|12/29/16 brush pen, colored pencils, ink
Three years ago when I made the commitment to sketch every day, I had hoped that developing a daily drawing habit would improve my skills, and I think that’s been true over the long haul. Some days I still make sketches that look like I’ve set myself back a couple of years, but then the next day I’m back at my usual place. I’ve been at this sketching thing for more than five years, and I’m progressing at a much slower rate now than I used to. It’s not as exciting as it used to be when I saw regular improvement, which is such a built-in reward. On the other hand, I’m more motivated than ever to keep going because I know I’ve come so far since I began.
|12/28/16 brush pen, white colored pencil
I’ve accepted that it’s inevitable to see the most rapid improvements in the beginning, and after that the changes are more gradual and incremental. I’m no longer afraid that I will hit the dreaded plateau of never seeing any improvements ever again. I believe that as long as I continue to make conscious efforts to actively learn from my practice, I will continue to grow, even if growth is not always visible day to day.
Mind you, sketching daily doesn’t make sketching easier. Every sketch has its own challenges, and I’ve never actually made a sketch I could say was “easy.” But with practice it takes less mental muddling and confusion to figure out how to approach a sketch, so at least that part feels less daunting.
Whenever I set out to sketch, I enjoy the whole process: choosing the subject matter, composing the scene, deciding which materials and tools to use, and finally completing the sketch. But one thing that is hardly ever part of my process is getting inspired. (I admit I’m inspired quite a bit when I travel, but at home in familiar territory, it’s much harder.) As you can see from the examples here, nothing is inherently inspiring about a shallot, recycle bins or a lamp post (I was waiting for Greg to return from the men’s room at the mall when I made the latter – my “inspiration” was five minutes to kill). Nothing is special about the subject matter of most of my sketches – yet the act of sketching makes it special to me in that moment. It’s as if the inspiration is retroactive.
|12/28/16 colored pencils
Sometimes I hear other sketchers (or would-be sketchers) say that they want to draw, but actually sitting down or going out to do it – making the choice to do it – is the difficult part. There are always other things more urgent in our lives that we are obligated to get on with. Conversely, there are always less important things that call to us more seductively. (Maybe I’ll draw now. . . hey, someone just commented on my Facebook post! I’ll take a quick peek. . . ) And I’m sure that the longer it’s been since the last sketch, the harder it is to make the next one.
Over time, I’ve come to learn that while drawing every day has benefits in terms of generally improving my skills, the far more valuable benefit is this: Every sketch I make makes it easier to make the next sketch. Today’s sketch always makes it easier to make tomorrow’s sketch. And that’s as good a reason as any to sketch every day.
Happy sketching to all of us in 2017!