Why Sketching is Vital: Art


As a teen, I carried a notebook with me constantly. I'd scribble my writing ideas inside or little musings I'd have while I should have been paying attention in class. But I began noticing after a while that my margins were always filled with doodles. It didn't take me long to figure out that these odd little swirls and swiggles contained things that my subconcious mind harbored. So sketching has always been something I did automatically, often without even thinking about it.

Case in point: I was doodling in a notebook a few months ago. The picture above is what I produced. The tree on the left side of the page is the Tree of Knowledge. It holds infinity symbols and eyes, limbs that stretch likes hands into the air and soil. The central image, though, is the bird. It had not yet shed its shell,  yet it flies. I remember thinking about the old question of whether the chicken or the egg came first. Maybe it wasn't that at all. Perhaps it was that the initial creation still possessed innocence, that childlike curiousity that religions the world over tell us to aquire to see The Kingdom of Heaven. These are the types of things that I ponder.

But the sketching allows me to see things differently. It takes me out of myself enough to grasp foreign concepts that my concious mind may not pick up on. I've often sketched items I've seen on the subway, things I didn't even register as having noticed until they ended up on my canvas.

It's like hearing yourself speak openly for the first time. People tell me often that they can't draw. I don't think I can either. Beth, my oil painting professor, told me that art is completely a subjective medium. That means it's okay if you aren't a Picasso or a Rembrant. The important thing, she said, is to be truthful about who you are.

Beth helped me in many ways. She considered abstract art to be my strength. My weakness was that I beat myself up because I am not capable of realism. This caused her to laugh at me: "You can draw and you render realism on the canvas. The truth isnt' that you can't; it's that you don't want to." She querried me further at my reluctance to use the colors red and black, stating that such a strong aversion meant those were actually my natural colors. Beth suggested an art journal.

She was right on all counts. I am an impatient artist. I do not like to spend weeks on a painting, but hours. I enjoy the rawness of the art, the way it funnels through me without restraint. This is my actual reason for avoiding realism: I've seen too often that the surface is not an accurate reflection of anything. During my marriage, I went from being a person who wore bold colors to one who mostly wore neutrals. I no longer wanted to stand out; I wished to hide so I would no longer be exposed to the ugliness I'd seen.

Sketching is a precursor to the artwork. It is vital and necessary, gathering the thoughts like the first draft of a manuscript. When I decided to take up painting, I had barely written a thing for nearly a year. For a woman who had been writing every moment from elementary school, this was akin to sacriledge. The art journal transformed me, one sketch at a time. I started to realize that as I did this, I began buying bold clothing again. I changed my attitude day by day.

Eventually, I was strong enough to end my marriage and attempt to take control of my life again. It is said so often that a journey begins with a single step. This was my step. I had the courage to say to myself, "This is mine. Every color, swirl and stroke." And I'm still learning more about myself through this medium, one sketch at a time.

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