Something clicked for me late last fall. I found this really shitty sketchbook in a supply closet from my time as a summer camp counselor. It was a Strathmore recycled 120 sheet (as mentioned in my last post.) The book was super cheap, thin paper, spiral bound, etc, etc. I had been using this gorgeous hardcover Moleskine that cost more than my rent, and the fear of imperfection began to prevent me from drawing anything at all. Without noticing, I had gone from drawing daily in 2019 to barely practicing just two years later. I blamed it on a lack of motivation, a lack of inspiration, and a lack of patience. But of course, I still had time to binge RHONY in bed, take 8-hour long naps, and play Club Penguin Rewritten for hours on end. But somehow no time to draw for ten minutes.
(The Sketchbook in question)
The problem wasn't my laziness... it was my fear of messing up such a beautiful book. I had no desire to take a chance at creating something messy or ugly, so I didn't make anything at all. And on the rare occasion that I did sit down to draw something, it was the same unremarkable matisse-wannabe type illustrations. Complete with torn-up Posca pen paper and a headache-inducing palette, I was uninspired due to my fear of creating something ugly. This is so silly, considering some of my favorite artists make the ugliest artwork I've ever seen (respectfully). I ran into the same problem everywhere I turned- my canvases were too precious, watercolor paper too pretty, and panels too expensive to risk any mistakes. So I sat for months, idly making work that I had seen somewhere before. In my mind, it was better to copy art that worked rather than risk something original and failing at it. It's crazy to think that this silly little summer camp sketchbook completely changed that.
(One of my favorite 'ugly' works)
Looking back, I can't believe that my big scary problem could be solved so simply. I was sitting in my living room, drinking Sauvignon Blanc on a late Thursday in October, watching my fifth YouTube video on Pokémon evolutions. I found my flimsy green sketchbook and started scribbling. I didn't feel like trying to draw- I just wanted to do something with my hands. So I doodled away. I barely looked at the page. If I messed up it didn't matter- the book was expendable. In my eyes, it was trash compared to my precious, perfect, untouchable Moleskine. But suddenly something changed. I was flying through the pages, unafraid of the ugliness I was creating. I was having... fun. I kept drawing and drawing until half the book was filled with poorly realized rabbits, messy thought bubbles, and aggressive graphite strikes. Upon finishing the bottle, I looked through what I had created and was surprised to find myself smiling. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was a fluke. I went to bed without thinking too much about it.
The next morning, I woke up and drowsily flipped through what I had been frantically creating the night before. To my surprise, I actually liked what I saw. It was interesting and raw and aggressive. These drawings were a clearer representation of my headspace than anything I had painted in the last year. I was so sick of my own work- it had been feeling so fake and plastic in the age of Covid. These sketches were so much more than what I had been hoping for. They looked like me, felt like me, and I truly enjoyed making them. In all honestly, I hadn't been enjoying my practice at all up to that point.
(The page that started it all!)
Five months later, I'm on my third sketchbook which is nearing completion. I keep buying the same book because it works best for me (I tried purchasing a Canson XL, but it was too pretty for me to use. It's empty as of now). Basically, the big takeaway here is that you should try to fill up a cheap sketchbook as fast as possible. When I was in college I remember an assignment where I needed to complete 100 drawings in 3 days. I busted my ass to try to create beautiful work, but it just wasn't possible and left me feeling so frustrated. After seven years, I finally understand the point of that assignment. So go try it! Grab a pencil and just start filling up the pages. A cheap sketchbook filled with bad art is a million times more interesting than an expensive sketchbook filled with nothing at all.
Currently watching: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Currently listening to: Alive with the Glory of Love- Say Anything
Currently obsessed with: Yellowfin tuna