December 2019 I launched a new subscription blog Roz Interim on Patreon. (You can use that link to check out the subscription levels and see example posts that are open to the public.
If you want the short explanation of Roz Interim you can watch the video below.
If you want some background information you can read the text which follows the video.
Why Start a Subscription Blog?
A Little Bit of Background
Cataract surgery didn’t go well for me. My vision remains uncorrected. I actually thought about giving up sketching all together. I tossed that around in my brain for awhile. But after each surgery I kept sketching, a little bit every day, dealing with vision issues as they came up; happy that I had long ago set the internal critic aside so I could have useful discussions with my editing eye, and enjoy those sometimes minuscule victories shining out of a messy whole.
Then one day five months after the first surgery, a friend was over helping me set up my camera for a class webinar. (Classes had been scheduled throughout 2019 because I had not expected the operation results I got.) He had to go back to his studio for more equipment and I sat at my drawing table and started to work, passing the time. I turned the recorder and camera on to test levels and connection. I recorded myself drawing and then collaging on a journal page.
Later that night after my friend left I looked over the tape and to me it seemed significant: the ability to look at my process and remember what I was thinking seemed helpful to me with the inner dialog I’d been having about giving up sketching.
The ability to look at my process also seemed natural to me. I’ve been observing and writing about my process since I was a little girl. I’ve been using those observations to shift my creative course.
One thing you need to know is that at this time (five months past the first surgery) sketching was also physically painful. An area on my left eye surface was not healing. It felt like a stick in the eye 24/7. On some mornings I might have 20 minutes of “clearish” vision and then it evaporated just when I thought it would be “safe” to start in on my workday. Always present were the operation’s side effects which prevented me from seeing anything clearly or crisply. That meant if I was going to sketch and try to focus for any period of time I experienced severe headaches. Light issues related to the computer meant that I could only work 20 to 30 minutes instead of hours.
Watching the replay of that sketching and collage video was both painful, “I can’t believe I just did that,” and hopeful, “I can’t believe I just finished all of that.”
It is common knowledge amongst my friends that I always have to have a private project going on. It doesn’t matter if it’s writing a daily letter (Correspondence Lab) or drawing Dottie every day (Daily Dots)…whatever. I don’t feel comfortable in life without a personal project.
I felt, looking at the screen during replay, intrigued. I thought maybe if I taped some of my sketches I could get a sense of what was happening with my eyes. And I might retrain myself to use them again. (I’m big on retraining myself—remember the conk on the head?)
I got up the next morning and sat down at the drawing board where we had left the set up permanently in place. I made another sketch, taping as I worked.
During that the taping I realized that I was watching the computer screen more and more while working. Typically I will look at the subject I’m drawing 90 percent of the time, and the rest of the time I’ll look at the paper. Instead I found myself looking at the computer screen often when it wasn’t helpful to be doing so, because my hand wasn’t driven by the view of the subject. I think my memory (physical and mental) was going back to the 1990s when I did computer illustrations in Photoshop and Illustrator using a Wacom tablet.
I never really enjoyed that process and went back to using traditional media as soon as I could.
But that next morning as I watched myself sketch I remembered being so caught up in the process of watching the computer screen, viewing my hands moving onscreen as I worked, that I felt disconnected from my hands and the drawing process. It was all something I could look at and break down. I needed that. The act of watching myself work on the screen, while I was working on paper, actually took my mind off of the things I’d been focusing on for the past 5 months—the flare, glare, bubble glass shimmer, double vision, and opacity of light to name just a few side effects. Looking at the computer screen focused my attention instead on my hand-eye-brain connection.
In ways I don’t understand this actually made the act of drawing easier.
I suppose it simply has to do with me letting go—of control, or notions of past ability or approach. I actually found myself laughing when I caught myself watching my hands work on the screen, instead of paying attention to the subject or my real hands. Laughing hard. Something I hadn’t done for months.
This was something I could do, enjoy after a fashion (I still had all the vision issues when I looked at the subject, and I still got headaches), and collect “data” on. Which is what I do when I look at my process and work on personal projects.
Six Months of Sketching
In my life I have found that projects come when I need to bust out of something static or unhealthy, or when I have developed a skill and need to go a new direction, or when I have lost someone dear to me and need to find balance again. Lots of other reasons too. Because projects always work for me, to lead me back to balance, I encourage students and Roz Wound Up readers to listen to their ideas and create projects that speak to them and take them towards specific goals that they want to meet in their lives. I believe the daily business of practice is what brings real, healthy change into our lives.
That’s why for decades I’ve called my classes “Drawing Practice” and “Journal Practice,” with an appropriate subtitle as needed, e.g., Drawing Practice: Drawing Live Subjects in Public.
It’s always about practice.
Since I couldn’t have my regular practice—couldn’t simply pick up a pen, see clearly, and sketch fluidly as I had before—I had to come up with another practice.
