In Context—Sketching while SickJuly 23, 2018
My hiatus has been a bit of a bust. Instead of catching up on my ongoing projects and starting a new one that I really wanted to jump into, I came down with a respiratory bug.
I sketch even when I’m ill. Many may think that’s a waste of time and paper when you’re coughing so hard you make random marks on the paper—zigging when you should have zagged. I think it’s the best way to keep thinking about shape, proportion, color, line, and timing. I think it’s the best way to keep myself sane. My journal isn’t about perfect pages, it’s about my life. That includes all the coughing and the writos that make it into my text.
Sketching while sick is a great time to ratchet back your expectations. Maybe it’s time you had a little chat with your internal critic? Why shouldn’t you sketch now? Why shouldn’t you use the paper up? Who’s stopping you?
While sick, every page for me is a success, whether or not I make a successful sketch. It’s just an extension of my normal philosophy. All intentional practice is valuable.
Each page is also a step closer to sanity. As always, I find little things on each completed page that I can enjoy, smile about, and even cherish.
These little things—like the reminder t0 myself that I have to work more carefully on Arches Text Wove than on the watercolor paper I’ve been working on—will help me transition back to this paper as I continue to get well. I have been testing so many watercolor papers I haven’t used this paper for over a year. I know that this summer and fall I may take journals containing this paper on trips. Even while I’m ill I can still be preparing for those trips simply by doing my daily sketching.
Sketching while sick is also immensely encouraging when you start to see your healthy self reemerge (even slowly) on the page—when a portrait starts to stick a likeness, when a second wash strikes the paper just at the critical moment of dryness in the first wash.
If nothing else goes well for the entire day you have that gloriously fun moment when you were sketching and everything was almost normal again. It’s a promise that things will be normal again. And even if you are in the midst of real change, such as a shift in eye health (which happened to me earlier this year) and you know that there is no going back, such moments are a promise that you can find a new normal; that you are capable of finding work arounds. That in fact is what living a creative life is based upon—that resiliency you practice every day.
Resiliency keeps us in the present moment while creating a path to the future. Sketching helps us develop and retain resiliency.