Pen and Moon

from the writing nook of Theresa Jarosz Alberti

Tag: art

Sketchbook Skool!

 

[In which one writer finds other things to do with notebooks and pens besides furiously scribbling words.]

I have had a love-affair with art supply stores for years.  Mostly it was drooling at all the colors and paints and pencils and artsy stuff like a kid in a candy store, but then circling back around to my “safe” area–  pens and notebooks.  I love buying pens and notebooks, as do so many of my writerly friends.  How fun to pick up different pens for $2 or $3, and fill up the tabla rasa of white pages.

And then, inspired by a writer-friend who was diving deeply into making art as well, I started dipping my toe in, buying a few art supplies myself.  Maybe a little watercolor box (cheap, like kids use), some colored pencils, some markers.  I found a few Groupons for getting great discounts at art stores, and then I could really have some fun buying stuff.    I didn’t know what I was buying and I felt like a fake in the aisles, an art imposter, but bought them anyway.

And then I put all of them in this set of drawers by my writing desk,  and mostly never used them.  Occasionally, I might hesitantly give something a try, like dabbling with some water colors, playing around, but not much.  I had a yearning, but let all the discouraging voices in my head get the better of me.  Some supplies I never even opened.

banana crop

Banana in watercolor

But lately, those markers and pencils and paint, etc., are actually getting a workout.  I’ve been very interested in art journaling– following several artists online, looking at what others are doing, and I like the idea of combing my word-based journaling– which I’ve been doing for almost 40 years now, hard to believe!– with artsy creativity.  Some people are doing some really cool stuff out there.  I have such a yearning to express myself in a new, playful way.

So, I’ve been taking some online courses that are really helping me to do this.  One of them is by Brene Brown, based on her book “The Gifts of Imperfection,”– excellent class, and I’ll write more about this another time.  The other one is Sketchbook Skool, started by Danny Gregory, an artist I follow who does wonderful illustrated memoirs and teaches others to pursue art in their daily lives.  The class is 6 weeks long, with a different artist each week teaching the “klass” art habits, techniques, tips and tricks.

I debated whether or not to take the class.  It’s a busy time, and I was already taking other classes.  I kept talking myself out of it, and then feeling the yearning all over again.  I wanted to learn!  I wanted to give it a try!  I can’t really draw, have never felt confident about making art, but maybe I could just see what I can learn.

So I jumped in.

Sketches with colored pencils

Sketches with colored pencils

We’re now entering our 4th week of klass.  There are video lessons, forums, a Facebook group, and 2,000  people from all over the world are joining in.  People ask questions, post their drawings, make comments, share their excitement.  And it’s people of all levels– beginners and some very experienced artists.  That last part can be intimidating, but everyone has been very encouraging to us beginners.

I’m not sketching every day, but more than I was ever doing before, and I’m trying to draw things that had seemed “out of my league” before.  Like the guy who was sleeping on a couch in a cafe… he wasn’t moving and couldn’t tell I was drawing him, so I gave it a try.  Mostly what I’m finding is that if I can let go of “is this good or is this bad?” then I go into a zone where I’m looking at something closely, trying to see all the details in front of me, and trying to make my pen draw the lines I see.  It may turn out better than I thought or it may turn out crappy, but the experience of drawing feels good, feels peaceful and connected to the world.  And that is good enough for me for now.

If you’ve ever had any yearnings yourself toward art and drawing, give it a chance.  I highly recommend sketchbook Skool, which is going to have new sessions starting every season (check it out HERE).  or see if your library carries Danny Gregory’s “how to draw” book called “The Creative License:  How to Give Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are.”

You never know where it will lead!

IMG_20140418_154635

 

Giving Up Perfection

This weekend I was driving down the river road and saw a young artist with his easel set up on the bike path.  He was standing in front of his canvas, painting the beautiful Fall colors.  I turned and craned my neck to see how he was doing as I drove by.  There were colors and lines on the canvas, a half-finished work of art.  “That’s brave,” I thought, standing there in public where anyone could watch his process, see the humble beginnings, judge what might not look like much in the middle.

I remembered watching Bob Ross on public television when I was a kid.  My dad liked to watch him teach the audience how to paint landscapes, and Mr. Ross did have a mesmerizing quality about his voice (painting all his “happy little trees.”)  I was fascinated by his process—he’d start painting the scene and it would look like a mess.  It looked like a mess until he was more than half-way through–  every time I watched, I was sure he had totally botched his painting this time.  Wouldn’t you know, he always managed to turn his mess into a miracle, and end the show with a lovely nature scene.

All this has got me thinking about Perfectionism lately.  Continue reading

First Impressions… Completely Dashed

After seeing a movie with a friend, I went to a café on Saturday night.  A band was playing and the place was crowded, so while S went to the restroom, I scouted out a place for us to sit.  I found two spots on a couch in the back if we sat next to the guy currently there, so I took a seat.

The man was sitting on his end, a figure in black leather and chains.  Maybe he was a metal or punk type, with his boots, piercings, fingerless gloves, red hair pulled back into a dreadlock-like ponytail, with other strings hanging off it.  He was hunched over, and I couldn’t tell how old he was at first.  He looked tough.

Then I looked over and glimpsed what he was doing:  he had a large pad of paper on his lap and was working on a line-drawing with a pen, covering the page with intricate and elaborate black lines, some kind of dark gothic fantasy art (I would soon learn it was an homage to H.P. Lovecraft) with tiny skulls and bodies and trees and creatures and such, all painstakingly woven together in one cohesive piece. I wish I was better at describing his style of art… it’s difficult to tell you just how cool it was.  I wanted to keep looking and studying all the details.  And I felt the urge to say something to him. And yet..

He looked unapproachable, toughened, closed.  He might just grunt or growl or ignore me.  Oh well, I decided to risk it anyway.  Now I could see he was young, in his 20s, so I said, “I just have to tell you that that is amazing.  Are you an art student?”

It was then that the castle walls of my stereotypes and pre-judgments came crashing down.  He turned to look at me with his deep blue eyes and smiled, and then I could see the vulnerable soul sitting next to me, a puppy dog of a man-boy hiding behind his appearance.  He told me no, he wasn’t an art student but wished he could afford to go to art school, and then introduced himself to me and shook my hand.  That was the beginning of a sweet 30-minute conversation with W, who was 24, taking occasional classes at a community college, living alone and probably lonely, and coming to this café to draw now and then.

My friend S came over to sit with us, and since she’s an artist as well, I knew the conversation would be good with all the back-and-forths of shop talk.  We gave him tips and resources for free artist workshops and sketching groups around town, and he eagerly pulled out his big portfolio, which had a lot of  impressive gothic fantasy art, and some pieces dating back to 8th grade and high school, other styles as well, some color pencil drawings, scenes and faces.  He was very talented, and it wasn’t hard to compliment his work.

When we left, we wished him luck and gave him encouragement… he’d said he came to this café often to draw, so maybe we’d see him there sometime.  W returned to his drawing.

And me?  I was left with this wonderful sensation of a prejudice/judgment/myth shattering around me.  I’d had to leap over something to take the chance to speak to that tough-looking guy, taking a chance and then getting to receive something so simple–  an unexpected, sweet conversation, and a connection with a tender soul just wanting to make something amazing. I’m glad I leapt.

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