Art theory Collage Drawing Food sketch Sketchbook Pages

Don’t Replace, Reface: Dealing with a “Bad” Sketchbook Page

Fresh : Luck, collaged pages
Fresh : Luck, collaged spread in 6x9 Fabriano Venezia sketchbook

Are you tempted to tear out the page in your sketchbook when a sketch goes bad? I used to do that.

When we were sharing sketchbooks Tuesday night, I pointed proudly to three pages that had terrible drawings on them of an object that simply wasn’t draw-able (or nameable–more about that in a minute). I said, “Look! I wasted three pages and they’re really ugly and I’m OK with letting them just be there.” Cathy the graphic designer, said, “Well, you know, you could just paste stuff over them.”

Is It Luck?
Is It Luck? Ink & gouache lottery tickets and business card (click to enlarge)

So when I visited my local donut shop in a moment of weakness (apple fritter: my drug of choice) I collected some random stuff they had on the counter: a postcard advertising a Tibet Day, some California lottery slips, the proprietor’s card, and the bag my fritter came in. I thought the picture they chose for the card— an Italian-looking chef—was funny since the store is owned and run by an Asian family. I cut stuff up and pasted it down (the bag was already sticky!), wrote and drew on them, colored with crayons, and painted on some gouache. You see a bit of the bad drawing/writing about it coming through the bag/blue paint.

Fresh Daily, collaged page
Fresh Daily, collaged page: post card pieces on bakery bag pasted over bad sketch, and crayons and paint

When I wrote “Is it luck?” I was referring both to the lottery tickets and getting a good drawing. Is it luck when a drawing turns out well? Sometimes it feels like a sketch or painting can’t fail—it seems to paint or draw itself—a total gift. Other times it’s just the opposite and I have the feeling from the very start that the project will be a big FAIL. I try to recognize those negative thoughts and make them stop when I do, but sometimes they just won’t go away.

Oh… and the undrawable thing I was trying to draw? It’s something I found in a “Free” box on a neighborhood walk. A cute little wooden sorting device with numbered slots for 31 days on a sliding thingee, with three little  drawers that could hold paperclips or other small stuff. It looks like a funky version of  this only in oak color and without the clock.

Sorter, sort of
Sorter, sort of

I thought I might be able to use it for drying paintings on panels, but the slots were too narrow. It was way too boring and complicated to draw so after three tries I put it in the garage to take to the thrift shop with some other donations. I thought about returning it to the neighbor’s “Free” box but that seemed like cheating.

So when the sketch turns into a big mess, now I know what to do: don’t rip it out, don’t just leave it there glaring in its butt ugliness; just do what those TV commercials for kitchen cabinets advertise: “Don’t replace, reface!” And when the subject isn’t fun and/or interesting to draw, stop. Life is too short to waste what is meant to be fun time not having fun!