(mostly) daily sketches

estimated 5 min read

As a child, I learned that the most straightforward way to develop mastery was through regular practice. It doesn’t need to be for hours, 5 minutes most days will lead to improvement. Taking breaks are important too!

While I’m not spinning or weaving every day, I now work on both crafts regularly. That has lead to improvements in what I spin and what I weave (even when I make mistakes).

However, there’s one skill I’d hoped to be more confident with by now. I realized why I wasn’t is due to lack of practice. I want to be able to doodle and sketch Shadow, Buddy, and the foster kittens. Taking photos is one thing, but I really want to be able to draw them.

I have a style when I doodle my tea and the weather in my planner. That style feels right for those items in that context and is straight forward. I can even draw them while still mostly asleep.

The few sketches of pets to-date that I feel are successful have a different style, one I’m not even sure how to describe other than it feels right for them.

However, when I attempt to consciously use that style, they turn out stilted and not at all how I want.

I know I need to turn these sorts of sketches into something I do frequently so that the sketching is muscle memory.

Emboldened and energized from the lessons I found in Dare to Sketch, I purchased a $5 sketchbook. As an added reward (sometimes I reward myself before I begin) I also upgraded my mini paint set to a nicer 12 half-pan set. This tiny splurge has incentivized me to keep practicing!

my 5 steps for building a habit for daily sketches

At this phase of mastery, for me, it is actually quantity over quality. I need to keep working on it no matter how each attempt turns out. Each session will teach me something, even if it’s not the lesson I expected when I started.

  1. I schedule 15 minutes for 5 days of sketching out of every seven. Sometimes it’s easier to sketch late at night on the weekend than it is at any other time during the week. The goal is to try to be flexible within a framework. Sometimes I only sketch 3 days out of 7. Sometimes I feel the desire to sketch multiple times in a day.
  2. I’ve lowered every barrier I can to make sure I sketch that day. I have a cheap sketchbook I don’t stress about using nor am I embarrassed to bring it out in public. The first marking tool that comes to hand is the one I to make the day’s sketch; sometimes it’s a 4H pencil, at others it’s a felt tip pen. My worst case scenario is an app on my tablet and I draw with my finger. It’s surprised me at how easy and free those sketches feel.
  3. I have a chart with the goal of not breaking the chain. I’m currently using an app to help me manage the 5 out of 7 days criteria. I enjoy filling out a habit checklist either digitally or on paper (some inspiration).
  4. Each session is approached with intention to learn something. Even if it’s “write those pens dry as they don’t play well with watercolour!”
  5. Rewards help! In this case, I rewarded myself before I even began this new habit with the watercolour set upgrade.

Other lessons

I’m taking other lessons from Dare to Sketch and trying not to go in order through the pages. Where the book opens I try to use that page. It’s very hard to skip around. That said, the first pages include a table of the colours of my paint set and some of the mixing combinations that I tend to forget. I’m also trying to use whatever is at hand to sketch when it’s time for the day’s practice session.

What have I learned? It’s reinforced that I’ll need lots of practice to draw cats! It’s easier for me to draw signs and flower pots! I’ve borrowed even more books so I can work on perspective (something I used intuitively as a child) and general feline shape. I know the theory and am not always diligent to draw in preliminary lines to guide me to a successful sketch. I often draw myself into an impossible corner.

I’m trying to use less watercolour, which sounds counter intuitive at first. It’s very tempting for me to cover every part of the page with paint. Some attempts go better than others.

Favourites to date:

Maggie at her dinner bowl wins as my favourite so far. I had a kitten trying to climb my leg as I drew.

I love the freedom I felt as I sketched and painted the sign at the train station though wish I had stopped before the ink ran.

The digital sketch of a cat from my brain makes me happy and reminded me to stop overthinking and to step back and simply draw. It was late at night, I was tired.

Additional Thoughts

While there is a time and place for the best tools and supplies I can afford, for me there is something incredibly beneficial to practicing with those that I’m not stressed about using up or ruining. I think this is what gives me the freedom to experiment, to play, to learn.

I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes, in some area, an athlete of God.

Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired. ~Martha Graham, 1953

Additional Resources