The Sketchbook Project: 2011In Embracing procrastination in a creative project, I talked about committing to letting go of perfection. After laying down my base layer for the pages in my Sketchbook project I had lots of second thoughts. I started to think about replacing the moleskine, or rebinding it with new pages. All of these options would slow me down or set me back several days. I only had a couple hours a day I could work on this for a couple of weeks. I had 100 pages to fill.

My usual behavior would have been to start filling the pages when I got it three months before. Then I would have had time to switch, change, redo. When I procrastinated starting, I lost that luxury. Instead I decided to:

  • Accept what I did each step of the way
  • Look at everything I did as a creative opportunity
  • Work with what I had
  • To redefine ‘mistake’ as just another problem to solve

Redefining acceptable

Once I decided to take this approach, all the rules I had in my head rushed to the surface. Ideas about what is cheating like using photographs instead of drawing from life. Or when it is acceptable to show others rough sketch work. Even what is acceptable subject matter to be taken seriously.

Where was all of this coming from? All the memories from critiques in art school. I have been working on letting all of that go for almost 30 years. I was amazed at how much was still there. I started to see I had come up with my own rules to hold down their rules. In reality, I was responsible for all of it. All I had to do was to redefine what was OK and let it go. It could transform in an instant.

Ok, so it could transform in an instant, and I would have to practice doing it a few times. I should know by now that my art is a doorway to the deep. I’m grateful I can observe the process and keep moving at this point in my life.

Getting out of my own way

Working in layers

My first goal was to get something on most of the pages. This way if I ran out of time I could send the sketchbook in and  no one would really know if any page was finished or not. I worked back and forth on the different images with layers of different media. Sometimes I was using things that would dissolve with Citra-solv other times they would be water soluble. This turned out to be harder to keep track of than anticipated and created lots and lots of things that I could easily label as mistakes. Except I had committed to reframe them. So they turned out to be the things that pushed me to try new things, new ways to make the messes work. Some were more successful than others, all of them flexed my creative muscles in new ways.

Here is a selection of those pages. You can click on them to see them larger. I added my overall secret message to the world on some of these pages in a variety of different kinds of codes.

What is the difference between a mistake and a creative opportunity?

I started to see mistakes as the pessimistic side of the more optimistic creative opportunity. Deciding to experiment with this for this project, I got better at embracing what was happening on the very thin pages. I watched how I can be my own worst enemy and harshest critic. Even though I have been teaching and preaching acceptance of all this for a long time, there were remnants of these mean thoughts in my mind around every corner. The saying you teach what you need to learn most rang true.

What do you do when you do something you judge as bad or wrong? Can you turn it around? How do you do it?

Other posts about the Sketchbook Project

Embracing procrastination in a creative project

Sketchbook Project: Creating a base

Greeting challenge with creativity

Sketchbook Project: Putting it together

Recommended Posts

18 Comments

  1. Sometimes, when I do something I judge as bad or wrong, I need to simply walk away for a bit, to get a fresh perspective on things. Then I can come back to it and see it in a new light, perhaps as an opportunity to play, a chance to really let go, or with a gentle acceptance and the desire to move on.

  2. Sometimes, when I do something I judge as bad or wrong, I need to simply walk away for a bit, to get a fresh perspective on things. Then I can come back to it and see it in a new light, perhaps as an opportunity to play, a chance to really let go, or with a gentle acceptance and the desire to move on.

  3. I’m so glad to have another opportunity to peek into your sketchbook, Christine!

    On mistakes vs. creative opportunities, doesn’t it often seem as though the same thing can be both. As you and Leah have both said, what starts out as a mistake often points the way to something new.

    When I was still a writing tutor, I’d often talk with people about how to treat weaknesses in the plot. Where in the story is the reader’s credulity stretched too thin? Often the solution was to “point to the hole” — by allowing a character, perhaps, to wonder about whether there was enough time for an event to take place or whether a feat of derring-do was physically possible or not. When the author acknowledges the hole exists, the reader is reassured.

    I was think of this when I misnumbered the pages of my Sketchbook, and decided that the best course was to brashly point this out: http://flic.kr/p/9b8YFX (As you so thoughtfully noticed when you stopped by to comment…)

  4. I’m so glad to have another opportunity to peek into your sketchbook, Christine!

    On mistakes vs. creative opportunities, doesn’t it often seem as though the same thing can be both. As you and Leah have both said, what starts out as a mistake often points the way to something new.

    When I was still a writing tutor, I’d often talk with people about how to treat weaknesses in the plot. Where in the story is the reader’s credulity stretched too thin? Often the solution was to “point to the hole” — by allowing a character, perhaps, to wonder about whether there was enough time for an event to take place or whether a feat of derring-do was physically possible or not. When the author acknowledges the hole exists, the reader is reassured.

    I was think of this when I misnumbered the pages of my Sketchbook, and decided that the best course was to brashly point this out: http://flic.kr/p/9b8YFX (As you so thoughtfully noticed when you stopped by to comment…)

    • Thanks Lisa. The idea of pointing to a weakness is really intriguing. It’s almost like inviting the viewer into the challenge. I’ve been thinking about all the times in my life where things would have been so much easier to take that path rather than living out the angst of trying to make things different.

  5. I am really enjoying the insight into your process (and Lisa’s). This is beautiful work.

  6. I am really enjoying the insight into your process (and Lisa’s). This is beautiful work.


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