Achievements Unlocked


Health +1

After so much candy, this was one of the rare occasions when I was really glad to eat a salad. Getting older is weird.

Scenery +1

True, it’s hardly majestic. But I’m starting to figure out that the key to sketching a scene is figuring out ways to represent lots of detail with only a few lines, or a dash of color. I still have a ways to go, but this is exactly the type of growth I was hoping this Easter sketching exercise would accomplish.


Cross-hatching +1

It’s awkward to bring paints to church, so I have to be content to merely draw the backs of peoples’ heads while I’m listening.

Artistic ability -1

That may be the worst sketch of a baseball player that I’m capable of. I couldn’t really tell you all that went wrong, but at least the paint helped cover some of the egregious mistakes. Some.



Drawing moving things is hard. You have to be really fast and accurate, or you have to be aiming for a more reportage style (a la Greg Betza or Veronica Lawlor, who are excellent at it), or both. And frankly, that’s not my thing. I can make a good image if I take it slow and really work at it, and nothing short of a full effort will do the trick, at least in my own eyes.

Drawing scenery is also hard. Even if it’s geometric architecture, it’s difficult to pull in an entire scene in a convincing way (like Paul Heaston or Pete Scully). That’s the other end of the spectrum, where you need to just commit hours of time to get it right. Or at least I would. And frankly, I don’t ever have that kind of time.

Drawing objects, however, is actually not that bad. You can decide how complex it needs to be, how much detail to show, you can decide on cross-hatching, or ink, or different paints. They won’t run away, they won’t demand too much time, you can compose your page however you want, etc. This is just my opinion on the subject—I’m sure any number of other sketchers have a differing view—but when I want to make a quality page in my sketchbook, I’ll find whatever interesting object I have around.

And that’s great, but it doesn’t take long for me to want to stretch out. I want to be the guy who can draw a scene, or animals, or my kids. And so there’s this tension between wanting quality and wanting to grow.

Practice is probably a key component of it.

Scattered thoughts, I know, and no real satisfying conclusion. Consider this another step in the process of improving, which I’m trying to document throughout the Easter season.

Easter sketching #1

I could be remembering it wrong, but I’m pretty sure in Surprised by Hope, NT Wright says something interesting about Easter—just as we give things up for Lent in preparation for Easter, so we should take something up in celebration of Easter. It’s a nice suggestion, and since my Lenten vow was to give up social media (crushed it, and I am way happier for it), I thought it was worth a shot to do something from Easter to Pentecost, which Google tells me is on May 15th this year.

My most recent interest is a return to keeping an illustrated sketchbook, so that’s what I decided to do. Putting something in there for fifty straight days ought to either get my skills in great shape, or totally burn me out on sketching, or both.

Until I have a couple spreads filled in, here are some recent ones I’ve done. I’m using a Handbook Travelogue, which has some decent paper and a nice square shape. I’ve come back to the Uniball Vision micro, and of course my usual kit of Reeves watercolors.



A sorta kinda goal of this exercise is to get better at painting and noticing light. I’m the kind of person who gets impatient painting in complex scenes, and likes to simplify everything I can’t draw with a pen. The bottle of hand sanitizer took a long time to paint, but I’m pretty pleased with how that went. More of that.

And you should do something, too. You don’t need to do fifty days, but maybe you could draw more or cook more or whatever it is you do more this spring. You could.


I’m a fickle guy. I love to be creative but I have a very hard time sticking with a single discipline for long. Sketchbooks, oil painting, digital illustration, doesn’t matter. I get to a certain point and then quit. Perhaps it’s because my desire to become great at it fades, or maybe my life keeps getting in the way. Whatever the reason, it’s not something I particularly like.

So for 2016 my resolution is to do one thing for the whole year. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I’ve chosen linocut block printing. I’ve done a bit of this in the past, and the craftiness of it has always been appealing. So that’s what I’m doing.

The big project to start off the year is going to be illustrating The Man of Iron, a somewhat obscure fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. I’m sure I’ll want to quit many times along the way, but my goal is to finish, to go beyond the point of good enough.

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