Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fearless sketching in 'good' books

In the past I have grappled with the question of how many notebooks and sketchbooks I should be keeping at the one time. My habit is (and always has been) to work in many books for different purposes. But I kept thinking I should cap it at a number (ideally, one).

Well, I'm here to say, I can't do it. I tried. And I can't.

I won't actually reveal how many different books I keep simultaneously (for drawing, writing, lists etc) because that number is embarrassing...but I'm slowly embracing the fact that the one-book method is not for me.

But one thing about which I am a complete convert is keeping a sketchbook which is made of quality paper. In the past I've been scared to draw in 'good books' - worried I'd muck them up. Now I think: better to muck them up than leave them empty!

I read this story recently about a woman who inherited three shelves of blank journals from her mother. While the mother may have been trying to communicate some kind of obscure message for her daughter to decipher, perhaps, more simply, she had intentions to fill them, but was too afraid to put pen to paper, for whatever reason.

Putting pen to paper is powerful. It feels permanent and indelible. But we don't have to give it this kind of gravity. If we approach the page in a more playful way - thinking that this is a place of freedom and fun - then we can avoid the feeling that what we are about to commit to the page will be there for all posterity. If we do enough work, there will be a proportion of it that will be bad but a good chunk of it will be good, and if you do it for long enough, it will only get better. And that sense of seeing your work progress is one of the joys of keeping a sketchbook.

Okay, I'll confess this much: I have three sketchbooks on the go at the moment. A small format Sago on Tuesdays journal which feels beautiful in the hand and an A4 watercolour Moleskine to experiment with a larger size. I also have a cheap Moleskine softcover Cahier which I think of as my 'secret' sketchbook (because I never show it to anyone). That one is for sketching when I'm with the kids - I know the sketches will be incomplete, probably food-stained and perhaps even scribbled over or torn. Hey, why fight it?

But 'good' sketchbooks (which inevitably cost more) are worth every cent. I have found when I work on beautiful paper I value the book more. I take pride in working in it and there is a huge sense of satisfaction in finishing it - it feels like a complete 'volume'. It is a pleasure to work on the pages because they hold the media I want to use (often watercolour) without buckling or showing through to the other side.

I have definitely 'stuffed up' pages. I do it all the time. I try to learn from what went wrong, but the important thing is to just turn the page and start another drawing. And 'expensive' journals aren't really that expensive when you add up how much you spend on cafe coffees in a few weeks (or whatever your particular indulgence is!).

And if that's still not convincing, read this post by Sonya at Sago on Tuesdays. If you ask me, she kind of says it all.