Sketchbooks, Fear and Letting Go

Do you keep a sketchbook? Right now I have nine sketchbooks on the go, which might be a bit overkill.

A Pile of My Working Sketchbooks by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

But each book has a different purpose. They're different sizes and different types of paper. One of them is nearly filled and two I recently started for very specific projects -- one dedicated to color and the other as a garden journal.

Blue Watercolor Color Play In My Color Themed Sketchbook by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

I think one of the reasons I have so many different sketchbooks is that I've been chasing the myth of the Perfect Sketchbook.

The Perfect Sketchbook is a book you'll adore working in. Every page you create in it will look great and flow effortlessly. You and the Perfect Sketchbook will be inseparable and it will be, in and of itself, a work of art.

That's an awful lot of pressure, don't you think?

A Page From My Garden Journal Sketchbook Capturing the Joy of Tomatoes Developing in My Garden by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

These myths exist everywhere in life, not just art. Maybe you've chased some yourself.

No sketchbook (or any other tool, material, person or device) is going to do all that. In fact, the only thing that makes a sketchbook perfect is you working in it. The work might not be pretty or neat. It might not make sense to anyone but you and often it doesn't resemble a work of art. And yet, the act of working in it is just right.

Experimenting with Inktense Colored Pencils and Drawing Goldfish in My Sketchbook by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

Sketchbooks are about practice and growth. They're about play. They're about experimentation and asking questions and figuring things out.

For so long I was hesitant and intimidated by sketchbooks, even after I'd begun making art. It was interesting and encouraging to find out that I wasn't the only person who felt like this. Throughout my Sketchbook Conversations interviews I heard some of the same thoughts and feelings echoed by different artists. For me and for many of us the hesitancy stems from fear. Fear can be so limiting.

Sketching Out Possible Layouts for Paintings in My Sketchbook by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

Even now, often days (or sometimes weeks) go by between my working in any of my sketchbooks. I'm busy. I'm tired. My inspiration ebbs and flows. But part of the reason I don't work regularly in my sketchbooks comes back to fear, even after all these years.

The same sort of pressure that revolves around the Perfect Sketchbook can get tangled up with the idea of working in a sketchbook, or being creative in general. We want it to be perfect, or at least good. We want it to be easy and work out right away. Add in anxiety from thoughts like, "I should be working in my sketchbook" and doubts when we compare our work to what we see on social media and it's no wonder creating becomes difficult!

What's In Bloom? Trying Out Inktense Colored Pencils In My Sketchbook While Drawing What's Blooming In My Garden

Maybe you feel this, too? Maybe it's not sketchbooks; maybe there are other creative outlets you're wanting to explore but keep putting off? 

Why don't we let go of expectations? Let go of a desire for a certain outcome. Let's free ourselves to make mistakes and make messes. We can give ourselves permission to ask questions like "what would happen if I do this?" and "I wonder how I could accomplish that?" and "what if I use this tool/material/supply/technique"? 

Using Markers to Brainstorm Barn Quilt Designs in My Sketchbook by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

Let's give ourselves time and privacy to create. Don't worry what anyone else would think of your sketchbook pages (or whatever endeavor you're wishing to embrace...). Even if we choose to share (which we don't have to do), this practice is ultimately personal, for no one but you and me.

I'm re-committing myself to my sketchbooks. Not as an obligation, but as a joy. Are you with me? It doesn't have to be sketchbooks. Maybe it's sewing or dancing or cooking or photography. Let's re-commit to creating without fear.

The other day I was reminded again of this path I'm on. When I opened my box of colored pencils to work in my sketchbook I (re)discover this quote on the inside of the lid:

Hidden Inspiration -- William Blake Quote About Joy In My Pencil Box by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

"He who kisses joy as it flies by, will live in eternity's sunrise."      -- William Blake

Sometimes messages from the universe come at just the right time. When I'm busy kissing joy, fear will have less power over me. Embrace the act of creating and there's no room for fear.

We can do it together.