Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Practice of Sketching

Drawing for it's own sake is a wonderful, meditative experience. Following a contour with sensitive line can be mesmerizing. And drawing was always my go-to art activity. Now that I'm painting, color and texture claim my visual attention more often than line. But, lately I feel "drawn" to drawing, and that's a good thing.

At a plein air workshop with Charlotte Wharton we started out with thumbnail sketches for composition and value patterns. Haven't done that in a long time. And you know, you can get to a certain level of comfort with one medium, but it doesn't just slide over to another. My still life paintings might start with a fairly refined drawing but sketching feels very different. So I hold the pencil like I've never seen it before and finally dig in. Once I got into the swing of it, it felt great.
Switching gears is a creaky process.

The workshop was in Massachusetts, close enough to go to the Fitchburg Museum and bask in the glorious interiors of Eleanor Norcross. After going through the exhibit 2, 3 times, I wasn't ready to leave, so I started sketching - observing the artist's choices and taking it all in. It's not just looking; more like touching with the pencil on paper, getting to know the work better. Because adding another sensory experience enhances memory (like taking notes that you never refer to, or repeating something out loud that's important to remember). Drawing is a way to study shapes and spatial relationships, taking in a wealth of information to creatively interpret an object or scene.
my sketch of Eleanor Norcross' painting "My Studio"
"My Studio" by Eleanor Norcross 1891

Back home again, while organizing my own studio, I got lost looking through old drawings from... 45+ years ago! Amazingly, I knew when and where most were done, and you'd think there would be steady progress over time, but, not so much. Plenty of ups and downs. The peaks happened when I was "in the zone" ...somehow. That used to confuse and frustrate me - isn't learning supposed to be a gradual, upward climb? No, there is good interspersed with awful. Successes tend to happen when you can tune out from distractions and tune in to the subject or materials.

And that brings me back to meditation. Sometimes life lets you do that, and sometimes it doesn't, but I think practice helps. So, on this little trip down memory lane, I enjoyed revisiting the times when it clicked and being ok with the times that it didn't. And I will try not to feel too guilty about not having a daily sketch habit. There are only so many hours in a day...

If you're in New England, spend some time checking out Evoking Eleanor at the Fitchburg Museum. Beautiful artwork in an elegant space!

by Eleanor Norcross at Fitchburg Museum of Art
by Eleanor Norcross

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