The first theme to christen a year of sketchbook challenges was "Highly Prized" and I struggled mightily with this one.
For whatever reason, I got two stubborn things stuck in my head: (1) the image of a prize ribbon and (2) the idea that whatever I "prized" had better be lofty. The former hovered in my thought process like that one rogue gnat in the kitchen that you never catch, no matter how many times you slap at the air. Every time I sat down to doodle, I felt this annoying compulsion to include a stereotypical grand prize blue ribbon somewhere, somehow. (I even have some prize ribbon stickers and they spent the month floating around my studio table, daring me to be literal.)
I also felt compelled to ensure that I was depicting something that others would also consider "prize-worthy." Silly, of course, but there it was. I thought: "Maybe I should draw my son." "Maybe I should draw my cats." "I prize hope, dreams, imagination...maybe I should be clever and illustrate that?" And so on...ad nauseam. Finally, after much mental dithering, I realized the error of my ways. "Should" is such a sticky, guilt-laden word and it really needs to be stricken from my vocabulary. In the end, I just stepped away from all that crazy over-thinking and just went drawing out in the world.
Yesterday was a perfect, sunshiney day and all the closest benches at our local community college were occupied by young lovers or weary students regaining their energy in the noontime warmth. Since I knew my son would be in class for at least an hour, I decided to walk out to some stone picnic tables farther afield. Peaceful, yes...picturesque, not really. So I simply began sketching what I had to work with and it happened to be this sweet little tree. As I relaxed into my seeing, a world of roughness and whorls and lights and darks opened up before me. My revelry remained unbroken until my son found his way to me, exhausted by his search for his wayward mother.
When I got home, I realized that my time with the sun at my back and my moleskine in hand was perfectly prize-winning. And so, I finished off my doodle with a bit of lettering and tipped my hat to the necessary practice of just letting go...