Wednesday, July 29, 2020

My First Pandemic Sketchbook Filled

Four months of pandemic sketches

Ever since I stopped binding my own sketchbooks last year, I haven’t been ritualistically showing my sketchbooks as I finish filling each. I am this time, however, because it feels important and even poignant to mark it this way.

The sketch on the first page was made on March 15, just a few days after Gov. Inslee started closing down the state. The pandemic had begun to feel real. We had taken a walk through our neighborhood, where everything seemed so normal that it was hard to accept that something terrible was happening. I sketched a very mundane traffic circle where daffodils bloomed, giving me hope and optimism (though nothing else did). The next day I felt so much fear and anxiety that I had to calm myself by spontaneously drawing my hand (and that became Day 1 of my ongoing hand series).

As I page through the book, every sketch done on location, almost all within a mile from home (and one no further than our driveway), I can clearly recall my feelings as I made them. The sketches toward the beginning of the book were made almost furtively. (What if we have a full lockdown like other countries were experiencing? As an “unessential” activity, would urban sketching be outlawed?) Vulnerable, tentative, hesitant: I don’t know if my feelings show in the sketches, but I remember feeling them.

As my anxiety decreased over time, I found ways to sketch safely in my quiet neighborhood or in my car, and I made a conscious decision not to let fear keep me from doing what I love most.
A fresh sketchbook, stickered with attitude.

It took me more than four months to fill this softcover Stillman & Birn Beta, which, during a normal spring and early summer, I would have filled in half the time. Of course, I am also sketching in several small notebooks while out walking, and I sketch at home in other sketchbooks, so it isn’t that I have been sketching less (in fact, I think I’ve been sketching more than usual). But typically, whatever main book I’m using for urban sketching is a meter for the pace of my life. When I’m traveling, I fill several pages a day. When I’m sheltering-at-home, not so much.

I was about to put this Beta up in the bookcase next to the others. Before I did, I slapped the masked Weather Bunny sticker on the cover as a reminder of its contents. 

Then I cracked open the next sketchbook.


  1. I love how it is "stickered with attitude." Several times I was wishing that I had done a separate sketchbook just for sketches from this strange time. I guess I sort of do because one book is almost all virtual travel sketches. Glad you are cracking open the next one!

    1. We'll probably both fill many sketchbooks before this is all over! :-(


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