In 2015, I challenged myself to do a sketch-a-day for the entire year. That was some project I’ll tell you! There were good days and some not so good days (in fact some desperate days!). I wrote a blog about it at the beginning and one halfway though.
In this post, I want to share examples from the second half of the year. I also want to share some thoughts about the whole process and encourage you to do something similar. It’s not too late to start! I’ll give you some tips to set you up for your own sketch-a-day challenge.
So let’s have a look at a few sketches. I’ve arranged them in themes and collaged them which means usually you’re only seeing part of the sketch. To see all the sketches in their entirety, visit my Facebook Page and click on Photos tab then scroll down to 2015 photos.
Okay, here goes.
Benefits Of Doing A Sketch-A-Day
So why do a sketch-a-day? What’s in it for you? The main thing that comes from sketching each and every day is the satisfaction that comes from knowing you saw with the artist’s eye everyday. Sketching every day is different from thinking about sketching. You may think, “Wow that would be great to sketch” but you don’t be it time constraints, self-doubt, or just plain laziness (I am well aware of all these excuses!).
I spend a lot of time at my computer – writing blogs, engaging on social media, doing research, creating online courses. Days went by when I didn’t step into my studio much less put pen to paper. I began to worry that I would lose my ‘artist’s eye’, that I would lose the ability to capture an image from life. Also, the times I did get into my studio, it took me days to warm up to the work at hand. I felt if I’d been doing some kind of artistic work all along, it wouldn’t take me so long. Thoughts of sketching everyday began to nag at me and so, on the first day of January 2015, I took the plunge and committed to a sketch-a day for the whole year.
It was an amazing project that not only had me create 365 sketches but also gave me insight into my own being – that I could commit to doing something long term no matter how much some days I hated that commitment; that creating habits can help you stay stuck into a challenging project; that there are ups and downs and it’s the ability to ride the wave that’s important; that it’s more satisfying to do the sketch even if you think it looks like rubbish than not to sketch at all. It turns out that you also create a wonderful record of your life.
I want to encourage you to start a sketch-a-day 365. We’re at the end of February but it’s not too late to start. You can just start and go to the end of the year or you can go the full 365 (or 366!) from the day you begin. You could pick 1st March to start! Get into the daily practice of sketching and you will reap the rewards, I promise!
First, your tools. They should be ones you love to use and should always be handy. (No, you can’t use the excuse, It’s not here so I can’t sketch.)
Most important is your sketchbook. Find a sketchbook you love to use – ie has the right surface for you (I like ultra smooth), has the right whiteness (some are bright white, some a soft white), has a pleasing weight (mine is 110lbs). It should have a spiral binding so you can flip the page right over.
It’s best to have more than one sketchbook. I had a medium-sized one in the bedroom and a medium-sized one in the living room. I also had a small one (3 1/2 x 5 – see below) that I carried in my purse so it was with me at all times when I left the house. This is soooooooo important as you never know where the urge to sketch will strike! I have sketched while waiting in a queue, while waiting for fitness classes to begin, in coffee shops. It you go to work, have a sketchbook there. Don’t give yourself an excuse not to sketch!
Next is your sketching medium. I like sketching in pen so I had the brand I liked tucked in with each sketchbook. Yes each one. Again, I didn’t want to have an excuse not to sketch! I used pencil and biro (ballpoint pen) once in awhile. And as mentioned above, I added watercolour once. Find the medium you like best and make sure it’s readily available at all times. But don’t feel stuck to one medium. Feel free to mix it up. And certainly don’t feel that it has to be in black and white. Love coloured pencils? Go for it! Oh yes, I also did a couple of digital sketches too.
Give yourself the benefit of good tools, ones that make you happy to use.
So, you have your tools. Now how to stick to the challenge?
The thing that worked best for me was to commit publicly to the challenge. I did this on Facebook saying I’d post a sketch everyday. I knew that people wouldn’t be waiting every evening to see if I’d posted so it was really about a commitment to myself. I knew I’d made the commitment public so I felt accountable and responsible for getting it done. Many days this was difficult but I would have to say that it was this public commitment most of all that kept me producing a sketch every day.
