Have you ever gone on vacation and ended up running around snapping photographs and moving on to the next attraction, only to feel like you missed something? I have some friends who took a trip to Paris. They hopped on the metro, sped to the Louvre, took some photos of the Mona Lisa and a few other well known works of art and quickly moved on the the Musee D’Orsay, Versaille and other popular tourist spots. Not wanting to miss anything important, they zipped though Paris so fast that they never actually experienced Parisian life, but they had photographic proof that they were there. Their vacation consisted of brief glimpses of this famous landmark or that piece of architecture.
A year and a half ago, I also visited France. I did not go to see how many places I could cram into 10 days. I went to slow down and paint. The interesting thing about this kind of agenda is that you don’t see many different places, but the places you do see, you get to know very well. When you sit down to do a drawing or a painting, it takes a little longer than snapping a picture, so you are literally forced to look at it longer. You have to work your drawing or painting, make adjustments, look harder, make artistic choices to include items or leave them out. You become obsessed with the detail of that spot and that moment. Later, when you look back at the drawing or painting, (regardless of how closely it resembles the actual spot), you remember it vividly.
I love looking back at journals from trips. I usually do some drawings and watercolors. I glue ticket stubs and receipts into them. I write a little something about the day. Then when I return home, I really have a nice book of memories. I remember the trips where I did some drawing and writing much more than the ones that I just took pictures.
I always enjoy keeping journals and sketchbooks on vacations. However, there is a lot of life that goes on between vacations. I think keeping a sketchbook with you on your daily journey is an excellent way to slow yourself down and really experience your life. There is no need to go zooming through the days, weeks and years. Life goes fast enough as it is.
We are beginning a new year. Many people begin diaries or journals. I encourage starting a sketchbook. The great thing about your own personal sketchbook is that it doesn’t need to be a great work of art. You don’t have to show anybody. You can do half finished drawings, glue stuff in it, write silly little stories or random thoughts. Our lives are not lived in clear-cut, easy to follow story lines, so most likely our journals will reflect this kind of meandering as well.
I have a habit of buying new sketchbooks but then I hesitate to start them because I don’t want to ruin it. So to get past the perfectionist in me, I’ll let my 7 year old niece and 4 year old nephew draw in it with me.
The question always arises “What should I draw?” Sketch your lunch. Draw the scene while you’re waiting for your food in a restaurant. Draw a family member watching TV. Draw the pile of laundry on the floor, or the sink full of dishes. Create a still life from the items on your desk or the contents in your fridge. It doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is. If it’s part of your life, it’s worth documenting. You’ll find you begin to look at your world in a different way. Our lives are made up of small moments. Pay attention to those moments as the tapestry of your life journey unfolds. Art Saves Lives!