Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Effort and Surrender: My 10th Year

9/25/11 Orcas Island (my first-ever urban sketch)

My yoga instructor talks about effort and surrender. To practice yoga, our bodies must put forth effort, but then we surrender to the pose and let go of the outcome. This is a difficult concept for Westerners to practice because we are such a goal-oriented culture: the bottom line, the finish line, no pain/no gain.

9/27/12 Roosevelt neighborhood

Without consciously being aware of effort and surrender, I think I have always tried to approach my drawing practice in the same way as yoga: putting forth the effort, but letting go of the outcome. Of course, I always want my sketches to be as good as they can be, and I challenge myself to make the effort that will bring that result. But when I let go of the product as if it were a goal, I’m happier. It’s much easier to simply turn the page and make the next sketch.

9/20/13 Bozeman, MT

Ten years ago today, I took the first step on what I now believe will be my lifelong journey. For most of my adult life, I had wanted to learn to draw, and I wanted to draw well. Inspired by books, classes or the art of others, I would make a start, but after a while, I would stop. I repeated this cycle many times. Learning to draw is not easy, and when the results were not what I wanted them to be, it was discouraging. When I began to draw again on Sept. 21, 2011, it might have ended as yet another short-lived attempt to “learn to draw,” but this time I kept going. And I’ve been drawing ever since, every day.

9/27/14 Pike Place Market, Seattle

I didn’t know it at the time, but I think one thing helped me to keep drawing: I had discovered urban sketching, which is less about the act of drawing and more about telling the visual stories of our lives. The finished sketch might be a goal, but the story it tells is much larger than the sketchbook page. I was motivated to keep telling my stories, no matter how small or mundane. Urban sketching has taken me away from the goal of “drawing well.”

9/23/15 Ballard neighborhood

Paradoxically, learning to draw has become much more enjoyable during the past 10 years because the process itself is motivating. The more I draw, the more progress I see, and that encourages me to draw more.

9/21/16 Maple Leaf neighborhood

Shown here are 10 sketches, one from each year made around this time in September each year. I didn’t choose my “favorite” or “best” sketches; instead, I looked for examples that seemed typical of my style during that period. While my materials and techniques have changed, and hopefully my skills have changed too, you can probably see that my stories haven’t changed much. I’m still telling the same ones every day, one drawing at a time.

9/22/17 Chateau Ste Michelle, Woodinville

9/27/18 Green Lake

9/25/19 Maple Leaf neighborhood

9/21/20 Northgate neighborhood

9/13/21 Crown Hill neighborhood

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