“I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.” Annie Dillard, from Weasels in her book Teaching a Stone to Talk.
It is interesting to me, every time I realize the need for focus, that it is always the sketchbook that I choose, and it is always true that I have already been sketching and drawing . The changes and shifts that occur when I endeavor to zero in on one thing, is more a mental focus. Does this make any sense?
Imagine a stove-top with several things simmering on each eye, each needing a little stir here and there, some needing longer cook times, others needing ingredients added. I flit from one to the next while inside the oven another dish or two is cooking. Just typing this makes me anxious as I am NOT, I repeat, NOT a multi-dish cook because I do not like this scenario at all. So why do I do this in my creative life?
Now imagine a crock-pot sitting on the counter. I have spent time loading it in the morning, it remains plugged in all day without constant hovering, and in the evening I add a few other bits, serve it up with a salad and some yummy bread. Simple. This is the kind of cooking I like. I’ve taken some cues from this in thinking about my creative world. Do I want numerous things bubbling on a stove-top? Or would I prefer one simmering crock-pot? Of course there will be salad and bread…and dessert too! But it’s a mental thing…one approach feels crazy and anxiety-producing while the other feels singular and focused. For me anyway. It may not be so for you.
So when I decided to try The Experiment, I realized that though my sketchbook was indeed a small pot simmering on an eye on the stove, it was doing so along with many other pots of deliciousness demanding my attention at the same time. What I needed to do was bring it off the stove and set it in a place all to itself. Giving it attention first thing in the morning and then again at night would somehow flank my day with a focus on seeing…seeing through the end of my pen or paintbrush what is right here in my daily life. The really cool thing that happens is that as I go throughout my day, (often knitting, or some other fiber related fun), with its myriad of daily to-do’s) the sketchbook crockpot simmers in my mind…Oh look at that! I need to draw that! Oooohh…let me snap a photograph of this so I can sketch it later…and so on.
I needed a few parameters to keep me from putting the sketchbook back on the stove as it were. Here’s what I came up with…feel free to adopt this if you are needing some focus in your creative life as well. 😃 And please share with me other ways you have found to maintain focus in your creative life.
Overall Intention of The Experiment
To make space for simple picture making inspired by my everyday life. Primary method is to draw/sketch/doodle in a sketchbook. I can put whatever I want to in there. One sketch a day or many. Any medium, any subject, words welcome. The overall feel of this Experiment is one of discovery and not about producing art.
Specifics of the Experiment
*Sketch first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
*Guard against this becoming a “for sale” thing…nothing in the book is to be sold. Ever.
*Keep it simple, fun, and playful!
*Resist the urge to “make pretty”. Just draw with abandon, splash paint around, smoosh with color!
*Feed the pot regularly, (as in give it a stir or add an ingredient) but don’t overdo it! This could be taking myself to the Gardens to draw, or trying out a new art supply, or reading a book about a favorite artist, or watching You Tube videos on art making that is different from mine.
These five parameters have guided me thus far. They are flexible, especially the first thing in the morning or last at night aspect. Sometimes a day simply doesn’t allow this, and I’m sketching in the afternoon. The idea is to touch base with and drop into my sketchbook as a way of expressing, recording, playing with picture-making from the well of my daily life. One of the biggest features of this is that I gain a sense of completion within each days entry (something that knitting a few rows or spinning some roving doesn’t quite offer). And yet, this practice is also a long-haul work since I am filling a sketchbook with many pages and it will take some time to complete the book and move on to another. Small satisfying bits that I’m able to accomplish in a day that also, over time, yield a larger harvest. If I think about the stack of sketchbooks I continue to fill in that toy box, a smile creeps across my face and I no longer feel quite as fractured in my making.
So bring on Life. Whatever comes my way…I want to draw it. I want to be right there present in it. With pen and paint in hand and a big book of white pages in my lap. Perhaps they are a kind of sword and shield. But I know for certain that my pen becomes a straw from which I sip the nectar of daily living, whether it is sweet or bitter or both.
I’m off to draw now. I’ll keep you posted as to how the crockpot is going, as well as any side dishes I’m cooking up! Haha!😃