Letting go of a sketch

This is a copy of the newsletter I sent in October. The version that went to subscribers had a photo of the sketch I talked about. If you’re interested in receiving new posts with bonus content right into your inbox, you can join the fun via the pop-up in the lower right corner of your screen.

I recently enrolled in a watercolor class through my local parks and rec program. Our first assignment was to sketch an arrangement of shoes that we would paint later. I spent way too much time on the sketch because I’m still learning how to draw.

Even though I was proud of how the sketch turned out, I had no desire to paint it or even continue with the class (it turned out to be more of a social painting group than an instructional class). So I dropped out and decided to learn how to watercolor on my own.

Watercolor paper, at least the kind the teacher told us to buy, is freaking expensive. I drew the shoe sketch on $10 worth of paper (a half sheet, about 14″ x 22″). I don’t like drawing that large and I don’t want to spend the time it’ll take to paint it when I don’t even know how to control watercolors and am unlikely to get much instruction on how to do so.

So I cut it up.

Sock knitting and creating like kids

Have you ever watched kids make things? They lose themselves in the process and then let go of the finished product, even when it’s good. That’s an attitude I try to cultivate, this focus on process and practice. I’ve learned that being too precious about my work hampers me to the point where it’s difficult to even start.

My sock knitting is a great way to keep me from being precious about what I make. A pair of socks takes around 22 hours to knit. When I finish a pair, I admire my work and then . . . promptly put them on my feet. Or give them to my mom to put on her feet. Either way, they will get stepped on, shoved in shoes, and eventually wear out because they’re socks.

The point of me knitting socks isn’t really the socks–it’s the process. But in a society obsessed with end products (and selling those end products), it’s easy to forget that 99.9% of creative work is the practice of making the thing, not the thing itself. Besides, once you finish something, the next step is to start something else.

Letting go

I’ll be using my cut-up shoe sketch as watercolor practice paper. After that, it’ll go into the recycling bin because it’s done its job.

And then I’ll open a new sketchbook and keep practicing.