Thursday, December 31, 2015

Another Year of Mindful Sketching

9/3/15 plane passenger
(The other day I mentioned that I have a few personal year-end blogging traditions; this is the last one.) A year ago, I wrote about how I had completed my commitment to sketch every day in 2014. It’s not a resolution, which typically seems to be based more on external pressures (“Join our gym now and save 50 percent!”), unrealistic expectations (“Lose 30 pounds in 30 days!”) or vague ideals (“Be healthier.”). Instead, my daily commitment to sketch is simply that – a commitment to myself.

A long time ago I heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit. That is, if you do something daily for three weeks, it’s likely that the habit will stick indefinitely. Later I read that this was a popular myth; another study showed that it actually takes 66 days to form a habit. In my experience, though, 21 days, 66 days or even 365 days isn’t long enough unless a commitment is behind it.

After 2014’s 365 days of sketching, I was fairly confident that the habit would stick; I didn’t have to put it on my to-do list because it had become automatic, like flossing. In an important way, though, sketching isn’t at all like flossing, because flossing is completely mindless. (Sometimes I’ll get into bed and suddenly wonder, “Did I floss?” It’s so literally automatic that I can’t recall doing it!) Indeed, on some days when I do nothing but fulfill a series of obligations – earn a living, shop for groceries, take out the recycling – making a sketch might be the only mindful thing I do all day.
1/10/15 baby giraffe (from photo)

I have an easy way to track my daily sketches: I almost always scan them on the day I make them, even if I have no intention of posting them online. The files are systematically dated by the PC, and I date them in the file name, which also includes the location of the sketch and other details that are of interest to me. (Incidentally, scanning regularly has another benefit: If I were to lose a sketchbook, I’d be very sad, but not nearly as sad as I would be if I were to lose it before scanning its pages.)

Compulsive? Maybe. But I prefer to think of it as being mindful about the way I organize possibly the only mindful thing I do all day. And it means I can easily look in this year’s sketch folder and see that I made 946 sketches (shown on today’s post are some that didn’t appear on the blog earlier). On many days I was barely able to make one sketch, but on many other days, I made several per day. If I were simply trying to make 365 sketches in a year, I could have stopped on May 21. But that’s not the point.
10/7/15 Smith Tower (from photo)

What is the point? Sketching every day. Mindfully.

Happy New Year, and here’s to the next 366 (leap year!) days of sketching!

8/11/15 presentation audience member


  1. Happy New Year, Tina!!! Turning something into a habit isn't so hard. I find if there is a day I haven't sketched or painted I get antsy like something is missing...and it is. Have a wonderful 2016! I will be eagerly waiting to see your new year of sketching.

    1. Thank you, Joan! I'm looking forward to your new year of sketching, too! Happy New Year to you!

  2. Yes, I love this post! You are a true yogi in your approach to art! Art and Yoga are all about mindfulness and being. You couldn't sketch if you were not in the moment. You couldn't keep to your commitment if you were not present and in the moment. Thank you for sharing and for your dedication to creating art, to interpreting nature around you on your canvas. You are the read-deal artist/yogini. Namaste, Fran

    1. Thank you, Fran, for your inspiration in yoga class!


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