It’s time to tell you about a weekly outdoor adventure I have enjoyed since the end of May. At 1pm every Sunday, sketchbook, art kit, and camp stool in hand, I meet up with my good friend Patrick and we head out together on a search for great “Look at That!” locations to sketch.
I am so lucky to be able to learn from Patrick and borrow his eyes. He is an architect and therefore sees and understands things that you and I innocently overlook. He points out to me the nuances of architectural design that make a building facade “work.” I learn so much from him, and although we don’t talk a lot while sketching, we each have a ready audience for any insights either of us might have, about the scene in front of us or about life in general.
There are so many benefits to having a weekly sketchbook buddy:
- Scheduling: Sundays from 1 until 4 are blocked off in my datebook, a default time that frees both of us from having to decide how and when to meet up. This makes it a priority, not a whim.
- Food first: Many Sundays begin with a quick stop at our favorite restaurant right in the middle of town, where we have enjoyed outdoor seating for the last six months. We mask and distance automatically and effortlessly, refusing to let those minor inconveniences diminish the day’s joy. We listen to each other’s updates on work, family, and whatever else has been filling our dance cards. Then we are free to move on to the day’s sketchbook adventure ahead of us.
- Scouting out a spot: We have a few favorite areas where we go to sketch, mostly because Bobbie will sketch anything, but Patrick has more discerning taste; he prefers to draw buildings or architectural details that catch his eye. I am happily along for the ride and will draw most anything I can see. I often choose to focus more on the landscaping than on the buildings, because my distance eyesight is quite weak now. No worries, I still have fun. Last Sunday I used the zoom lens on my smartphone’s camera as if it were a pair of binoculars, so now I can see roofline details as well as he can with his 20/20 vision. Very exciting!
- Tempo: As we’ve traveled from May until October, Patrick and I have developed a tempo to our time together. After he parks the car, we quickly pick a spot for our chairs, and he gets right to sketching, using a beautiful hardbound A4 size sketchbook and a ballpoint pen. It takes me longer to settle in, but I also begin with just my sketchbook and a fountain pen. Whenever I think I’m about finished, I look over, and sure enough, Patrick is slowing down as well, sketching less, looking around more, simply enjoying the peace and quiet of intentional gazing.
Last Sunday, before I left home to meet Patrick, I double-checked my sketchbook and was surprised to see the prior week’s sketch had used up the last page of the book. An end of an era. My next new sketchbook was within easy reach, so I grabbed it and headed out the door.
When I arrived back home that evening, instead of shelving my completed sketchbook next to the mountain of other ones I have filled in recent years, I decided to pause and look back through it. It felt just like being there again. That is the best reason for creating a regular sketchbook habit. You get to enjoy every peaceful, look-at-that moment twice: once while you were there sketching, and again later when you slowly look through your book and experience effortless time-travel.
Here are some of the images from my most recent sketchbook. I encourage you to also find a weekly sketching buddy for yourself. It will be good for your heart and soul, as well as improving your drawing confidence and skill. If you live in an area where the pandemic is still too strong to make going outdoors pleasurable, consider starting, as Patrick and I did in March, by having a weekly meet-up online in something like a Zoom room. When we started, we each picked our own landscape photo to work from, and used the same approach/tempo we do outdoors: pause, look, look again, wait until some detail of the photo catches your eye, and then begin.
I smile writing this, because all of these steps are laid out with such loving care in my new book, “Look at That: Discover the Joy of Seeing by Sketching” which will be available on Amazon on November 22nd if all goes to plan.
Here’s a secret head’s up about my book:
Although it will be available in paperback and ebook formats, I really, really, really like the paperback better. So much care went into the layout, so much thought about what appears on facing pages, and the overall design is a joy. Of course in ebooks, you can view them a page at a time, or as 2-page spreads, and if the pages are made smaller or larger, well, don’t get me started. The information and loving guidance is the same in both the ebook and the paperback, of course. But as a light-hearted and enjoyable textbook, the real 3-D paperback will be much happier snuggled up next to your real 3-D sketchbook.
Here’s a sampling of this year’s Sundays with Patrick sketchbook. Enjoy!