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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Falling in love with the world, one sketch at a time

I was reading a fellow-sketcher’s blog a while back and she posed the question, why do you sketch? It’s a question I ask myself often. It can be a nagging question – why?

“Why are you doing this?”  I hear my monkey-mind say. “You’re not getting paid. You’ll never be a great artist—why waste your time? You should developing your own business or working for peace or delivering blankets to the homeless- or at least making soup for shut-ins. But sketching?”

I've always had a rebellious streak, so I keep going. I snub my nose at my monkey, grab my pen and have at it.  

I've come up with plenty of rationales: 

It keeps me from missing my grown kids, and now grandkids, who live thousands of miles in different directions.

 It helps me remember where I've been. While sketching we experience it all -- the sounds, sights, smells...exhaust fumes, french-fry grease, perspiration dripping down your back…

Not to mention the smell of nail polish remover as I sit at the local nail spa.

I've sketched since I was a kid. That's a good reason - I've always done it. I may still have a sketch of my feet done when I was 12 while sitting on the front stoop of our apartment on the south side of Chicago. 

 To keep from getting bored. Work meetings are perfect opportunities to study slouching body-shapes. 

Waiting in long lines are perfect for analyzing which hip rises and which falls with a bent knee.

It also steers me away from judgments and frustrations. Instead of wondering how anyone could actually choose to wear that outfit in public, I notice how the orange shape of the top contrasts so vividly with the purple hippie skirt. Add a blue sky for background and the colors are operatic. 

My daughter says I notice the strangest things. 

The other day, however, it came to me. I SKETCH BECAUSE IT MAKES ME FALL IN LOVE WITH THE WORLD again and again and again. A pop of color here; a rusty texture there; the orange, yellow and green fence in front of the blue store; the way the sun paints an ephemeral shadow-shape on the side of a building. Or the shape of the truck as it blocks my perfect view.

So I sketch. I take it all in. I get excited about the variegated pink of easter egg radishes, I love the bulbous shape of the vendor’s belly as he reaches to pick out the best apple a our local farmer's market. 

I constantly search for a good angle and analyze the shape of the a building as I both flatten it out in my mind and try to add depth on my paper.

I wake up in a new city excited . . . no, chomping at the bit . . . to discover new neighborhoods, new storefronts, another red door, an abandoned streetcar, countless new people on subways – each shape unique and each story lending worlds of depth to what I see. 

You could say I’m obsessive. Or captivated. Or a rebel. All apply. One thing’s for sure. I just can't won't stop falling in love with the world and sketching whatever I can. 


  1. Sweet post. I agree.

  2. You nailed it, Jane. Love this post.

    - Tina

  3. Terrific post and a straight to the heart about why we do what we do! Thanks for writing this. Hope all is good with you. Frank B