Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Artist's Sketchbook

                                                    "Jenny"  2011  Graphite
      The Artists Sketchbook
      I realized a couple of days ago that before I was able to get out and start plein air painting again this year, that I tended to use my sketchbook to get some of my art fix that helped get me through this past winter.  So, I thought that talking about the artist’s sketchbook might be fun to do.  As a teacher I require it of my students as a part of their grade.  My hope with each student is that they will learn to develop the life long discipline of drawing.  It has been my experience that you can learn a great deal in a class, but if you don’t practice--daily if possible--you will lose much of the skill and knowledge base that you have developed.

      This drawing of my daughter Jenny, is just one of those drawings that I try to do once in a while, that helps sharpen and maintain my skills.  She is also the only one out of my children so far who I've been able to get to sit for a portrait from life.  All the rest say, take a picture.  Arrg!!  They're missing the point.  I'm trying to not work from the easily delineated frozen image of a photograph, but rather from life.  It is much more challenging, but much more rewarding and satisfying.

                                          "At the Concert"  2011  Graphite 
      Not only does an artist’s sketchbook serve as a great personal classroom, it can also be great therapy.  Sometimes it is a good way for me to get through an occasion where I have to do a lot of sitting and waiting.  This drawing of Ms. Greenfield and one of her students in my kids recent concert, got me through the waiting period for it to start.  It also kept me quiet so that my wife Marilynn could enjoy the music.  I grew up with a "quiet book" that my mother put together for me to play with in church.  I guess my sketchbook has become my adult quiet book.

                                                 "Sycamore"  2010  Graphite
      It also serves as a problem-solving tool, where I don’t have to worry so much about the finished product, but just solve drawing or compositional problems before doing the finished work of art itself.  This drawing of one of my favorite trees will one day serve as a great resource when doing the finished oil painting.

                                "Stephanie's Hanging Garden"  2010  Graphite
    At other times the sketchbook can be just the right size and graphite can be just the right medium for the moment, where you can capture your subject best.  Again, while at my sister in laws house for a summer party, I was able to preoccupy myself with this little scene in her back yard.  Here I was able to use my sketchbook to record a fond memory.

                                  "A View South From Camp"  2008  Graphite
      This scene was across the creek from my campsite in Spring City Canyon back in 2008 as I was on a plein air painting trip.  It was evening, and the light was going fast.  So, instead of hurrying to setup my field easel, I just whipped out my sketchbook and jotted down this image before the day ended.  

      For me the sketchbook is an essential artist’s tool.  However, one does not have to be an “official” artist to keep a sketchbook.  Formal training is not even a factor.  Anyone who has half a notion can get and keep a sketchbook for themselves, and they don’t even have to show it to others if they don’t want to.  Just because I’m a bit of a show off doesn’t mean you have to be.  If one finds themselves inclined to doodle or draw on whatever scrap of paper happens to be in their hand, a sketchbook can become a great organizer and repository of those things.  In many ways for me, it not so different from a journal or a diary.  The great cowboy artist from Montana, Charles M. Russell wrote in a letter to a very young Maynard Dixon these words, “draw, draw, draw”.  I in turn have come to say to my students, “draw baby draw!!!”  It's just so rewarding.  Until next time...

                                    "Sheep in the Meadow"  2009  Graphite

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