During my week in France I wanted to complete my challenge of a sketchbook in a day. I failed.
Talking with a friend on my return, she said “I’m not surprised you didn’t have much time to sketch on a family holiday; don’t be too harsh!”
And she’s right – finding time was hard. We were busy cooking, sleeping, reading, teaching small child to beat Grandpa at Bridge and teaching Grandpa how to make loom bands. Not to mention cave paintings, fortified houses, guillotines and a high rope adventure amid an electric storm.
I found it hard to settle into the right mindset to try something new and the new sketchbook made only one outing.
One morning I did set off with some painting equipment packed up and settled, only to realise I’d forgotten my jar of water. Best laid plans or the universe trying to thwart me? 10 minutes later my daughter came running along the track to find me and budged me along the rug. The house we were staying in is on a hillside in a small valley. The other side of the valley is just 300m away and heavily wooded with no view beyond. There is no ‘larger landscape’ to see and I didn’t have access to car or the time for long walks to find new vistas. So my rug was laid just at the top of the hill. With no ‘view’ I looked instead at finding forms within some closer details. The field was just a sea of mid green until you looked and saw the waving cow parsley and dots of yellow buttercups. Even closer, I drew the delicacy of the fine strands of wild flowers – one to each page. Some miniature yellow orchid shapes, and soft overlaps of purple clover. Not just green then! At the moment the colours are just in my head but I will return to add to these drawings.
What I found easier was finding the odd moment. I always had a small sketchbook in my bag and looking back I’m surprised to discover I did actually do a fair amount! From passengers waiting at Liverpool Street station for a delayed train, fields mapped out from the aeroplane window, views across the lake or just the overlapping layers of horse chestnut leaves. None of these drawings took longer than a few minutes.
I did find that I reverted to type – simply using pencil but I tried to be conscious about the marks I was making – how my hand was moving and to consider tone rather than just line. Even in some of these tiny thumbnails there may be enough to spark something when I get back to the studio. Perhaps these lines and remembered colours will inspire a painting in the future. Perhaps not. If nothing else it will spark my memory as a drawing always does.
And something exists that wasn’t there before. That is the magic of creation.
It doesn’t matter where you begin. I haven’t (yet!) completed my challenge but by drawing where I can, I have commited things to memory in a certain way. I have also created a record which I can return to and use as new starting points. I’m sure it is possible to create a sketchbook in a day. But I know it’s possible to fill a sketchbook just one page at a time. One page, and repeat.