Friday, June 29, 2012

Capturing Memories, Recording Emotions

 In the post "What's Sketchpacking? Why do it?", I shared that "Your sketch is more than a visual record. As you sketch, you are recording your emotions and impressions.This helps create stronger impressions and memories when you go back and flip through your sketchbook in future than if you just shot a photograph and tucked your camera away". Today I came across a news article on one lady's sketches that showed exactly that.

Thirty-eight year-old mother of 3, Angie Stevens, has been drawing her children for over 2 years. In the article titled Gladly drawn boy: From tantrums to dentist trips, Mother captures 2-year-old son's life by drawing a picture of him EVERY DAY, she shares her thoughts:

"The 38-year-old spends between around 20 minutes each evening sketching a new picture of her three children to document their day, then posts them on her blog, 'Doodlemum.'......

'It is a lovely record for the children to look back on and far better than photos as the pictures capture my emotions too,' said Angie, who lives with husband Myles, 40, in Swansea, Wales......

'I try to keep the picture quite simple and if it needs lots of words to explain it I feel I’ve failed,' she said.

Since starting the blog in 2010 Angie has documented everything from breast feeding, potty training and weaning to beach trips, blustery walks and bullying and now has a huge following from all over the world.

She has captured all of Gruff’s first’s such as learning to brush his teeth, having his hair cut and taking a bath.

Angie has also drawn moments many parents would rather forget, including tantrums, fighting, being ill and sitting on the naughty step.

Other pictures show fun family memories such as camping, dressing up and making pizza or typical toddler activities including eating cat food and licking the windows......

'They are all accurate doodles of the children and even Gruff recognises himself now,' she said.

'It’s fun to look back at the older sketches and have a giggle over them. They bring back a lot of memories and emotions as well.

'When you look at them you remember the little moments you have forgotten about in a way which is much stronger than photos.

'I have very few records of my mum and myself as a child so I really wanted to do this for my children.

'They will have a record of all these moments and exactly what I was thinking and feeling.'"

Sketching is a great way to record not only what we see, but also what we feel.

Check out the article! Lots of lovely sketches!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Anyone Can Draw!

If you're a big fan of Pixar like I am, you probably have come across the phrase: "Anyone can cook." It's in that movie about a cooking rat. Yes, it's from Ratatouille, spoken by the character Gusteau.

The story revolves around Remy, the rat who loves to cook, wants to cook. But ask any real chef about rats cooking and they will blanch at the thought. Nothing could be more unthinkable for a chef to have sewer vermin preparing food. Dogs, maybe. But rats? Hell, no!

Thankfully Remy didn't listen to the crowd and went on to be a master chef, impressing even Anton Ego, the vampire-like food critic who didn't believe that "anyone can cook". In fact he impressed Ego so much that Ego changed his mind, realising that "not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere".

Some friends tell me they never could draw. What they probably mean is they never seemed able to draw some things well. But I always believed that being able to draw well is not so much about talent, but about passion. If you're passionate about something, you'll find a way to get it done, and do it well. The good thing about passion and skill is that they can be aquired, but it is neither a quick nor effortless process. It is, however, immensely encouraging and enjoyable as you see yourself improving. The screeching of the violin will eventually turn into music, even if you don't become a Paganini.

It was Pablo Picasso who said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." If you haven't been drawing for the most part of your adult life, don't get discouraged. Pick up a pencil. Doodle. Sketch. Copy. In time you will remember the joy of drawing, and you can pick up where you left off.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What's "Sketchpacking"? Why do it?

What is "Sketchpacking"?
One of the great things about coining a term is that you get to come up with the definition! The word "sketchpacker" came to me while I was surfing a website of a backpacker's hotel, and it used the word "flashpacker" and gave a definition. It happened that the reason I checked out the hotel's website was because I was going for a sketching trip to Penang, and this was to be our accommodation. So since I was going to be backpacking on a sketching trip (or is it the other way round?), the word "sketchpacker" was born.

The relation of "sketchpacker" to "backpacker" sounds like you need to be traveling on a low budget. And not everybody who sketches while on holiday may be going to an urban area. Hence I'd like to expand the definition a little bit and propose the following:
A sketchpacker is someone who goes on a trip and records his impressions, experiences and inspirations with his sketches during his travels.
This is broad enough to cover travellers of any sort (flashpackers, backpackers, holiday-makers of any budget, skill-level, ethnicity, age or gender), and any type of content pertaining to one's experiences during a trip (urban, rural, natural, inspirational, etc.). At the same time, there should be some intention to sketch during the trip as a means of keeping a record of what one has experienced.

