I knew a lady once who was a montessori teacher.
I never knew much about that, never having children of my own, but the concept intrigued me.
The children in montessori get the same reading, writing, math, etc., as in public education, but much of the work they do is tailored to each child and their own particular talents and bents. Just like at home when they learn from their parents how to wash dishes, set a table or fold laundry, they learn by imitating and doing, rather than the traditional teaching methods of lecturing and memorizing.
When we are learning our craft – making picture books – we can take classes and watch how-to videos.
We find someone to show us how to typeset and layout the pages, and we copy what they do. We find people who write stories, listen to how they go about it, and follow their methods.
We watch artists online who show us how to draw figures and backgrounds, and we draw along with them.
They show us the properties of color, how to use our preferred tools like brushes or pencils or pens and tablets.
We imitate our teachers and learn our craft through the process.
That’s all really important and we’ll likely be doing some of that throughout our lifetime and careers. Technical skills are very important and we want to stay sharp.
But to take yourself to the next level, begin keeping a sketchbook. That will take you beyond simply imitating what artists do, and help you actually become an artist. The same applies to writers ... begin keeping a daily journal to not only keep your writing skills sharp, but to really become a writer.
Art – any art form – is about expression. To be able to express, an artist needs to be aware of what’s going on inside. Merely imitating what others do won’t get you there, because you’re mainly just engaging your brain and motor skills. But when you keep a sketchbook or a journal, now you are emotionally and psychologically engaged. You’re thinking about those lines or words you’re recording on paper. Your thoughts are causing emotions to stir. Beyond those thoughts and emotions, you are getting to know you ... and all of that will come through your art.
I promise I haven’t gone off the deep end. I’m not into some strange new-agey stuff. No hocus pocus. And I’m certainly no psychologist nor mentalist. What I’m talking about is all happening on a mostly subconscious level. I just know what I know, and I know this happens. As years go by, I’m understanding it more and more. Perhaps this is the process through which artists and writers find their “voice” ... that elusive quality that makes some really stand out from others.
So as I try to challenge myself to get that sketchbook back out, I’d like to challenge any of you artists and writers out there to do the same. Just try an experiment ... for the next 3 months, make it a priority to regularly keep a sketchbook and/or journal – whichever applies to you – and see how it affects you and your work. Maybe you won’t see any effect, and you can write me off as that crazy, over-thinking artist lady.
Or maybe, like me, you’ll see a subtle but noticeable difference. Like me, you won’t really understand it. You won’t be able to explain it. If you try to explain it, you might sound a little nuts, just like me!
That’s okay ... sometimes it’s the unexplainable and mysterious things in life that bring us the most joy and fulfillment.
Just try it and see.
Warm weather is coming ... and I intend to get out of the rut I’m in ... happy sketching!