Generally, when I start a page in my sketchbook, I finish it – at least in some form. There are a couple through the years that I have walked away from – one in particular was homework for France Belleville-Van Stone Sketchbook Skool lesson in which we were supposed to deliberately draw cars which might drive away mid-sketch. There’s another page of studies of eyes that I’m adding to bit by bit as the urge to draw an eye strikes me (a less regular occurrence than I expected). But two weeks ago, I started a sketch and ran into such, well, MASSIVE issues that I couldn’t bring myself to continue much less finish it. It was bothering me so badly, I avoided drawing at all. I didn’t even touch my sketchbook for a week because I was so challenged by the mess I’d made.
Here’s a snapshot to give you an idea of the massive problem:
Mhmm. That’s a six page spread. Everything started out alright with a drawing of the negative spaces of the roofline of one of Tbilisi’s iconic buildings, but as usual, I didn’t really plan out the composition of the page and I let the size of my drawing get totally out of hand. It was so bad that I hadn’t even reached the really interesting part of the roofline before I ran off the page. I ran across the street to an art store and bought a block of drawing paper, matched up a sheet and kept going, figuring I’d tape it in as a fold-out page later. And then the same thing happened. And happened again. And again. And really, even again but at that point I threw in the towel. I went home, washi-taped everything up, tucked the pages in my sketchbook and began the whole avoidance process.
I’ve sort of been dreading this week’s Sketchbook Skool lesson with Juliana Coles. No offense – she seemed like a lovely person and talented artist but I’ve seen work like this before and I’ve even read a bunch of books on creating art journals like hers but I just didn’t get it. It seemed so forced and kind of woo-woo and reaaaaaally personal to me. Nope. Not my thing. I figured I’d watch the videos and give the homework a skip. I’ve got enough to do with making new sketches, why would I ever go back and alter the old ones? And yeesh! I worked hard on those sketches and I don’t want to mess them all up painting over them and sticking stuff on top. Nope. Not for me.
Somewhere in the middle of her demonstration it occurred to me that I did in fact have a sketch that I really hated. A sketch that I was so frustrated by that it was haunting me and keeping me from even touching the book it was in. The wheels started to turn and the ideas of what to I could do and what materials I could use started coming before I could even get to the end of the lesson. I persevered, watched Koosje’s homework video too and then grabbed my book and went off to my desk. (But I still wasn’t going to do that journalling thing. That’s just embarrassing).
I dug out a bunch of rarely-used materials, spread out the pages and thought, Oh what the heck? and grabbed a grey watercolor pencil and started writing. It turns out Juliana’s method of choosing a short prompt and playing with it really can start a flood of thoughts that definitely help to direct the rest of the exercise- which was a good thing considering I had six pages to fill.
Then it was time for paints. I used some really bright acrylics that have been lying around for years and added some gesso to tone things down or highlight as the mood struck.I made a huge mess; I had a grand time.
Like Koosje, I really am a Throw-Outer. I’m known among my friends and colleagues for my special throw-outing superpowers. But I do love to save National Geographic magazines and cut them up to add end papers to my sketchbooks. I grabbed a stack knowing I needed some words (I don’t have any stamps of any kind) but not knowing what else I was looking for. I found a bunch of words that seemed to go along with what I’d been writing and one piece of a photo that I just liked for no particular reason. I collaged them in, feeling that I’d add some weight with black ink afterwards. Some paint got on my brayer and I really liked that accidental effect. I like to use my Parallel pens to Twingle things and I thought adding some messy arrows and circles would work but before I knew it, I was adding ink scratchings everywhere.
And just like that, it was done and it answered a question that I’ve had for decades when looking at art like this: “How do you know when it is done?” In this case it seems that you just know, but I’ll let you know because it turns out that this lesson that I wanted nothing to do with was probably my favorite of this session and I’m sure I’ll be trying this technique again very soon.