When I took Sherrie York’s field journal workshop at Rocky Mountain Land Library‘s Buffalo Peaks campus in August, I came home inspired and vowed to make sketching a part of my creative routine. “I’ll do a few sketches every week,” I told myself.
And… I didn’t. Of course I have good excuses: writing and workshop deadlines got crazy. In September, I was on the road most of the month, driving almost 5,000 miles in just over three weeks. And so on.
Still, I could have made the time and I didn’t. Clearly, I needed a nudge.
So when my neighbor, Lisa DeYoung of Mountain Mermaid Studios, mentioned the other day that she had finished the new edition of her Musings Journal, I bought one on the spot.
Today I took time to play with it. (Lisa offers two versions of this hand-designed tool for creative play: a daily one dated with the months of the the year, and an undated one. I bought the latter so I wouldn’t feel guilty about missing a few weeks now and again.)
Pages in the undated journal, just waiting for me to fill those rectangles with something…
I took my journal and my trusty mechanical pencil out to the front steps to think about where to start. A comma butterfly fluttered in and landed on the rabbitbrush near me and began to feed. It sipped nectar from one flower cluster, crawled to the next, and sipped more.
I picked up my pencil and began a simple gesture drawing, sketching the general form with quick shapes, and then beginning to fill in the details. The comma was so cooperative that I had gotten the ragged outline of the wings and had begun on the somewhat complicated wing pattern when I looked up and…
The butterfly was gone.
Since the rabbitbrush hadn’t flown away, I sketched one of the small, compound flowers, and then took my journal inside. I dug out my favorite colored pencils and added color.
Derwent “inktense” colored pencils, which I love for the tin they come in as well as their great feel and handling.
I even colored in the shapes Lisa had drawn as a playful border for the page, and thought wryly as I did that my kindergarten report card probably said something like, “Very enthusiastic, but cannot stay in the lines.”
Which is quite true about my approach to life as well: show me a line or a wall or a boundary of any kind, and I’ll be the one quietly figuring out how to stray beyond it.
When I finished coloring, I made some notes (ever the scientist, observing and recording those observations), and looked at my first “creative play” page. My butterfly sketch isn’t finished–the comma flew away mid-pattern–but it pleased me, which is important.
The butterfly was actually perched upside down as it fed, so I drew it that way…
I learned something about myself in the doing. I’m not a doodler; doodles are abstractions, and I’ve never been particularly good at the abstract, whether in philosophy or art. I’m rooted in what I can touch, smell, taste; what I can measure and observe, describe and record. (There’s that scientist again!)
Nor am I am artist. I have friends who are wonderfully talented at interpreting life through visual and sculptural forms, who practice art in their daily life. My late love was one such.
I’m an observer of details, one who notices the everyday marvels around me, one who wonders constantly about how it all works: how all of the beings involved in creating this animate world fit together, the why and who and how and where of life. I’m happy practicing sketching as a way to notice and record, to witness life going about its business.
This moment, this now.
This comma butterfly who flitted before I could puzzle out the pattern on those dusky orange wings.
For now, I’m just happy to be able to translate a moment onto a journal page as a way to focus, to learn, and to express my gratitude in being alive on this glorious autumn day.
Thank you Lisa for the nudge, Sherrie for reminding me that I do love to sketch, and comma butterfly for fluttering into my day…