Last March, we had a pretty new rambunctious puppy, and a scary, uncertain reality bearing down on us. We were newly locked down, and I thought I’d be back at work any day, any week. I set up my office in our kitchen, to contain Charley puppy, and I called it the bunker. Time passed pretty slowly in the bunker. Every morning when I turned on my computer, numbers flashed across my screen – new infections, deaths, number of days in lockdown. I reviewed the same files repeatedly, I wrote letters to the outside world, but some days, I just sat on the floor and threw a ball for Charley and Olive. They were in heaven in our cramped corner of the kitchen. I was losing my mind, a teeny bit.
I started playing around with my art supplies, and doodling in my sketchbook. And in some email from some artist who I had signed up on their mailing list, I got a link for a free online event, The Sketchbook Revival, and I signed up. And then, every week for two weeks, I got a spark of inspiration in my email box.
Every day there was a new video, with a new idea for filling up my sketchbook – artists sharing their passions every day. It was really a lifeline, and I remain grateful for this opportunity to explore different mediums, different styles; it really was a springboard for my own daily art practice.
Of course, I went back to my sketchbook to show you some of the things I created with this class, but I only found a few. I often rip things out of my sketchbook to become handmade greeting cards. But, here are a few things I created, things, by the way, I never would have done without being prompted because a. I never would have come up with it myself or b. I would have thought it was silly.
This was the first lesson from Sketchbook school – yep, just paint blobs. Smear some acrylic ink, or paint, or watercolor, or some kind of blob, and turn it into an animal. This lesson came from Carla Sondheim, who I was familiar with from her books.
Last year, Carla was one of the sponsors of Sketchbook Revival, and she provided a generous coupon for one of her online classes. So I signed up for a class on her website. I made things like this:
I did the exercises, because I really need something fun to do, but I never really thought her techniques were for me. I was totally being snobby. I thought this was fun, but eh, whatever – it’s kids art. But that’s just the thing – kids have incredible imaginations. When I was a kid, and you told me to draw a bird, I would have drawn the most original bird, without thinking probably, I would have just taken my crayon, and imagined some kind of fantastic bird like creature. Maybe a dragon bird. Maybe a person bird. Maybe just a bird with wings. Now, it’s like, what kind of bird? where’s the reference photo? how to you paint realistic feathers? What about all of those tiny details, like the eye?
I don’t know what happened to my imagination between childhood and now. As a child, I definitely didn’t even know an imagination was something special. And now that I really really want to access it – it’s so hard. I’ve convinced myself that imagination is a muscle that needs to be exercised, and mine is just flabby like my thighs. I just need to do the work, and I can find it again. So, I’ve been revisiting Carla’s art, and her website, and I’m going to revisit the lessons. But that’s just an example of how the Sketchbook Revival was the spark for nearly a year’s worth of contemplating imagination, and art, and where does art come from, and how do you make it flow?
Here’s another exercise from the Sketchbook Revival:
Unfortunately, I can’t remember the artist who showed us this bunny illustration lesson. Before this exercise, I didn’t really think about illustration, or bunnies. I did this fun little exercise, and put it away. Now, since I’ve downloaded Procreate, I’ve been interested in cute little creatures, and illustration (more on that later in the week), and I’ve returned to these pages in my sketchbook for inspiration.
So, my point is, not only will doing the lessons or at least watching the lessons, get you through this still difficult time, and become a jumpstart to a creative practice you may not even have known you wanted to do, it will also become a reference for future you – as your art practice grows, your interests may grow. For me, inspiration is like. a seed, I see something online, a seed is planted, I become curious, I do some investigation, try things out, and maybe I’ll end up with a plant, or maybe, and in actuality, more likely I need up with just dirt in my pot, but at least I tried it out.
So, it’s free, and there’s nothing to lose – so check it out! Click here to sign up for Sketchbook Revival.