Forget all those perfect, pristine, magnificent, jealousy-inducing photos of sketchbooks and stop pressurising yourself by judging yourself against these, regarding these as what you ought to be achieving. The goal is to be sketching, drawing, paintings, visual-journalling. It doesn’t matter what you want to label it, nor does it matter what level of skill or success you do it with. What matters is that you’re doing it.
Anyone who claims every sketch they do is perfect is lying or self-censoring or doing only what they know works and not extending themselves, not continuing to learn. Photos of sketchbook pages are selective; you rarely see someone showing every single page in a sketchbook. After all, we like to appear competent.
Take this photo of a sheep sketch for instance, taken on location after I’d finished it (see “Sunny Summer Skye Sketching“). I know it was one of three I did of sheep on that spot, one after another; the other two were overworked duds. I resisted scratching through them in frustration and irritation; I certainly didn’t take photos!
Artist John Muir Laws compares warming up your drawing muscles to making “sacrificial pancakes“, the first few won’t be perfect and you know they won’t, but you also know you need to make them. One of his helpful tips in his blog “How to get started with Nature Journaling” is to move the goal post:
“Do not focus on trying to make pretty pictures … Open your journal with the intention of discovering something new … If you notice something that you otherwise would not have seen, remember it more vividly, or start asking yourself more interesting questions about what you observe than the journaling is a success. Embrace this idea and go. …Art is a side effect of the process of journaling.“
Sketching makes me look harder and longer. Serial sketching (multiple sketches of the same subject) helps me slow down, lets me try various ideas, and increases the odds I’ll end up with a “good sketch” rather than merely “recorded information”. You could call it hit-or-miss, but I prefer to call it visual exploration.