When I signed up for the Sketchbook Project 2013 on the last possible day (31 October 2012), I knew that completing the book would be a major challenge for a couple of reasons–I wouldn’t be able to start on it until the holidays were over (postmark date for the sketchbook was 15 January 2013), and also I am not a sketcher. Ha! But I thought this would be a great way to push myself out of my comfort zone, and now that it’s all done I can say that the benefits were brought back to me even more than I had anticipated.
Since I am not a sketcher, I didn’t want to just try to draw things–didn’t seem that interesting to me, let alone anyone else. I let the project sit for a few days in my head, and then inspiration struck. The way to remove all responsibility for bad drawings was to do a fake journal (I am sure this bubbled up from reading Roz Stendhal’s blog for a couple of years now). That gave me the distance to freely experiment and the confidence to proceed. I decided that my sketchbook would be the travel diary/journal of a sixteen-year-old girl who is on a vacation to the beach with her parents.
First I wrote the text and divided it into fifteen parts (the sketchbook journal I was sent for the project had fifteen full spreads in it, and by now I had run out of time to rebind it with thicker paper or to change the quantity). I then spent a little time thinking about what kind of illustration I wanted to do for each spread based on the text on the pages.
I drew dark lines on a piece of cardstock and placed that behind each sheet to make sure my writing stayed straight, and I wrote with a dip pen and Noodler’s Ink Lexington Gray ink. Once my text was on, I started drawing. Given the thinness of the paper, the only option for adding color was colored pencils; anything wet would have buckled the pages, and anything darker would bleed through the page.
Thanks to Tam LaPorte’s instructions that I’d gotten only a couple of weeks previously, I could actually draw a face that I was happy with. I took my time and drew from reference pictures that I found online for the sand dollar and the beachhouse. As the deadine drew near, I had to stop illustrating my text because I simply did not have time to draw that fast–but in the end that was good because it made the journal feel more authentic and more interesting. That’s how I ended up with beach playlists and a recipe included on pages.
(Note: I think the best way to use the slideshow to view my sketchbook is to immediately click the pause button and then just use the arrows to step through the images at your own pace. I definitely recommend starting from the beginning, which is the cover with a mermaid on it.)
Early on in the process I had visions of embroidering a design on the front cover, but time ran out on that too. Instead I drew a mermaid (my first ever!) and painted her tail with Twinkling H2Os, then collaged her onto the cover and drew around her hair to integrate her into the surface.
In December 2012 I’d never have said I would be able to draw a recognizable sand dollar or mermaid’s tale. I really enjoyed this project!
Addition: If you have any trouble with the slideshow or do not wish to view the images, here is the accompanying text in my fake journal:
Going to the Beach: I love it when my parents decide to go on a beach vacation.
Everything is easy and relaxed when we come here. You can’t dress up because you’d just get hot or sandy or wet and have to change anyway and you don’t have to worry about your hair because the wind will blow it everywhere no matter what you do and even meals are informal and stress-free.
As soon as we arrive at whatever beach house we have rented I put my things in the room I’ll sleep in and immediately head outside to walk on the sand by the water.
I never feel alone here even though the sea is so big both in looking at it and in listening to it . . . the waves are very noisy!
Somehow I find the constant noise welcoming, and I feel at home, cradled like something precious in the place I was meant to be, when I am standing on the wet sand, watching the waves, hearing the constant deep roar like the sound of the earth itself and over it like a descant the intermittent call of the birds as they fly overhead or run along the shoreline looking for salty morsels.
Our beach is not anyone’s idea of an ocean retreat–although Galveston’s beaches are much cleaner than when my mom came here as a little girl herself, she says–but I don’t care about that. This is where we have always come to the beach, and I know it, it is familiar and I feel at home here.
The hermit crabs scurry around on the sand and my imagination fills in what is going on underneath the water where I can’t see–sand dollars? sea horses? jellyfish? mermaids?
Then as soon as the car is unpacked (which given that I am sixteen now and I probably should have been helping with that) (but like I said everyone is relaxed here at the beach and no one scolds when I return to the beach house after getting reacquainted with the ocean) I return to get the float and head straight back to the water. One day it will probably be me being responsible and unpacking & unloading while the younger ones go straight to the ocean so I will enjoy this time while I can.
Leaving my towel and flip-flops up by the sand dune I go straight into the water with the float. I try to angle out to the right knowing that the undertow will drag me down far to the left, past where I have left my things, past our beach house, no matter what I do, and I’ll end up walking along the beachfront dragging the float along behind me until I return to my spot and can do it all again.
[Beach Music I: 1. “Inspiration Information”, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings 2. “Then She Appeared”, XTC 3. “When the Party’s Over”, Janis Ian 4. “Summertime”, The Sundays 5. “Sweetest Decline”, Beth Orton 6. “Trouble”, Ray LaMontagne 7. “Somewhere Sunshine”, Rachel Brady 8. “My Brambles”, Alela Diane]
[Beach Music II: 1. “Delta Rain”, The Blessing 2. “Someday”, Sugar Ray 3. “Alto Songo”, Afro-Cuban All-Stars 4. “The Hawana Way”, Paul Brady 5. “L.O.V.”, Fitz and the Tantrums 6. “Houdini”, Foster the People 7. “She Sells Sanctuary”, The Cult 8. “Cradle”, Kaydee 9. “Wound Up”, Office 10. “Hoireann O”, Capercaillie 11. “Way Down”, The Feelies]
The feeling of going out in the water until it is almost too deep for me to stand
and then climbing on top of the float, laying flat on my back with my face to the sun, my arms spread out wide on either side of me and my fingers dangling in the water–
it is indescribable, that gentle but firm rocking by the waves, the tide, the pushing in to shore and then the gentle backtrack followed by another push and relaxing until finally
the float scrapes on the bottom and it’s time to stand up and walk along past the clumps of seaweed until I find my towel and can start all over again–
not stopping until my mother comes down to the beach, her long hair pulled back from her face but still blowing in the wind, and calls me to come in for dinner.
I am only sixteen but I know this place has lodged deep in the core of my being and that even when I become an adult and may go years without being able to come here that the memory of the waves, their sound at night through the window as I lay in bed, their embrace as I relinquish myself to them with my eyes closed and my body relaxed, surrendering control to something so much larger and more powerful than myself
that the essence of it will sustain me until I am free to return.
Final Page: Thank you for looking at my journal. A Note from the Author/Artist, 15 Jan 2013: I am not really sixteen. I am a forty-two-year-old mother of two living in Austin, Texas. But I did grow up in Houston, and Galveston was where we went to the beach. Had I drawn when I was younger, I might have made something like this. Doing this book/fake journal was great fun. Three weeks ago I had never drawn a face, or a beach house, or a mermaid.