Throughout much of my adult life, I’ve had a recurring dream. I see myself at an airport, and I’m trying to board a plane, but I’m being sent hither and yon, never quite getting accurate directions to where I’m supposed to go, or finding out — once I get there — that I don’t have the right paperwork, that I’ve been given the wrong information, or that for some other reason I’m not where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there.
So, around and around I go, all the while knowing time is running out, the plane will be taking off soon, and just where is it I need to go now? It is, in a word, all very disorienting.
I’ve drawn upon that feeling in creating this little watercolor pencil and ink painting. No, I didn’t have that frustrating, exhausting airport dream last night, but I was definitely feeling quite disoriented this morning.
I came into the studio ready to grab my “warm-up” sketchbook, the one I’m using for my “Going in Circles” project. But then another thought crossed my mind. It’s 2022 now. Shouldn’t “Sketchbook Revival” be starting soon?
I participated in “Sketchbook Revival” for the first time last year. It was a series of free, online workshops and demonstrations. For me it proved to be a turning point in my awareness of myself as an artist. My personal experience with “Sketchbook Revival 2021” set me off on several new artistic journeys, leading me to pursue art therapy, explore surrealism, and develop more abstract thinking regarding the process of art.
Because I had participated last year and had signed up for a newsletter, I expected to receive information on the 2022 program. But nothing had come in my email. I went browsing for “Sketchbook Revival 2022” and found nothing. What was going on?
I did see a link to the Sketchbook Revival Facebook group, so I followed it in hopes of getting additional information about when the 2022 workshops would begin. There I found posts referencing “Day 2” and “Day 3” and lots of #Sketchbook Revival 2022 “hashtags” — which led to another Facebook group, one that was private, and of which I was not a member.
The disorientation was beginning as I clicked on hashtags and found myself bounding around here and there, still finding drawings and watercolors and mention of a 5-Day Challenge — but nowhere could I find any actual information on the challenge itself or how to complete it.
Finally I made my way to a “Happy New Year Challenge” from artists Karen Abend and Sarah Simon. It’s not exactly “Sketchbook Revival” but… will there be a Sketchbook Revival? Or will there only be various “challenges” such as this “Flower” challenge? I don’t know. I haven’t found any answer.
I did quickly sign up for the New Year challenge, but I was starting several days behind. Help! It was that same uncomfortable feeling I have in my dreams when I realize the plane is going to take off without me.
I started scrolling through posts in the Facebook group, looking for a starting point. Where was I supposed to begin? What media was I supposed to use? I saw so many different things as I scrolled through the posts. I felt lost, totally disoriented.
At last I came to a “Day 1” post and figured out that the “flower of the day” was the Ranunculus. But were there any specific directions? I didn’t immediately see any additional information, so I just grabbed a sheet of watercolor and began sketching in my version of ranunculus blooms. I used several shades of red watercolor pencils (from my Derwent Academy set), added green stems, wet it all with a round brush and water, and then made a few splatters on the page just because I felt like it. I added dark centers with a black watercolor pencil.
At that point, I wanted to define the blooms a bit, so I grabbed a Sharpie and outlined each flower. All the while I was feeling quite disoriented. I definitely liked the looseness of this painting, and I felt it did represent a bit of the confusion I felt as I painted.
I laughed a bit, too. Even though I wasn’t working in my “circles” sketchbook, that’s what I was really doing. Making circles. Making circles inside of circles. That’s when I decided to do a very stylized version of ranunculus flowers. Here was my “Going in Circles” page for the day:
As you can see, I used a stencil to keep my marks as clean and straight as I could, working from a close approximation of the sizes and shapes of the blooms in my first watercolor painting.
This is yet one more example of seeing — and feeling — the differences between making highly controlled marks and loose, spontaneous ones. Without a doubt, I like the loose, free marks much better.
Another good point in this — I think — was that I didn’t have precise directions, or even suggestions, to follow. All I had was a flower prompt — ranunculus. Later, as I browsed through more posts, I learned that the actual challenge for Day 1 was to use continuous line drawing for the Ranunculus prompt. I’ve used this technique before, and it can be fun.
But in doing my ranunculus drawing, I was completely on my own. I choose to use my watercolor pencils. I chose to use several varieties of reds and pinks. I decided which brush to use. I decided to add the splatters. I was completely in charge. That felt good.
Now, back to continuous line drawing.
Coincidentally (and you know I don’t really believe in coincidence) I was doing a bit of continuous line drawing on New Year’s Day as part of a drawing exercise. So, needless to say, I had to do my “ranunculus” one more time, following the specific prompt instructions to use continuous line drawing.
Now, what you see here probably doesn’t look much like a continuous line drawing, but it is — or, at least, it was before I added color. I started with graphite, created the flowers in a continuous line, and I was reasonably satisfied with it. But I happened to have a yellow highlighter on my desk. I started coloring in only to find the yellow blending with the graphite to create an odd green hue. Then, since my Sharpie was sitting here, too, I colored the background, outlining the blossoms as I went.
Nothing I’ve created this morning is especially beautiful, but each drawing represents another aspect of art. One is representative of loose watercolor. One shows the use of controlled line. One simply celebrates a bit of creative freedom.
Of the three, the first is my favorite, and even though I felt a bit disoriented as I tried to figure out what to do and how to do it, I gradually relaxed and had fun playing with the process, and that’s what I’m celebrating today.
Art lies within the process, not necessarily in the results. There are no definite rules about how we create art. Even if we have guidelines, directions, or specific instructions, our work will always reflect our individual choices. We can start with one idea and find many different ways to way express it. This is the wondrous process of art.
Oh, by the way, I later did find out that Sketchbook 2022 will begin in March, so be watching for further information as I receive it. Sketchbook Revival is an awesome program, so I encourage everyone to check it out and take part.