Just Keep on Doing the Work
The Martha Graham quote above is from an article I saved in the past by James Clear. When I saw it today in my feed, the headline resonated with me, loudly. I am in a peculiar mental space these days. There are some uncertainties circulating around me, and I’ve already talked about my restless midlife consciousness. I know, more and more, what I want and what I need, but even as I focus on that other side of me, I am always battling an inner voice. In the linked article, Clear talks about the ways in which we are self-critical, to our own detriment, and about the fact that we can’t always know what will have an impact on others. What we think is best or most worthy may go unnoticed, but a story that seems slight or less substantial to our own inner critic may really capture attention.
Instead of trying to sort that out, he says our job is simply to keep creating. He writes: “…your responsibility is to create. Your job is share what you have to offer from where you are right now. To quote Pema Chodron, the Buddhist teacher, your job is to ‘come as you are’…. The key is to not let your self-judgment keep you from doing your thing.”
Nightly Drawings and the Road Back
I have been working with photos from Sktchy for many months now. Occassionally, I get in a thematic rut where I really need to search for photos in other places (like a series of pinwheel-centered drawings I did last week), but otherwise, I’ve been happily picking a photo from Sktchy each night… and drawing.
Drawing people remains relatively new territory for me. My month-long series of selfies last year might be, really, the beginning of this phase. Other than rogue drawings of sleeping children, drawing “people” isn’t something I have done all that often in the past. Those self-portraits last year were an important rekindling for me, a return to daily drawing, to pen and ink, to navigating the drawing process with trifocals (which is a huge challenge and has really changed how I draw).
The doing of the drawings was important even though those drawings yielded pictures of people that didn’t look like me. I would look at the finished sketch and wonder about that person I had drawn. Who was she? (At the time, I was also still, after more than six months, acclimating myself to a super short haircut.) The series of selfies last year confused me. They perplexed me. I never got finished and thought to myself, “that’s me.” But the span in which I did those drawings was important and pivotal for me as a creative person. Through selfies, I found my way back.
Jump ahead a few months to the post Index-Card-a-Day season, and I started experimenting with Sktchy as a source of material, expecially in the context of Inktober. Sktchy gave me a new way to find subject material for my daily sketches, and sketching people became a new challenge. I have continued to draw from Sktchy. My queue of photos I would like to draw is large, and there are several artists I follow at Sktchy. They are generating beautiful work.
While Others Leap Ahead
It has been exciting to watch others in the CMP community begin sketching people (maybe for the first time) and begin using Sktchy. Some have completely blossomed in the process and found new terrain for self-expression, new voice, and new confidence.
I continue to draw my Sktchy-inspired sketch each night… in ink… typically just black and white. It is easy to doubt my own work. I am well aware of its flaws. At the same time, some of the artists I admire are not realists. Their work is inspired by photos, but their voice and execution is loose, maybe quirky, maybe off-kilter. I view work by others, and I realize that there is a slim possibility that I am too critical of my own work, that my fear is holding me back.
I often think that if I worked in color, my work would be more shareable. It would be more relateable. It would be easier to post my work and stand behind it. “This was my sketch last night.”
But I love black and white. I am constantly striving to find new ways to bring more depth and tonality and texture to my black and white. I am constantly trying to capture lights and darks with simple hatching, attempting to create a range of values in line.
Still Building Up to It
I have yet to post my work at Sktchy. Each time I consider doing it, I look at my cell phone photo of whatever drawing I think I will share, and I am critical. I have started to post, countless times, and I have yet to do it.
But I have started realizing that I love these drawings. I started using them for website assets as I have worked on updating my site. I don’t have full-colored, bright, playful art from which to create images for my site or highlights for my shows. What I have, really, are simple nightly sketches. They aren’t even on good paper. They aren’t pretending to be anything other than what they are… the daily sketches that fuel my own sense of discipline and routine. They are not precious, except that they are. I believe I am getting better.
I needed to create a banner last night, and I couldn’t figure out the quickest way to accomplish what I needed. So I turned to my sketches over the last few weeks (and one or two from back in Inktober). I started layering them together and realizing… I love what I’m doing.
I’m proud of what I’m doing. I know all the negative things I could say, but I am not going to do it. I’m really proud looking at this… because this is awesome. This is a totally valid and valuable use of my time each day. This is a part of me that no one knows… but that may be the most important part. And what I want these days is to be a part of a community that knows.