I have not done a lot of sketching yet this 2023, much less than in previous Januarys. I think there are a few reasons. The weather was awful, with all those storms, which felled so many trees. Normally I’m like, well yeah but I’ll still draw, but I haven’t as much. Secondly, I’ve been busy with work. Yeah but normally when I’m busy with work, my sketching output increases, and January is always busy, but I’ve been feeling a bit more stressed and a bit more tired. I guess when you slip out of day-to-day sketching even for a week or two it’s harder to slip back in, I always like to have ‘runs’ of sketches, it takes the pressure off that first sketch. Sometimes I lose confidence in sketching how I want to, even though I draw fast. I’m getting that thing where in my lunchtime I will be like, do I have enough time now to draw? Is this enough time to get something done that I actually like? Usually when I run out of time, I’ll just finish off later, but I am finding that I’m becoming the king of finish-off-later. Then there’ my ageing eyesight; for some reason, sketching outside, normal light, I’m still fine, but I find it a bit more irritating drawing at the desk at home now, I have to either get my face close to the page with glasses off, or sit way further back, and indoor lighting just doesn’t seem to cut it (I know I’m getting to the point where bifocals would probably help with that, but for some reason they always remind me of those school secretaries you used to get who would peer down at you for being late or send you to talk to the head; I thought it was just me that imagined this imaginary character, but then my Mum said the exact same thing when she was talking about bifocals; funnily enough we did go to the same school, some decades apart, but I doubt that this imaginary school secretary with bifocals was actually there either in the 80s or the 60s. Maybe it was someone we saw on TV). Anyway I don’t mind my bad eyesight when sketching out and about, because that’s part of the view, but when drawing at home from a photo (more so than the finish-odd-later thing, where I’m finishing off colours or leaves from memory anyway) I have to shift my focus a lot more. I don’t know, “fortyitis” my optometrist called it. I actually had to look that up, thinking it was a real condition. So I’ve not been doing any desk drawing at home either. And then there’s the weekends – I really really want a day out sketching, down in the city maybe or somewhere else completely (…London?…), but for one reason or other I’ve not been able to.
I also, well, get a bit bored of drawing Davis. I know, I’ve been here before. I always find something else to draw, some other way of looking at old things. It’s just I’ve been finding it hard to stay motivated to keep documenting the same place, when I really need to get out and travel more. I think posting my sketchbook from the summer of 2022 this past couple of weeks has not helped with that, it’s just made me yearn for more travelling and sketching. Looking at other people’s sketches online, while usually a massive inspiration, has also made me feel frustrated for not being out sketching interesting places more. The Urban Sketching Symposium is finally back this year, and while I was super excited about it, I then made the (possibly stupid, surely regrettable) decision not to go. It’s in Auckland, New Zealand, a place where I’ve wanted to visit since I was a teenager at school. When I was 13 or 14 I had a pen-pal in New Zealand actually, in Lower Hutt near Wellington – though I can’t now remember their name, I remember they did send me a letter once inside a plastic bottle, that was sent through the post across the world to me in north London. Our school had this scheme where they would arrange pen-friends for students in different countries, and I loved writing letters across the world. I had one in New Zealand, another in Koblenz in Germany, another in Naples in Italy, and another in Vienna, in Austria, who I was pen-pals with the longest. I never met them in person, but it was a fun way to learn about people in other countries at a young age. These days it would be harder because it’s so much easier, with email and social media, it would probably be nowhere near the same. Anyway I’ve still never been to New Zealand. It’s in April, which is an awkward time for work when it can be busy. I also feel somewhat overwhelmed by the large symposia these days – they are such huge events now that I sometimes just want to wander off on my own anyway. I really enjoy meeting new sketching people and talking sketchbooks and styles, and I always love hanging out with those sketchers I’ve been meeting with since that first one back in 2010, the originals. I still get shy though, and I never feel quite confident enough though to propose teaching a workshop, or even a talk, so I just lurk about with my sketchbook drawing as much as I can, always obsessing that I have not yet drawn enough, I need to get more, to ‘catch up’.
So this drawing above was done on one lunchtime where I was like, no come on Pete, you really do have to draw, it will help. And it did, and there was no ‘finish-off-later’ to fall back on. It was on one of the off-days when the storms cooled off and the rain stopped a bit, but I went up to the second floor of Olsen Hall and draw the EOP building at UC Davis shielded away from any possible rain interruptions. This old tree is still there, with its large bulging bit in the middle. And I tell you what: I will -WILL- draw today. Especially when things are stressful (and are they!) I have to remember that the place I go to put that stress is a little 8.5″ x 5″ book with a nice blank page. Whatever comes out, comes out, even if it is the same old thing I’ve drawn a thousand times. Hey, that thing I draw might not be there next time I draw it.