While we were on our trip, I sketched normal everyday things as well as wildlife and national monuments. We stayed in a cabin outside of the eastern entrance of Yellowstone for several days so we got comfortable and cooked eggs and lingered over coffee in the morning.
Since Devils Tower I'd been thinking about time and sketching, because I thought if I had more time there, I would have done a more involved sketch that took more time. I had time to sketch at the cabin and what I sketched - this nearby cabin - felt heavy and a little forced. I wondered if I was being too literal with paint, and if I should focus on being literal with a pen but looser with paint. It was bugging me because I had way more time than usual to sketch but I wasn't happy with what I was doing.
Then we drove all through Yellowstone and encountered big scenes with small amounts of time and everything worked out okay. It was like the overthinking part of my brain went quiet for a while. So my real issue wasn't about being literal with paint, it was about time and expectations.
The expectation associated with time is, "Oh, this is going to be a good sketch." The expectation when sketching within constraints - time, weather, light, a moving subject - is, "Yay, I get to sketch this thing/place/person."
When I had time at the cabin I tested that theory by doing timed sketches. The timed sketches felt more spontaneous, and I liked the marks I got out of them. Because I was sketching the same thing over and over, I learned from each one and put what I learned into the next one. So then of course I was like - "oh I figured out the secret! all of my sketches now will be both timed and good!" But I quickly saw that wasn't going to be the case, either.
But this idea isn't really about "good" sketches and "bad" sketches - it's more about finding ways to be satisfied with your work, and to learn from it. It's like what Helen Stephens (illustrator and #walktosee founder - @helenstephenslion on Instagram) encourages us to do - draw in the rain and draw in the dark to let go of our expectations and embrace whatever happens on the paper.
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