I’ve been taking weekly yoga classes for more than four years. My instructor says yoga is both a practice and a discipline. We work regularly on poses to become stronger and more limber gradually – that’s the practice. The discipline is more about an internal focus. We sometimes have to work through movements or poses that are not easy or comfortable; we challenge ourselves and work from the inside outward.

With drawing, the practice is the physical act of putting pen to paper every day and building skills gradually. For me, the practice part is pure pleasure – I love sketching, so doing it every day is fun and not hard work at all. But if sketching is also to be a discipline, it can be hard work. The discipline part would be to challenge myself and sometimes draw things that are difficult or uncomfortable, because that’s how I would grow.

Initially I thought I would announce my daily drawing commitment here on my blog to “keep myself honest,” be accountable to my readers, etc. But the commitment I made was to myself, not my blog readers, so what would be the point? I decided not to announce it.

I didn’t necessarily intend to post every sketch. One criterion for my blog is that if a sketch has a “story,” then it’s worth blogging about. Let’s face it  some sketches were just so mundane or ordinary that I couldn’t drum up a story for them, so they stayed in my sketchbook without being posted (a few of those appear here today).

On many days, I ended up making more than one sketch, usually when I went out with other sketchers and therefore spent a couple of hours in one location for that purpose. But on days that I made two or more sketches, I didn’t take the next day off. The objective wasn’t to make 365 sketches; my objective was to sketch every day.

During the best of summer, I got out to sketch on location every day for many days in a row – an urban sketcher’s ideal! I can also recall a handful of days when my schedule was crammed and I really didn’t have time for a sketch – but somehow I managed to find 5 minutes to dash off a quick one before going to bed. Those tended to be sketches of writing instruments that happened to be on my desk or portraits from catalogs I grabbed out of the recycle bin (a couple of those appear here, too).

Today is Dec. 31, and I am happy to say that I sketched every day during 2014. Most of those days felt effortless because the practice – the part that contains the pleasure and fun – took over. But I also remember some days that took quite a bit of effort because the subject matter or technique pushed me out of my comfort zone. For those, I had to exercise discipline – trying to push past my usual limits to grow and become a stronger, more limber sketcher. Whichever way I looked at it, as a practice or a discipline, the result is the same: Drawing every day is better than not drawing every day.

Tomorrow is Jan. 1 – day 1 of the next 365 days of sketching.

Happy New Year and happy sketching to all of us!


  1. Hmm...there goes my outline for talking about practice, discipline and fun :-) Excellent post, Tina. And congrats for sketching every day. I can't say the same.

    Cheers --- Larry


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