Why Sketchpack?
Sketching is a great way to experience a place! Here are some good reasons to sketchpack:
  1. Your sketch is not meant to be a masterpiece, so there's no pressure to do something so finished and spend too much time doing it.
  2. It is meant to be a quick record, so you don't have to spend too much time at one place trying to finish each piece.
  3. At the same time, sketching forces you to slow down, savour the location, and spend more time observing and absorbing the environment.
  4. It is personal, so you're not trying to live up to anybody's standards. 
  5. Your sketch is more than a visual record. As you sketch, you are recording your emotions and impressions.This helps create stronger impressions and memories when you go back and flip through your sketchbook in future than if you just shot a photograph and tucked your camera away (doesn't hurt having some photos and text to go along with your drawings! Turn your sketchbook into a scrapbook!).
  6. It's fun!
Why "Sketchpack" and not "Sketchtravel"?
Well, too bad, "Sketchtravel" has already been taken. It's an awesome compilation of works from artists from all over the world! Check it out! You can check out their official blog too, but some of it is in French.

What is a Waterbrush and How to Use It

The waterbrush is one of the best inventions for the mobile sketcher. It's a brush whose handle is actually a water container. Having one means you don't need to bring a water holder around to wash your brush or wet your paints. All you need to do is squeeze the handle!  
Update Aug 2012:
Here's a great article about the history of the waterbrush:

What's a "Sketchpacker"?

What's a "Sketchpacker"?
You've heard of backpacking, and maybe also flashpacking. Well, a "sketchpacker" is a term I've coined for someone who travels and goes around sketching, or recording his experiences with sketches in a sketchbook (as opposed to just writing or photography). You don't need to have a bigger budget (like a flashpacker), neither do you have to be on a shoestring like most backpackers. All you need is a sketchbook and drawing tools and you're ready to go!

Who Can Be A Sketchpacker?
Anybody! Unless you're visually impaired or have certain physical disabilities, you shouldn't have too much difficulty being a sketchpacker. I have friends who take paraplegics on sketchwalks and teach them painting, and they do great work using their teeth while in their wheelchairs!

What If I Can't Draw?
In the words of Gusteau from Ratatouille, "Anyone can cook!" Well, in our context, anyone can draw! Yes, anyone. The trouble is most of us forget how to when we grow up, but it's still there.

This doesn't mean everyone can be a Leonardo or Rembrandt, or even Picasso (believe it or not, that guy could really draw, and not just abstract art!). Drawing and drawing well are two different things, just like cooking. But if you don't try, you'll never know how well you can draw; and if you don't keep at it, there's no way to get better at it. Leonardo didn't become what he was overnight. It took loads of practice. The question is not so much whether you can draw. It's really whether you want to or like to draw.

Sketching is really quite different from, say, being a painter or fine artist. Sketches are meant to be quicker, rougher, and more personal. It's more a record of our personal experience, interpreted into visual form. A lot of the time it's not for public exhibition. It's more like journaling. I'll talk more about this in a future post on what sketchpacking is.

How is being a Sketchpacker different from being an Urban Sketcher?
Not a lot, really. The difference is in the word "Urban". The Urban Sketchers group has a specific manifesto that is more focused on drawing urban scenes on-location. Skechpackers don't have these restrictions in content. It is a more generic term. Nevertheless, since sketchpacking is about experiencing a place, sketches are done more on location (but not always necessarily so) as you record your experiences and impressions as you travel.

How is Sketchpacking different from sketch journaling?
Not a lot either. What is different is the content. While casual sketching or sketch journaling can be a record of a variety of inspirations that come our way or just keeping a sketch diary, sketchpacking is focused more on the experiences and impressions of a location as we travel. Some inspiration from the place we are visiting may find our way into our sketchbooks, but they still revolve around the theme of the place in which we are visiting.

What does it take to be a Sketchpacker?
Well, we'll leave the details to the next post, but here's something in brief. Besides a sketchbook, a pencil and a pencil sharpener (or penknife, if you like. You don't need an eraser, really), you just need to have the desire to draw. As G. K. Chesterton once said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." Everybody starts off bad. It's those who keep at it who get better. So grab your sketchbook and pencil and get out there and start drawing!