Artwork: January Update

One of the things I’ve been wanting to do this year is make more art. That’s always the case, but it’s been especially true this year. Despite being at home most of 2020, I didn’t do a lot of art-making. While I started out the year strong by finishing a lot of incomplete projects, shortly after the pandemic started I lost all interest in sketching for a couple of months. While I would eventually create my facemask project and my annual holiday cards, I didn’t draw nearly as much as I would have liked. I haven’t berated myself over it because we’ve been living in a pandemic for almost a year now, but I also know I’m capable of creating on a consistent basis if I commit to it. My daily abstractions experiment from 2019, not to mention the Inktober challenge I did this past year, are proof of that. Moving into the new year, I wanted to reset that focus.

A Year in the Life, 2019. These 2″ x 3″ abstractions demonstrate that I can make art every day, even if only for a few minutes, so long as I consciously set aside time and space for it.

My desire to create more work only amplified toward the end of the year, when I found a deer skull during one of my walks. Not to be morbid, but I love drawing skulls because of all the visual opportunities they offer in terms of line, light, and shadow. And given my ongoing interest in drawing inspiration from local environs, I found this skull all the more intriguing. A potential series immediately came to mind, but that’s happened countless times at this point, only to have the ideas lose interest within a couple of weeks. Since I have a history of now always following through on artistic endeavors, I decided to take a critical look at my creative practice and make some changes.

The deer skull as I initially found it. I immediately started thinking of ways to draw it, but given my history of not always following through with artistic ideas, I knew I needed to revise my creative practice.

The first thing I did was get a journal so I could actually write out ideas and suggestions for myself. I’ve never done this for my artmaking before, but given how helpful journaling has been to my prospectus process, I thought writing down ideas and creating plans for following through would be useful. So I wrote down what I wanted to do, and started thinking of ways to accomplish it.

And through this process, I learned that I needed to change my sketching practice.

I’ve been sketching for years, but it hasn’t always been consistent. Sometimes I’ll carry a small sketchbook for quick pencil studies done in situ, but more often I like to take my time on larger sketches, using pen and ink and acrylic watered down to resemble watercolor. The rationale is that this will give me a more complete template should I ever want to make a finished painting, drawing, or print down the road. In actuality, it means that I’ve developed a mixed media approach to drawing, with the sketches themselves acting as the finished work more often than not.

The issue with my approach was that I wasn’t drawing consistently, because I always thought it required a significant time investment in terms of set-up, clean-up, and actually drawing. The result was that I was only sketching on the weekends, which left little time for other projects, like prints, paintings, or even finished drawings. In order to make time for these endeavors then, I needed to make sketching a more consistent practice.

So I’ve changed how I go about sketching. Instead of only doing it on weekends, I now sketch during the week, leaving time on the weekends for other projects. Additionally, instead of taking on the whole sketch at once, I now break it up into stages. I’ll start with a quick pencil sketch on-site, taking my sketchbook with me on my daily walks. These gestural studies are something I can do in five minutes or less, but give me a sense of the forms, the distribution of light and shadow, and so forth. I’ll then finish these sketches at home during the evenings, when I can set up all of my paints and ink.

The result is a compromise between all the ways I like to draw. I can still do the detailed, mixed-media sketches I like, but I don’t have to take all of my equipment with me on my walks. I also get to practice quick, gestural-style drawing through the preliminary pencil studies. Additionally, finishing the sketches at home in the evenings, as opposed to on-site in the woods, means I get to spend more time with Brandon, as I’ll usually be drawing while we’re either watching T.V. or talking about our days. Finally, because I’m drawing more consistently during the week, I’m in better form overall for artmaking. Instead of feeling like I have to spend the weekend sketching because I’m out of practice, I can launch right into more ambitious projects because I’m already drawing regularly.

That means more time for actual preparatory studies for future paintings or drawings, like these:

All in all, not a bad way to start the new year.

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