My time abroad in Rome has completely flown by and it’s so bittersweet to look through my sketchbook and see what I’ve created over the course of the semester. Before taking this sketchbook class, I hadn’t taken an art class since sixth grade. That was about nine years ago. I still remember a great deal of art techniques from this class but when I’m asked to draw something it’s all stick figures and square-boxed houses. This semester I worked with pencil, charcoal, ink, and sharpie. Sharpie and ink were my favorite tools because I found a great amount of freedom in knowing that I wouldn’t be able to erase a mistake. This was one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn in Rome, initially pertaining to my sketchbook art, but I found that it is also true pertaining to my creative writing and my everyday life.
The hardest moment of the semester was week three when the assignment was to sketch the colosseum in pencil. This was a very difficult assignment for me. In the beginning, I found trouble focusing on the subject. There was a lot of people near the colosseum and given my high interest in people watching, it was extremely hard to just focus on sketching. I also found the massive colosseum overwhelming to be assigned. I felt intimidated by the huge structure. The colosseum is a complex thing to sketch. It has a lot of detail, with many specific features at every angle. They’re windows and arches all over the structure, revealing what the environment around the colosseum is like. The light is also extremely complex. The sun was of course the only source of light but the way it found its way around the structure was 1) really hard to interpret and 2) complex to mimic.
It took me about an hour to realize that I kept making up all of these excuses for not being able to calm my mind enough to dive into the art of observing and creating. I found myself drawing and erasing, drawing and erasing, drawing and erasing. I wanted things to be perfect on the first draft. I wanted to be able to see a final product that I could sell for a hundred and fifty euros in ten minutes. It was frustrating to not be able to create what I was seeing.
Something my art professor told us art students throughout the entire semester was to just observe what we see and sketch that. We had to train our brains to not create what we think is there but instead, truly observe and sketch the object as it is. I found this extremely challenging. As someone who isn’t used to taking a scene in and just replicating it, I found my brain making up a lot of what I thought I saw. I worked at this throughout the semester and it has taught me a lot. When thinking about this in other aspects of my life, I can tell I force these standards on myself all across the board.
When writing creative pieces, I often find myself erasing more than writing in the first draft. I’ve reflected on this and I think it’s a result of 1) being highly critical of myself in the beginning stages of creating and 2) not being patient enough with myself to relax and be present. I didn’t expect to learn this from a sketchbook class. Although I know visual art is a really different medium of creating compared to creative writing, I realized how similar the creative processes are. I’m really grateful that I experienced my next art class in such a fulfilling location rich in art and history. I’m really glad I got to learn these lessons at such an amazing time.