Welcome to my ugliest of sketchbooks. The sketchbook that has been warped, chewed and battered. There is something about sketchbooks that is so intimidating. Our inclination as humans is to make things perfect, to pile pressure on ourselves to create something that looks as polished and pretty as a machine can. We are so used to seeing items that have no blemishes that when we see our own creations - a little dog eared with a little coffee spill here and an ink blot there - we see them as trash. As soon as anything starts to look used, the appeal has gone and our hopes of making that "perfect thing" are dashed and we are onto the next unreachable goal.
There is no better place to free yourself of your inhibitions than in an unpretentious sketchbook. The fear of ruining your pristine purchase is gone because it already looks a bit crappy. You can scribble and play like you would if you were a child.
Abandoning expectations of realism and using your favourite colours in your pencil box seems a juvenile yet romantic way to create art. Gone are the murky browns and puddle greys. No more dragging your creations back down to earth when really they belong in the air - light, bright and floaty.
I used to draw on everything and anything, I can't imagine how many loose pieces of paper I have painted and drawn on in my life, with no care about how heavy the paper is or if a pet had walked across it a moment ago. I drew all over my exercise books and folders at school, I even drew all over my GCSE papers. I drew on receipts and napkins, envelopes, bus tickets, my hands, my legs - basically anything that would hold ink. When did art become this precious thing that has to be delicately placed on an artfully torn slice of Italian 300gsm acid-free paper? How can you possibly feel free to create and explore when everything you do has the pressure of being for resale?
I miss sitting on the sofa, pulling up my little red table, choosing my favourite pens and drawing for the fun of it. I miss choosing colours because I think they are pretty. I miss drawing without wondering what happens next.
When you're drawing as a child, everything has an outline, every colour is definite; the sun is yellow, the grass is green and the sky is blue, dresses are triangles and hair comes down either side of our heads in 2 lines. When we are young, every piece of artwork takes less than 30 minutes. We jump into the creative process without trepidation, often spitting out several artworks at a time. We don't worry about how much the sketchbook cost or if we run out of paint. We don't question our abilities - we are liberated.
“It took me four years to paint like Rembrandt, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” ~ Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso - one of the world's most famous artists, quite infamously started his career in realism. It was only at the turn of the 19th century that he started to veer away from this traditional style and develop the more dynamic style he is famous for today. The self-portrait on the right is a much earlier self-portrait than that on the left. Which one are you most drawn to? Whilst you can clearly see much more time and "skill" has gone into the right hand painting, there is a boldness and confidence about the painting on the left that is startling.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ~ Pablo Picasso
I have never met a child that doesn't enjoy drawing and painting, but something happens to us as we grow up, we lose confidence as we start comparing ourselves to one another. "I can't even draw a stick man" is the most common thing people say to me when we talk about art, and this idea that realism is the height of artistic expression is sad. Realism is a skill that can be taught and learnt if you have the inclination, but being creative is a whole other matter. We are all creative and we have to let go of our ego and our need to be perfect and remember what it was like to create freely like we did when we were children.
If you are feeling uninspired or unmotivated, I urge you to go through your art supplies, choose a handful of your favourite colours and your most battered sketchbook or printer paper and draw whatever is in front of you, see what happens, I am certain you will surprise yourself.