Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Location, location, location


Picture this. You're in public. You find something you want to draw so you spot a cafe, order a latte and when no one's looking you pull out your sketchbook. You try to hide it on your lap or under the table. You cover your art supplies with your bag, you try to draw discreetly. If someone looks in your direction you close the book, or worse, pack it away, the sketch half-finished, feeling deflated.

That was me at the beginning of the year. Too scared to draw in public for fear of judgement. I didn't want people to think: bah, so she thinks she can draw, does she? I didn't even want people to so much as glance at what I was doing and I lived in fear of someone approaching me, making a comment or asking a question.

I've gained much more confidence since. How? Just by doing it. The more I draw in public the more I become absorbed in what I am doing and oblivious to what's going on around me. I don't mind if people glance over (they often do this discreetly - rarely does anyone say something) and I don't try to hide what I'm doing anymore.

The other day I was sketching on a table outside a little creperie in the city. Little did I realise I was sitting in front of the blackboard menu so when a bunch of schoolgirls huddled around to read it, they also looked at what I was doing. This would have been mortifying to me only a few months ago and although it was a little uncomfortable, I kept going with my drawing. It was really okay.

In fact, location sketching is becoming a little addictive. When I think about my day I think: when can I fit in a sketch? Can I stop here for a moment? What can I draw? How much time do I have?

These are my favourite things about location sketching:

1. It's utterly absorbing, and if you ask me, there's nothing better for the mind, body and soul than to be engaged in something so enjoyable that you lose track of time. It's meditative, rejuvenating and ultimately, life-affirming. True.

2. You really see things. When you take the time to draw something you have to look at line, shape, shadow, colour in ways you would never normally study it. You notice things you wouldn't otherwise and later, you can not only recall with incredible detail the scene or object, but the feeling of being there is much more intense and evocative.

3. 'Me time'. Yeah! As a mum to a 3.5-year-old and one-year-old there isn't a great deal of that! Often I'll do little sketches while the kids are around but for more dedicated sessions I will actively book in the time for myself to sketch. Usually it's while completing another errand! Before I do the grocery shop (which I always arrange to do without the kids in tow, for reasons of personal sanity!) I will have a coffee nearby and get the sketchbook out. The other day I had an appointment in the city. Instead of heading straight home afterwards I stopped at the aforementioned creperie and drew what I could see. Sometimes it's easy to put up barriers to doing what we want to do and telling ourselves it's not possible right now. It's not possible for me to spend a whole day drawing, that's true. It's just the time of life I'm in right now, raising young kids. But it doesn't mean I have to put my own interests on hold. I make the time, I block it in, I add it on to something else I'm doing.

4. I'm building skills. With every sketch I'm getting better. (Some days it doesn't seem like it, sometimes it feels like I'm getting worse, haha!). Some sketches are so bad I want to rip the page out but I resist, and try to rework it instead. I feel like I have to accept mistakes as part of learning and incorporate them into something new - a lot of the time this works, sometimes it doesn't, but I tell myself, no one ever has to see this page so who cares. But the fact is, every time I put pen, pencil or paint to paper I'm learning something new about looking, about translating what I'm seeing, about how my materials handle, about what I'm good at and what I need to work on and about, well, how stuff works, moves, is built or structured. It's exciting!

5. It's fun. It's cheap. I'm a fan of sitting in cafes with something interesting to look at so it costs me the price of a coffee. (I won't talk about the cost of art materials because, like sketching itself, they can be addictive too ;)

So that's why I love location sketching! Anyone feel the same way?