The Sketchbook Project – The Joy Diary

joydiary01.frontcover.2018.blogMy little sketchbook, ‘The Joy Diary’, is complete.  Tomorrow I mail it back to the Brooklyn Art Library, where it will become a permanent part of The Sketchbook Project collection for 2018.

As an unexpected result of doing this project, I learned something new about my creative identity.

When I started the sketchbook, I thought of it the way I think of a body of work for an art show.  In an art show, I choose a theme that becomes a starting point, and each drawing becomes a singular point of view related to that theme.

As I worked on the third drawing in the sketchbook, I realized my concept and understanding was shifting.  This was not an art show with 21 themed-but-separate drawings.  Instead, this was one long drawing that moved from page to page.  I was seeing the drawings as sequential, telling a story.

I was seeing my sketchbook as a book.

In a single realization, I shifted from an artist using words in her drawings, to a writer using images and words on an equal footing.  I shifted myself and my creative process from ‘either/or’ to ‘and/also’.

joydiary05.page4and5.2018For years I said I was both artist and writer, but I saw these identities as separate and distinct, two hats that I exchanged and wore one at a time.  In the process of creating this sketchbook, artist and writer merged.  I shifted into one identity wearing one hat.

I have been heading this direction for most of my art career.  There are words on my drawings as far back as 2003.  Funny how I did not consciously see this coming, yet when I look back, the progression is obvious.

So what am I now?  How do I call myself both artist and writer, giving my images and words equal footing, without having to use a phrase four words long?

I’m not a graphic novelist, although I can see this one coming next, in the way the third draft of my book is currently forming itself.  This next shift will not be a surprise.

For now I continue to call myself both artist and writer.  The word ‘both’ is important, making image and word an equal part of who I am and what I create.  I am okay with that.  More than okay.  This shift in seeing myself and my work gives me both clarity and joy.

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In this post:

The Sketchbook Project, Brooklyn Art Library, https://www.sketchbookproject.com/

See my entire sketchbook in page order on my art site at https://walkingowlstudio.ca/  Click on ‘Gallery’, and then click on ‘The Sketchbook Project – The Joy Diary’.

The Question Is The Answer

blogpost.mar1.2018

“She would not struggle to answer the questions but would let them do their work.

Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions.”

Yesterday I began reading a book recommended by a friend who is artist and writer.  Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, is the first novel of a detective series.  The quote is from the closing lines of Chapter Four.

There are no coincidences in life.  Each morning for the past three weeks I ask myself, “What gives me joy?”, and then let the question do its work.  I sit down at my studio work table.  I open my sketchbook to a blank page, and choose a pencil from the collection in the cup beside me.  I let my heart and mind become still.  And then I wait.

The reply is never long in coming.  Yesterday, joy is the piece of lapis lazuli that sits among other beloved stones on the table before me.  Today, joy is the bits of rainbow scattered around the studio walls, a gift of sunlight through the large raindrop-shaped crystal hanging in the window.

Joy is noticing joy, and learning over again how moments of joy are always scattered through my days like this morning’s rainbows, if only I stop and let myself notice.

Let myself see beauty.  Let myself feel joy.

There is a choice here of stopping, noticing, and allowing this to be in my life.  Noticing joy and beauty are vital to my writing and drawing.  I would be neither writer nor artist if I did not choose this every day.

Passion is my guide to creation.  Joy and beauty inspire me to see and feel, and then to ask, “What can I create from this?  How can I mirror this feeling in word and image?”

The questions are the answer.  They push me to seek, to feel my way into creating.  As I create, does this feel like joy?  Does this feel like beauty to me?  The answer is not in words.  The answer is in my feelings.

“Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions.”

The truth of what I ask and feel shows up in what I create.  The questions are simple.

What gives me joy?

What do I love?

What is beautiful to my eyes?

What is inspiring me today?

The writing or drawing, while I follow the path of my question, may not be simple but it is always my truth.

What gives me joy today?  The rainbows on my studio walls.  What is inspiring me today?  Jacqueline Winspear’s words that sparked this understanding and this post in reply.

Thank you, Jacqueline.  And thanks, Kate, for the recommendation.

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In this post:

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear, Penguin Books, 2004.  A detective novel with heart.  The quote is from page 32.  http://jacquelinewinspear.com/

In the photo, above, is yesterday’s drawing for The Sketchbook Project 2018, Brooklyn Art Library.  https://www.sketchbookproject.com/libraries

When I Can’t Think Of Anything To Write

1.'Laid to Rest 80,000...Spirits (east)'--halfsize
‘Laid To Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits (east)’

I’m stuck.

Usually when I write my morning pages, words show up for the blog post.  But not today.

Luckily, I know what to do.  Okay, I say to myself, start where I am.  This is advice taken to heart, from both Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron.  Wise words born of their years of creating, and generously shared with all.

Start where I am.

The last three days my creative energy has been focused on the sketchbook I’m doing (halfway through!) for the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project 2018.  I’ve been happily playing with ideas and art materials, choosing what speaks to me, and creating it in the sketchbook.

Today I need to change gears, from image to word, and I feel stuck.

I go through fallow periods, both long and short, when the artist and writer in me rests.  This used to terrify me.  Panic.  Maybe I’ve stopped being an artist, stopped being a writer.  Maybe I’ve used up all my ideas.  I’ll never draw, never write again.

I have to have patience.

Patience is not my strong suit.

To soothe myself, I pull favourite books from my studio library and read about other artists and writers.  I experience their work, drawings, paintings, essays, and musings.  I notice how this colour shocks the colour next to it, how this phrase stops me breathless in its beauty.  I borrow other people’s creativity, while I wait for mine to rise again.  Their creativity gives me joy, and shifts me from fear into appreciation and possibility.

Creativity thrives in possibility.  Ideas show up, triggered by images and words that shine beauty into my heart.  Sooner or later, I am creating again.

Today the fallow period lasts a whole thirty minutes.  Hardly a test to my patience.  Definitely not enough time to go into panicked drama queen mode, thank goodness.

Thank you, Natalie and Julia, for your advice.  Thank you, every artist and writer who have lent me your creativity through the power of your images and words.  Thank you for sharing.  I am blessed to know you.

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In this post:

When soothing my patience through a fallow period, I especially love:

The Sound of Paper: starting from scratch by Julia Cameron, Penguin Publishing Group, 2005.  http://juliacameronlive.com/

Living Color: painting, writing, and the bones of seeing by Natalie Goldberg, Abrams, 2014.  http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Find the Brooklyn Art Library and The Sketchbook Project at  https://www.brooklynartlibrary.com/