Monday, September 21, 2015

My Fourth Year of Drawing

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 hadnt 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.


  1. What you say is absolutely true, Tina, and more. One of my favorite quotes is "If you're not in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?" This comes from T.S. Elliot and it's certainly true that sketching, particularlly location sketching, puts you in situations and creates challenges that teach you a lot about who you are, how you think, what you respond both positively and negatively to, and maybe most valuable of all, what is important to you. ---Larry

  2. Sketching does teach you about yourself. You are forced to think on your feet (or butt), make choices, include/exclude details all based on who you are and your life experiences. It is fun to see your sketches from back at the beginning and how much you have changed and improved!

  3. Very good reasoning, we do learn a lot about ourselves. And I would say (at least in my case) that it has forced me to stretch myself in any number of ways.

    Sketching in public has made me come out of myself and be braver than I usually am. It has changed my thinking from "It's not good because it's not perfect" to "I am trying and learning and this sketch shows that I have accomplished so much."

    I take joy in these accomplishments and realize it is the journey I am enjoying whatever the end result is. Just goes to show that at 70 I am still learning (about myself and now about sketching) and love the whole experience.

    Yours is one of the blogs I really enjoy reading. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you, Diane, and bravo on your own growth! It's all about the process!

      - Tina


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