I admit to having more stubbornness than most people. I admit that when I get a cold or flu, or have bouts of vertigo I have always sketched in spite of how I felt physically. Practice allows you to do that. To simply be. I would get up and do my work out each day, and work my way through the list of things I have committed to, work and personal. I don’t believe that is easy for anyone, we each have our own “difficult” things to get through. But I do believe we can make healthy choices about how we spend our time and our energy. I still believe sketching is a healthy choice. But sketching has morphed for me. It can’t be what it was because my eyes are never going to be what they were. People deal with vision changes all the time. I can be frustrated that my time to deal with vision changes came earlier than I expected, but one can always find someone who has had to deal with such changes even earlier, or to an even more extreme degree.
For me it comes back to choice and how I want to spend my time.
So I sat down at the drawing board the next day, and then the next.
Every day I sat down at the drawing board I made a drawing, laughing when I caught myself spending the majority of my time looking at the computer screen; laughing when that looking caused me to lose my place in my drawing. I started laughing again at the mistakes I’ve always made (like “wideology”) but which seemed more inevitable with blurred vision. I even started smiling at lines that looked like nothing I had ever deliberately made before.
I was making so many videos I didn’t have time to rewatch them. I just kept making them.
And then I realized that I was teaching again, in my mind. I was thinking about process. And when I think about process I want to write about process. It fascinates me.
As the Drobo filled up with videos I decided that it might be good to share some them. Good sketches, bad sketches, it was all something that I could talk about. It was all something that had kept me sketching even when I wanted to give it up.
So many of these sketching and painting sessions contain “teachable moments.” They contain things I would have liked to film entire classes on before I left the planet. But we can at least look at them in passing.
As Dick likes to point out, “Someone can give you a topic and you can talk for an hour.”
One of the sadnesses I was feeling in the past 11 months was about giving up teaching. With my current vision (with these permanent side effects) I couldn’t shoot and edit the hours of video I have in each of my detailed online classes. Mine are niche classes and they have never been economically viable enough that I could hire a camera crew or video editor. (Besides I enjoyed editing my own video once I got past the first 300 hours.)
When I announced that I wouldn’t be making new online classes one of my students said she hoped I’d find a way to do something, even video chats. She enjoyed learning from me, and enjoyed my digressions.
And I thought about all these sketches I’d been making as I rebuilt my dialog with myself. I thought—OK I can put them up on a subscription blog and people interested in that dialog can join in.
Why subscription? The videos are usually 90 minutes long and I wanted to post them in their entirety. I needed to buy a video hosting plan so that I could post something that long.
Why post videos including paint drying time? People exploring their process need to recognize the value that physically enforced “thinking time” brings to the process.
Sketching is not just about seeing. It’s about mentally planning and editing on many levels at once. It’s about ordering things to achieve a certain outcome. All of that happens in REAL time.
It was always a joke between Dick and me, how fast I sketched. Dick liked to mock me by saying, “Time me gentleman,” whenever I started a sketch and we were out in public.
Since the eye surgeries I’ve lost a lot of speed. I’ve lost a lot of accuracy. What I’ve seen in the past 6 weeks or so is that some of both is still there if I patiently stalk speed and accuracy around the vision issues. It’s like being a ninja.
But I have never lost my ability to point out how to look at a visual “issue” and how to work at it.
And I frequently post less than successful sketches on Roz Wound Up, simply to make the point that we all have to keep working.
So I believe the videos I am making of my in-studio sketch sessions will be a useful jumping off point for others who want to create a dialog with themselves about their drawing practice.
Yeah, then it’s not for you and that’s OK.
But for me it has always been the most exciting game in town.
The Bright Side
There is a bright side to all this that might surprise you.
Two weeks ago I came to a realization:
I could I give up sketching today.
Yes. I know I could walk away from sketching and not look back. (And that’s a lifetime of practice and tens of thousands of drawings and paintings.)
Of course I’d still go to Mia and lecture my friends on art history, color theory, and composition, but I wouldn’t need to come home and sketch. I could pick up my journal and write a bit more text next to a quick snapshot, maybe doodle a little and call the page done, just as I had so many times in college when I needed to get back to reading “Finnegan’s Wake” for the third time. (The study of literature is an arduous task!) Before I turn the journal page I might do a lot of small thumbnails to work out a visual effect I once would have wanted to paint, but I’d be happy with the thumbnails or a small sketch of notan pattern that I saw while looking down the hallway.
I’ve got my dialog with myself back.
I couldn’t get to this point without practice.
Sketching means so much to me that I could walk away at any time without regret. I’m able to do this because I showed up.
People walk away from a lot of things in life—a job that pushes them too hard or not hard enough, a lover who’s difficult, a change in physical circumstances which requires a rewriting of their sense of self but which seems too scary to do.
My stubbornness has always made me stay and push a little harder—just to be sure.
If a situation is not abusive I think it is a mistake to walk away until you make the effort to really show up. And that means sitting with the discomfort. And working through those difficult times. It’s only by showing up and working when things aren’t going well that you find what something or someone means to you. And it is only when you fully understand what something or someone means to you that you can let go.
You don’t have to let go. But now at least you can envision a life beyond something or someone because you are no longer tied to a notion, but instead understand a reality.
I understand my current sketching reality. I have a lot of vision issues which obscure my vision. If you can’t see something you can’t sketch it.
Wrong, you sketch it differently; you approach something from another angle.
Most of all you change your dialog. I think that’s the way we grow.