You’ll need a place to post your sketches. (Sorry, you can’t just say you’re going to do a sketch-a-day, you need to show the world that you are indeed following through!) You can either blog about it (you can set up a quick blog if you don’t have one at wordpress.com or search for ‘free blogging platforms’) or easier still, do like I did and post daily on Facebook and or/Instagram (I did both).
So, a few tips to keep you going day in, day out, pushing through the inevitable excuses:
- To avoid boredom, sketch different things – flowers one day, yourself the next, view from window the next day. Sketch figures, sketch buildings, sketch objects
- Look close-up, look into the distance. My friend Andrea had me draw one of her eyes once. Another time I drew the whole landscape stretched out in front of me
- Sketching from life is most rewarding but don’t feel every sketch has to be from life. When Justine Trudeau became our new Prime Minister, I had the urge to sketch his face and I did this from a screenshot of a photo I found of him. I also sketched abstractly responding to my feelings or a certain energy. I would say beware of sketching from photos though – it dulls the energy and doesn’t cultivate your ‘seeing eye’ as well.
- Keep your judgement well away. At the beginning I hesitated to post a sketch that I thought looked really awful but I did anyway. There will be days of good, even great, sketches and there will be some days when your sketches will have you gnashing your teeth and pulling your hair out! It’s the ride of life those ups and downs. Anyway, posting the good, the not so good, and the ugly will reveal an authenticity and a vulnerability that will have those people giving you supportive and encouraging remarks. And you may be surprised – they may like the sketch you despise! So resist the urge to judge your work.
- Don’t set a time for your sketch – take 5 mins, take 20 mins, it doesn’t matter
- Remember, you can work small. Many of my sketches were only 3 1/2 x 5 in (the size of my small sketchbook). Bigger takes more time, and gives you more reason not to do it!
- I suggest getting your sketch done as early in the day as possible so you don’t end up like I usually did, looking at the clock in the evening and, in a panic, my brain screaming, It’s time to go to bed and you haven’t done your sketch yet!!!
- You may find yourself saying, “There’s nothing to draw.” Oh yes, I know that excuse and it’s rubbish (sorry to be harsh but it is!). There’s always something. There’s nothing to stop you repeating a subject especially one you like (I love tulips and drew them many times). Try a different medium, a different angle, and know too, you’ll bring a different mood to it. Keep looking around – you’ll find something to sketch.
- 11:45 pm is not an excuse not to do a sketch! There is always time to sketch something quickly that’s in your immediate environment. I ended up drawing Cam’s outstretched arm.
- This is related to the point above. Once when I realized at 11:45pm that I hadn’t done my sketch, my honey Cam said, Don’t worry, do it tomorrow. Well there are two things wrong with that : first, you’ve made a daily commitment and even if no one else realizes, you’ll know you didn’t follow though and two, not doing a sketch one day leads to the slippery slope of constant catch-up which will lead inevitably to, you guessed it, giving up trying to catch the wagon altogether. So, moral is, sketch every day!
- “Whhaaaaaa, I don’t feel like sketching.” Sorry, not gonna wash with me. Pick up the pen and scribble a few lines. That may lead to something. Or not. Maybe that’s your sketch for the day. The main thing is to put pen (or pencil or whatever) to paper.
- There are no boundaries and no rules except to create a sketch – that’s it. So how can you give yourself an excuse not to sketch with that kind of freedom to play??
- The sketch-a-day is really about you and your commitment to yourself as an artist so just get in there and sketch!!
I have to say that some days I’d post a sketch and Facebook would tell me 99 people had seen the post but rather than the usual 10% of that number that liked my post, I’d get maybe 4 likes. That was disheartening, feeding into my self-doubt, but in the end, getting Likes wasn’t my motivation to sketch. Motivation came from within. It came from my intention to follow through on this project, and from the growth I saw in my work as well as the swell of satisfaction I felt seeing my results.
So go on, you can do it. Let me know when you’ve started and where I can follow you by leaving a comment below.
Do it. You won’t regret it!
Until next time,
PS. I haven’t posted on my gailsibley.com blog for a loooong time. My excuse is that I’ve been focused on growing howtopastel.com and creating a blog once a week there. But I’m going to try and post regularly here again, even if it’s once a month.