Starting with a Sketch

sketchbook-florals
 Charles Brindley, The Angel Oak / Graphite on paper / 16×26 inches / 2010

Charles Brindley, The Angel Oak / Graphite on paper / 16×26 inches / 2010

 Charles Brindley, Study of Various Live Oaks and Architectural Ruins / Graphite on paper / 26×16 inches / 2009 

Charles Brindley, Study of Various Live Oaks and Architectural Ruins / Graphite on paper / 26×16 inches / 2009 

  Charles Brindley,   Ancient Red Oak on Edge of Agricultural landscape  ,   2008   oil on canvas,    30x40 inches

Charles Brindley, Ancient Red Oak on Edge of Agricultural landscape2008 oil on canvas, 
30x40 inches

 Charles Brindley,  Beech Tree in Granberry Grove ,  2014,  oil on canvas,  30x24 inches

Charles Brindley, Beech Tree in Granberry Grove2014, oil on canvas, 
30x24 inches

 Sketchbook page from the grounds of Cheekwood, inspired by Charles Brindley

Sketchbook page from the grounds of Cheekwood, inspired by Charles Brindley

Although I've been painting and drawing since I was a teenager (and before), I had shelfed my skills in the past few years. With a newborn, a magazine to run, and my normal business stretching me thin, sketching or even keeping a journal felt like a fleeting luxury. 

In art school, I learned the benefit of "staying in shape" by constantly sketching. It's really less about talent and more about practice. Like anything really. And my skills have grown weak and flabby. In the past six months, I have had some personal awakenings that motivated me to dust off my sketchbook, pens and pencils and flex my drawing muscles once again.  Just like in exercising my greatest enemy is lack of time. Or should I say ,"making the time". That is the beauty of practice. It takes time. There is no instant upload or a virtual app to make it happen. (at least not that I know of). 

Spring has certainly provided a wealth of subject matter. So I've been snapping pretty foliage with my phone on nature walks with my son to use later for evening sketching sessions.  When I read about an exhibit at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Art Museum of one of my first Nashville art instructors, Charles Brindley, I knew it was a must see. Last weekend I took myself on a luxurious "mommy-day-out" date to the exhibit and gardens. In Charles Brindley: Trees of Myth and Legend   his impressive oeuvre of tree portraits from the past 20-25 years included an array of paintings and drawings.  

The intricacy of each piece is truly masterful.  Brindley's paintings simply glow.  This result from meticulous under painting is one the treasures I learned and remembered from his classes. Each piece is a layered masterpiece finished with fine brushwork to recreate the look of textured bark, swaying wheat, or curling lichen. 

From a conceptual perspective these trees grow to become characters in a story. Like the works of The Angel Oak found in South Carolina (aged at appx. 1500 years) and rooted in the history of slavery. 

Although I love the story, color and paint application, it was the drawings that really stuck with me. Brindley's proficiency with graphite and paper, his mark making and dedication to studying his subject matter impressed upon me. 

So I sauntered into the gardens, sat on a bench, opened my sketchbook and began making my own marks with my trusty ebony pencil. It felt like catching up with an old friend. The more we talked the more I remembered. 

Hopefully we will meet again in the near future.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is just start. Just put pen to paper. Just take up the instrument standing in the corner. Small simple acts. Without distraction or noise. 

For me noise can feel more comfortable than silence. Distraction is less vulnerable. Less exposed. 

Yet, I am learning this lesson in this season in life. Slow down, listen to the heart and pick up the dusty pencils. 

And you? How are you "sketching" or writing or painting or playing or cooking, or making to return to your truest heart calling?