A few weeks ago, I stumbled onto an engaging group blog written by a collective of talented artists. The mission of the blog was simple: try to fill a one-hundred page sketchbook within a month, and post your progress. I visited the blog daily, fascinated by the results of the challenge. I found it inspiring.
Juliana can watch any movie at any time. I, on the other hand, have to find the perfect movie to match my mood. Often, I cannot make that match. It can become an incapacitating issue.
The same problem afflicts me when I'm trying to find subject matter to draw. I never suffer from artistic "writer's block." Instead my problem is that I keep pouring over crates of material, trying to find the one that matches my mood and desire. I also want the image to be majestic. I'll find something after a two hour search, but then it's late and I'm too tired to draw.
To try and overcome these issues, I decided to join the blog, with the goal being to fill a one-hundred page sketchbook in one month (June). I wanted to tune my eyes to a new way of seeing.
While this has been the most artistically prolific time of my life, it's always good to have additional goals, especially a daily one. To stay on course, I need to complete three pages a day. This will be a good challenge.
To ensure that I would finish the task, I made one rule for myself -- I didn't have to post every page, only those that I felt comfortable showing. If I felt obligated to show every page, I worried that I would be overly critical of each mark of the pen with the result being that I would feel stifled and hesitant and quit. I would post only what I wanted to post. If I created a crappy drawing, fine. It would remain hidden between pages.
When you're trying to fill a sketchbook on a schedule, it's about artistic survival. You have to generate subject matter from simple things that surround you. It forces you to train your brain. The subject matter doesn't have to be grand. Among some of the images to fill my sketchbook so far: my right foot, a coat rack, my right hand, a safari hat, a plush chair, a desk chair, a wine glass half-filed with cabernet, and a lamp. The mundane becomes immortalized in ink on paper. It doesn't have to be high-concept or grand. Having to fill a sketchbook makes me see things differently, and I like that. I notice the little things.
Taking the everyday and turning it into a realized painting was an enviable trait that I had not quite developed. I could easily conceptualize the grand, but often overlooked the small. It's easy to stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon and know that you should take a picture. It's not as intuitive to see a coffee mug sitting on a counter and know that it is just as relative. Furthermore, it challenges you as an artist. When you take a picture of the Grand Canyon, the view does most of the work. But when you're an artist drawing a coffee mug, it's up to you to make it interesting. The first part is finding the common, and the second part is translating it into an effective visual. This process teaches me a lot.
To see the progress of me and other artists, you can check out the Sketchbook Month blog.