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Create an Artist's Sketchbook! : Page 2 of 2

Create an Artist's Sketchbook!

continued from page 1

That said, it is equally important to pace yourself. You can't work, push yourself to the limit all the time. A lot of great artists die this way; burn out like supernovas. It's a fabulous way to go, no denying that — but, if you want to stick around for a little longer, you must balance hard work with luscious leisure time. Go ahead, you deserve it! Play. Goof off. Take long lonely walks, by a river if possible. Be patient and compassionate with yourself as often as you can manage to be. Take lots of naps. Don't be afraid to call in sick and take a day off, completely to yourself, once in awhile. Treat yourself to a pedicure and a massage at least once a year. Wander through galleries, libraries, museums, bookshops stuffed with secondhand treasures. Go outside and play.

In the spirit of play, try this…

Walk the forgotten streets of your town, without a dog or a book or an array of personal telecommunication devices to distract you… just look around, feel the rhythm of your steps on the sidewalks, a camera or sketchbook your only companion. When you see something amazing, stop to snap a few pictures or make a quick sketch of your neighbor's pink lawn flamingos; a husky pup with one blue eye and one brown eye, panting hello; a beautiful birdhouse; a cool blue garden. Later, at home, use the sketches and photos as the inspiration for your next short story, poem, or free-write. You can also incorporate them into a collage.

Write a poem, or even just one word, in the center of a blank page. Get creative; try different lettering techniques to make each letter a work of art. Then, using paints, pastels, or colored pencils, create a border for your words. Flowering vines, Celtic knots, doodles, animals, or just random abstract scribblings and shapes are some of my favorites. Or, use found objects like a button, a key, a coin, some glitter, fortunes from fortune cookies, and the ticket stub from a matinee movie to create a collaged border if you're feeling really brave.

Draw the view from your bedroom window, your back porch, your favorite seat by the window at a diner. Draw your car, your best blue coffee mug; the little ordinary things that make up a life. Draw your feet, your hands (this is nearly impossible, but it is good to practice doing nearly impossible things). Draw a silly picture of your cat playing with a paper bag. Try caricatures, cartoons, comic strips, doodles, sketches, portraits, a still life, landscapes real and imagined. Try everything, at least once.

Write a haiku, then draw something that relates to the imagery and mood of the poem. If, for example, you have written about red maple leaves falling in autumn and sadness, draw a sad little red maple leaf, whirling to the ground to await winter's cold embrace. Or, if possible, find some red leaves, and scatter them across the page. Glue them in place with a glue stick, then add a layer of Mod-Podge, shellac, or even hairspray over the leaves once the glue has set, to protect them and keep the color from fading. Create a border with twigs and flat stones.

Glue a shell or leaf onto a new page, centered, near the top. Then, using colored pencils, attempt to reproduce it exactly, on the opposing page, so they are side by side. Beneath this, write a poem, story, or simply journal or free-write. In a smaller journal, a single word or phrase may be used. Hope. Joy. Regret. Wonder. Artist.

In closing, I implore you — don't wait for someone else to give you the nod. You don't need anyone else's permission to express yourself — write your own permission slip and paste it into the front cover of your sketch book right now. If it feels scary at first, or at any point along your artistic journey, you are not alone. Everybody's scared. What separates the true artist from the common herd is that fear does not stop them from doing what they must do; saying what they must say; telling the truth that cuts to the bone. Use your fear; defy it, and let it spur you on. If you're not scared some of the time you are not digging deeply enough. Go deeper. Tap the vein. You will find dark treasures there. •

© Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.

Molly Anderson-Childers is a a highly creative writer and artist from Durango, Colorado. More »

11/5/08