The Sketchbook

The learning process can happen so fast.  Successfully absorbing all the new information is overwhelming.  

I have gotten in the habit of keeping Mole notebooks handy to write notes and sketch pictures. These provide me records to fall back on.  Without them I would feel more like I was floating and confused. Usually I learn something new in Photoshop, and then trying to recall that information a few weeks later would be futile without my notes.

I push this habit onto my friend Haram.  Not that she didn’t do it already, but it is very important that she keeps doing it. I teach quickly and share widely.  There are plenty of tangents in my lessons that might not make sense until the whole concept in digested.  Her sketchbooks will be a strong part of her learning.  

Below is Haram’s Blog entry from her web page. I encourage you to follow her journey at Haram Tattoo


So, I got a new sketchbook.

To start off, I like the idea of stationing a guardian spirit on the front cover, to watch over things. I went with Fudo Myoo done by Horiyoshi III, one of the five “wisdom kings” in Japanese Buddhism. It will probably become a tradition of sorts as I foresee a collection of sketchbooks in the making.

I spent some time flipping through the sketchbook that I just finished and while skimming through pages of scratched out, outlined and highlighted thoughts, I noticed how messy everything was; meaning I used this notebook with no pressure or anxiety which does not happen for me so easily.

Maybe it is the nature of being an artist to be always consumed with doubt, after all, that’s the nature that fuels one’s exploration but to feel fully satisfied with my work is always a struggle.

For me, the fun of the project is often in finding the idea. To “execute” the idea, no matter how successful it might be, is to kill it. By the time the project is done, I am no longer attached to it the way I was in the beginning of the process. It is then up to the viewers to take it and breathe life into, interpret it however they wish with a fresh pair of eyes.

That is why keeping a sketchbook is so important in my creative process. Every piece of drawing or writing is a kind of permission, a permission to bring forth what I already feel. Permission to be messy. Permission to suck. Permission to be in silence.

Silence is not only a space in which there is no sound, but it is simply a space of nothingness so anything can come about.

It is not about expecting something grand to happen but creating possibilities to explore and maybe stumble into something extraordinary. The purpose of a sketchbook is not to accomplish something, but it simply exists for the pleasure I take in documenting my persistent spark of inspirations, however dim.

The biggest realization in my journey to becoming an apprentice so far is that it is not about proving how smart or talented I am. If I can just let go of this idea of being a “genius” and focus more on what I can contribute, the ideas I can share and the quality of the connections I make, I can adjust my own expectations.

So if you struggle to catch up to your own expectation, consider getting a sketchbook or a notebook and spend some time transferring your good and bad thoughts or creative ideas, whatever that might be, and talk through the ink.

To speak is to transfer thoughts and the listener, no matter what it is, is always absorbing so if it is necessary, just let the pages absorb any poison.

But it is also important to remember that it is often something that is messy, weird and a little bit off that intrigues people and that odd spark is what catches their attention.

-Haram Ahn

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