Saturday, February 06, 2010


Here are my daily sketches from January, my self-made sketchbooks unfolded and laid flat. As you can see, when you cut and fold a piece of paper in this style, the images on every other row are upside down. If any are worth framing, you can cut them free, nothing having been drawn on the reverse side. I'll be keeping mine as books and may fuse something around the outside and over the "spine" as well as applying a little glue to the backs of pages so that they stay together better.

Did I actually sketch every day? Almost. There were a few days when for whatever reason, the day got away from me and I didn't make the time. But when that happened, I'd catch up as soon as I could, doing two in one day. About halfway through the month, I noticed that I was reflexively reaching for the sketchbook instead of reminding myself it was something I had to do. It was becoming a habit, not a chore, and a welcomed one at that. I had that brief period when I resisted drawing because I couldn't find an interesting subject and didn't want to be drawing just to draw. But that passed when I found a book full of stimulating pictures (see this post). Sometimes I would know as soon as I'd completed one drawing, what I wanted to try the next day. Other times, something would just present itself when I was ready to sit down with sketchbook and pencil. Some days the drawing was quick, other days I'd find several hours had passed while I added details, shading, color.

I was right about the value of having a dedicated sketchbook for this exercise, but I didn't figure out why it was helping me sketch every day until the month was nearly over. I'd been looking down the bike trail, trying to burn the image into my brain so I could use it in an exercise on value. But later, when I sat with the sketchbook, I momentarily froze. My brain was saying that this was the wrong sketchbook to be doing this in. This sketchbook was for copying from a picture, not from memory. I almost got up and pulled out my regular sketchbook where I work out design ideas (as part of the purpose of choosing this scene was to work out perspective issues). And that's when I realized I'd been subconsciously compartmentalizing my sketching into practicing and "the real thing" - designing, and for some reason, I didn't think the two could co-exist in the same book. I knew at that moment why I had not been sketching more often. The old subconscious was putting up barriers based on the invalid premise that if the sketch wasn't coming directly out of my imagination, it didn't belong in that book. But it was ok to do the "workbook" kind of sketching in a workbook, but only if I had free time. Silly but true. It reminded me of how regimented I can be, how hung up I can get on the task-specific function of items to the exclusion of considering they might also function in other surprising ways. How I even stop myself from working on something because it isn't the "right" time of the day. So often I don't even realize I'm doing this.

This got me thinking about what else my subconscious was keeping me from doing that I very much want to do. I thought about the collection of silk ties and other silks in a drawer that I had every intention of using last year but didn't. I thought about the hand quilting on the wedding quilt that I finally got back to last month. I thought about a piece of painted fabric that I've known for a very long time how to exploit, yet continue to avoid taking the first step. Why do I keep avoiding working on these and other seemingly benign things?

This procrastination, I decided, has nothing to do with regimentation, but more with dread borne of memory. The silks are not ready to use, the ties still needing to be taken apart and interfaced - a lengthy and tedious process. My excitement in using them immediately wanes when I remember this. The wedding quilt is big and heavy, a wrestling match to get to some of the areas, the needle hard to manipulate through the layers. And it has a lot of white in it. I instinctively remember the body aches and finger pricks of previous sessions and the fear of getting something on those white areas that will not come out. I never think of the enjoyment the rhythmic quilting gives me once I get going on it, or the motifs as they emerge until I am actually in the midst of doing it. And that piece of painted cloth? It is the fact that I cannot reproduce it coupled with past failures that makes me hesitate to begin. I never think of all my successes, the similar projects that have gone well. My subconscious won't let me. It tells me to fear ruining irreplaceable cloth, not forge ahead to reap the rewards of my experience.

So I'm putting my subconscious on notice. At least I'm going to try. I'm tired of it ruining my fun, so I'm telling it to butt out the next time I want to try something and it can only think of negative things to say.

1 comment:

Shirley Goodwin said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog, Beauty. Like you, I'm not so good at finishing projects - in fact, I often try things and leave them uncompleted. Unless something really excites me (like the latest shibori), I move on. Call it a personality flaw if you will, but it's what keeps me entranced with my craft and soothes my soul - and that's good enough for me .