Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Effort and Surrender: My 10th Year

9/25/11 Orcas Island (my first-ever urban sketch)

My yoga instructor Fran Gallo talks about effort and surrender. To practice yoga, our bodies must put forth effort, but then we surrender to the pose and let go of the outcome. This is a difficult concept for Westerners to practice because we are such a goal-oriented culture: the bottom line, the finish line, no pain/no gain.

9/27/12 Roosevelt neighborhood

Without consciously being aware of effort and surrender, I think I have always tried to approach my drawing practice in the same way as yoga: putting forth the effort, but letting go of the outcome. Of course, I always want my sketches to be as good as they can be, and I challenge myself to make the effort that will bring that result. But when I let go of the product as if it were a goal, I’m happier. It’s much easier to simply turn the page and make the next sketch.

9/20/13 Bozeman, MT

Ten years ago today, I took the first step on what I now believe will be my lifelong journey. For most of my adult life, I had wanted to learn to draw, and I wanted to draw well. Inspired by books, classes or the art of others, I would make a start, but after a while, I would stop. I repeated this cycle many times. Learning to draw is not easy, and when the results were not what I wanted them to be, it was discouraging. When I began to draw again on Sept. 21, 2011, it might have ended as yet another short-lived attempt to “learn to draw,” but this time I kept going. And I’ve been drawing ever since, every day.

9/27/14 Pike Place Market, Seattle

I didn’t know it at the time, but I think one thing helped me to keep drawing: I had discovered urban sketching, which is less about the act of drawing and more about telling the visual stories of our lives. The finished sketch might be a goal, but the story it tells is much larger than the sketchbook page. I was motivated to keep telling my stories, no matter how small or mundane. Urban sketching has taken me away from the goal of “drawing well.”

9/23/15 Ballard neighborhood

Paradoxically, learning to draw has become much more enjoyable during the past 10 years because the process itself is motivating. The more I draw, the more progress I see, and that encourages me to draw more.

9/21/16 Maple Leaf neighborhood

Shown here are 10 sketches, one from each year made around this time in September each year. I didn’t choose my “favorite” or “best” sketches; instead, I looked for examples that seemed typical of my style during that period. While my materials and techniques have changed, and hopefully my skills have changed too, you can probably see that my stories haven’t changed much. I’m still telling the same ones every day, one drawing at a time.

9/22/17 Chateau Ste Michelle, Woodinville

Finally, I can’t commemorate this milestone without mentioning this blog. Except for the first six months, my entire 10-year journey has been documented here (3,110 posts so far). Although my purpose in starting this blog was simply that – to document my own creative process in learning to draw – I am always happy when others who are on a similar journey say that they enjoy and have benefited from my blog. To those of you who have stayed with me for any part of that, and especially to those who have been with me from the beginning, I thank you dearly for your company on this road of discovery.

9/27/18 Green Lake

9/25/19 Maple Leaf neighborhood

9/21/20 Northgate neighborhood

9/13/21 Crown Hill neighborhood

21 comments:

  1. What a fantastic record of a journey and I love your thoughts on effort and surrender. Thank you for this, Tina! Here's to the next 10 years of drawing. Can't wait to see what stories you tell and I'll be looking out for that recap post!

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    1. Thank you, Suhita! You are one of the process-oriented people I am always inspired by on my daily journey!

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  2. Brilliant, inspiring post. As someone who also wants to learn how to draw but keeps putting it off as I'm not good enough, this has given me a nudge

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    1. Dave...do it! There is a wonderful group of Urban Sketchers in Yorkshire. I met with them while visiting in Leeds.

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    2. I hope you will do it, Dave! No one is "good enough" before they begin! ;-) Find subject matter that resonates with you (as urban sketching did for me), and the practice will be enjoyable.

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  3. Your posts have inspired me and kept me drawing too. Drawing sure seems to be effort and surrender, thanks for the analogy, the reviews on materials, encouragement and letting us get a glimpse of your life as it unfolds! Thanks Tina

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    1. Thank you, Cathy, and you're very welcome! I appreciate that you are on the same journey!

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  4. Happy art anniversary! Your daily sketching and your experimentation with media are an inspiration.

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    1. Thanks, Kate! You and I have been walking side by side on this journey almost since Day 1! Your practice inspires me, too!

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  5. I love this post! Effort and Surrender / The similarity of your art and your yoga practice. You are very gifted and skilled in capturing moments, colors, texture, feelings. Thank you for your gift of art! Love and Namaste, Fran

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    1. Thank you, Fran! I am often struck by how similar yoga and drawing are in my life. Your yoga teachings inspire me much further than my yoga mat!

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  6. Tina - Congratulations and happy 10 years anniversary! Such a wonderful recap of your adventures in drawing. Namaste :-)

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  7. What a wonderful chronicle of your journey, Tina! I have so enjoyed seeing your efforts and progress on FB. How generous of you to share your work and thoughts. The only thing I’m missing is an example of your Covid-19 hand. What a part of your story and our lives for all those months! - Kathleen

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    1. Thank you, Kathleen! I didn't include the COVID hands here because I didn't see the series as directly relating to my process in learning to draw -- it was more of a reaction to the strain of the pandemic. But I DID learn a lot from doing the daily hand drawings, so the series did have a part in my process after all!

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  8. While we only just met this summer, I really appreciate your inquisitive approach to sketching. And it's delightful to see your progress over the years, and my own over the past year!

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  9. Hurrah for you and your progress! Best wishes and here’s to many more drawing and posts. Peggy

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  10. Wonderful! What a great comparison to the practice of yoga and letting go. I love when you say you were taken away from your goal of drawing well and yet by consistently showing up you have been able to draw well.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

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