Monday Art: The Sketchbook Project

It’s a new week, a new month, and yes, a new look for this blog! If you missed the weekend update, I’ve decided to blog daily (on weekdays) about a new topic every day: art on Mondays, artist dates on Tuesdays, crafting on Wednesdays, and writing process on Thursdays, with an “open mic” on Fridays. Let’s get started!

Yesterday night I was so fired up about this week’s blogging, I actually sat down and began drafting every single day’s posts. I was thinking I might start the week with a comic, since I haven’t done one of those in a while. But today, when it came time to sit down and draw, my heart just wasn’t in it. We got our cat Tisha’s biopsy results today, and they’re not so good. I wasn’t expecting anything more optimistic, but knowing he has maybe a year at most made it hard to think about anything else.

Sketchbook ProjectLuckily, the mail arrived just about then, bringing with it a brand-new Moleskine sketchbook. A few weeks ago I discovered The Sketchbook Project through a post on Geninne’s Art Blog, and I signed up to participate. It’s a fun concept: they send you a sketchbook, you send it back when you’re done, and it goes on tour and then lives permanently at a “library” gallery where people can check the book out. Even better, you’ll be notified whenever your book is checked out, and for an extra fee (which I paid) they’ll also digitize the completed book and make it available online.

As soon as I opened the package and saw the sketchbook, I knew what I would do with it: I’d start writing about, and doodling, Tisha. Why let my preoccupation with my kitty stop me from drawing? Let it give me something to draw about, instead! Once I got started, the words and images just flowed, as easily as if I’d been taking direction from an existing script. I began to describe our first meeting with Tisha back in 2006, when he was still living with his previous owners, Olga and Dimitri.

Page 1 of sketchbook

Sketchbook Project instructions and my Page 1 (click for full-size version)

I drew and wrote for somewhere between a half-hour and an hour. I’d been initially hesitant to tackle drawing our kitties, but I used them and photos of them for reference, and I think they came out okay. Let that be a lesson to me to just do, and not worry so much about whether everything’s perfect.

Last Saturday at Anthem’s workshop I was talking to a fellow writer, Erika, about my graphic novel ambitions, and I mentioned that I wanted to wait until I mastered perspective and other skills before I started on these projects. “Why wait?” she demanded. “There are plenty of incredible graphic novels out there that don’t bother with those things.” She invoked Persepolis. “We read and love them,” she reminded me, “because of the stories they tell, not because the art is perfect.” I told her, “I know, I know,” but her remarks stuck with me after we parted. If my goal is expertise in the classical technical aspects of drawing, my comics could be waiting in the wings for decades, and who’s to say I even have that much time?

Dancers doodle

Dancers doodle, April 2010

Moreover, as all artists (including writers) know, there is something very special about simple sketches that nearly always gets lost in the refined, revised, “perfected” final product. My Drawgasmic piece was inspired by the casual doodle at right, and even though it’s a technically better drawing and I worked on it longer, it lacks the carefree fun and sass of the doodle. People respond to my doodles because of the energy they contain, not because of their artistic merit (which is subjective anyway!). So I’ve resolved to start drawing comics again, even if the drawings are “bad.” I can still keep working on perspective and other technical skills even as I doodle away. The two pursuits will inform each other, and this will make me a better artist in the long run.

Sketchbook Project Page 2

Sketchbook Project Page 2 (click for full-size version)

I’ll continue working on the Sketchbook Project whenever I have a chance, and I’ll share new pages when I’ve got them.

Tomorrow, I’m heading out on my first proper artist date in ages. I have a little hankering to hang out by the ocean, but will the weather cooperate? Come back tomorrow evening and find out!