Fools flocked and chattered in Occidental, California on Saturday April 4 for a traditional Fools celebration. Susan Cornelis, Carole Flaherty and I went out to sketch from life. The subjects were moving and in crowds, for me the toughest kind of sketchbook challenge.
Susan and Carole have been participating in Bay Area Urban Sketchers Sketchcrawls. Carole had a lovely setup with her self-designed travel watercolor set and everything clipped and attached to a small drawing board. Susan loaned me her tiny Pocket Palette to try. I’m terrible at this kind of sketching, so it was good to do it on a Foolish day when everything was allowed. This sort of sketching from life takes plein air to a new level. It is meditative and process-oriented. My style tends to be more of an illustrated journal, with writing and collage. I kept a sketchbook through Spain, and at other times, but am entirely untutored in the finer points of more realistic rendering, and am hoping to improve.
Fears of Sketching
I might as well make a checklist of my sketching fears, and get them out of the way as soon as possible. On Saturday I accomplished all of them.
- Fear of doing a really lousy sketch. Check. Around 5 times.
- Fear of doing a really lousy sketch while others sketching are doing better ones. Check.
- Fear of just not being up to the task— moving figurative subjects. Check.
- Fear of messing up pages in a bound notebook. They will always be there as flubs. Check.
- Fear that if I share the messy process of learning, I will be seen as less accomplished in my painting. Check.
I was happy to have some of my sketching doctors give me a critique, over Prosecco and prosciutto at the Underwood in Graton. Here are some of Susan’s sketches from the day. My Rx: mechanical pencil, slower more continuous lines in ink, some media suggestions. (I’m hearing that a new-to-me brush pen favorite is the Pentel.) I’m taking an online sketching class from Marc Taro Holmes which is really excellent. There is a new wave of arts education and it lives online. What if we all came to art school with many skills and techniques, and the ways and means, spiritual and practical, of living as an artist were taught by generous, seasoned masters?
I want to sketch people in life, not in a figure class. I think my best sketches recently were done in DMVs. It took me 3 tries to get a replacement for the license which was lost or stolen. Learning to sketch is a metaphor for letting a new identity emerge. And it’s not always comfortable.
Big Old Nature
My artist friend Laura Foster Corben and I went into a grove of coastal old-growth redwoods on a misty, rainy day. It used to have the worlds tallest tree at around 380 feet. Now taller trees have been measured, but these seem tall enough to me. I was struck by the primitive nature of these trees. Inverting the black and white lets me see the almost palm-like form of these titans in Montgomery Woods State Natural Preserve.
The eerie magic of the giant redwood forest puts those sketching fears in their proper, tiny place.