As a freshman in art school I cringed when I was told that students were required to keep a sketchbook. I never draw preparatory sketches because I like to work a painting out as I go, not in advance. When shown a finished artwork and its original sketch, I usually find the first draft to be more spontaneous, energetic, fresh and beautiful. But I was an obedient student so I forced my hand and began drawing in a Moleskine journal.
Drawing in public places always led to striking up conversations with strangers and helped me to make friends outside of school. I began drawing and experimenting on a daily basis. I bought acrylic ink for a school assignment and poured some into my sketchbook using an eye dropper. I liked how the ink bled onto other pages, adding color and texture. I fell in love with the medium and started drawing with ink using a dip pen and brush.
It’s difficult to use dip pens, brushes and ink jars while sitting in a cafe, so I began painting in my room. The privacy loosened me up and my themes became more personal. For years I was in the habit of punctuating paintings with song lyrics, but I finally started using my own poetry. After a while, I grew so invested in the sketchbooks that I began referring to them as “books of paintings” to imply they were complete, indivisible artworks.
I used to surf the internet to find images to draw, but that became boring because I kept googling the same things: antelope, construction cranes and light houses were among my usual search terms. In 2011 I got into photography and started using my own photos for reference. Now I exclusively paint scenes from memory or personal photographs.
Change is so gradual it’s hard to tell if I’m improving at all, so occasionally I flip through my collection of Moleskines. I think the most important creative change was the decision to stop copying images from the internet and other people’s poetry. This really opened me up creatively and I’ve become more observant of my surroundings– time spent outside of studio feels creative and productive because I always have an eye out for material.