|12/29/20 The end of the year is a time for reflection.
It has been a surreal, sometimes devastating, often monotonous and mundane year. And yet, with the privilege of retirement, no financial pressures and the luxury of time, the pandemic has turned into an involuntary, prolonged artist’s retreat for me.
Instead of traveling to distant cities full of exotic views, I challenged myself to find inspiration in the overly familiar, usually within walking distance. The past summer was the first in many years that I didn’t travel at all, and it was pure pleasure to enjoy the best outdoor-sketching weather of the year (better summer weather than anywhere on earth, I might add, gloatingly. Well, except for those two weeks of terrible smoke).
As much as I miss regular outings with my Urban Sketchers group, they take time, both to attend and to plan and organize. With all that time freed up, I pushed myself to pursue ideas I’ve been thinking about for a long while, like learning to draw more from memory and imagination.
Other than Urban Sketchers, the thing I missed most this year was drawing people – living, breathing people going about their day. Studio life drawing, my favorite wet-weather pastime, was right up there, too. But I tried to compensate for both by keeping up my life-drawing practice on Zoom. It was fun at times, and the series of models from the LGBT community was informative as well as entertaining. Even when it was frustrating, the practice was still better than nothing. In one way, it was better than actual life drawing: I could practice drawing from memory by covering the screen.
Who would have thought I’d ever draw my hand daily for 291 days (so far)? Not me – absolutely not me – let alone draw with my non-dominant hand for 63 consecutive days. But here I am, still doing it, and still learning from each one.
Despite my deep skepticism, I even tried a live Gage Academy class on Zoom. I know that online learning is not new, and I’ve taken my share of non-interactive video-based courses, so learning from a screen should not have been too large a leap. My reluctance, however, came from my experience of taking many stellar in-classroom courses at Gage. I knew that Zoom classes could not possibly be as good, and I was right. Still, I don’t regret taking the class – I used it to pursue my personal goals of working from my memory and imagination. As with online life drawing, I got out of the class what I put into it, so it was not a waste. In fact, I signed up for another Gage class that begins in January. With my expectations appropriately adjusted, I’ll probably adapt more quickly.
Twenty-twenty was a year that I would not want to repeat under any circumstance. But any opportunity for creative self-growth isn’t time wasted, and I’m grateful for my circumstances that enabled me to take this “sabbatical” of sorts. More importantly, this year has taught me to appreciate many things I used to take for granted: Sketching with friends; sketching wherever I want; sketching people, in and out of the studio; taking classes. When I am safe to enjoy these privileges again, I will not take them for granted ever again.
Thank you, readers, for staying with me during this difficult year for all of us. Best wishes to you in 2021, which I optimistically believe cannot be anything but better!
|My selfie setup using multiple mirrors
Technical note: This selfie was made by using multiple mirrors. I learned the trick from a sketcher friend, Mark Anderson, who used a child’s three-way vanity mirror. Given that makeup hasn’t been on my radar (or face) since high school, I had to go out to Amazon to get such a mirror. That part was easy; the tricky part was setting up the three-way and my usual selfie mirror to reflect each other so that I could see my three-quarter profile. It was worth it, though, to avoid the unflattering, unforgiving, dead-on frontal view, which is typically the only self-portrait view I’ve had. This multi-angle vanity mirror offers new opportunities.