Sketchbook as Memory-Keeper: Sketchbook Thursdays

Is it Thursday again already? I hope a few of you pulled out your sharpened pencils and your old sketchbook–or ordered a new one (click here to see which one I love)–and did some sketching this week. One of my goals in our homeschool has always been to make sure that my kids learned how to draw. I’m an artist myself, but that’s not why I’ve wanted my kids to learn how to draw. It was more about my mom and dad, I think, and their abilities.

When I was a kid, I worked at my dad’s drugstore after school and on Saturdays. I mixed chocolate malts with a malt machine; I made cherry phosphates with syrup and carbonated water; I served cups of coffee for 10ยข each; I used a cash register to ring up purchases and make change. Yup. That kind of drugstore, and yup. I’m that old.

The regulars would come in for coffee at certain times during the day: I think there was a 10 o’clock coffee crowd, and a noon crowd, and then a 3 o’clock coffee group, too. (Dad–you can correct me if I didn’t get that right.)

If my dad wasn’t tremendously busy up in his prescription loft, he’d sit down for a spell (we used the phrase “for a spell” in those days) and enjoy a cup of coffee (served in cream-colored cups with a little diamond pattern on the side) with his customers. Invariably they’d talk about something or other (a broken tractor? An engine problem? Identity of a garden pest?) that would demand a visual.

My dad could draw. He’d pull a pen out of his pocket, and jerk a white paper napkin or two out of the steel napkin holder, and he’d draw whatever he was talking about. The men would watch and begin to nod. Yup. Understanding. Clarity. Problem solved.

This type of drawing wasn’t fine art. It was utilitarian. It was a way to communicate. Like those ancient cave drawings found in the caves in France (and all over the world!) describing the week’s hunt: it was ultimately practical and efficient. I suppose there were other men around the table who could draw, but it was always my dad who did the drawings.

Of course it must have given my dad such pleasure to be able to communicate with a pencil and a napkin that way, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

image from Wikipedia

Cave paintings from Lascaux, France: image from Wikipedia

I contend that–even in this day when you can Google anything and everything–learning how to draw is still a very important skill that should be learned by every child. By every person! Children draw naturally and enthusiastically, I’ve noticed, until a certain age–7? 8?–when they start to notice how other people are drawing. Invariably, a friend or companion will do a drawing they like better than their own. Then, they freeze up. They get self-conscious. They decide that they are “no good at drawing” and they stop.

My goal has always been to give my kids the skills so they wouldn’t stop drawing. I think I succeeded–at least, so far. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’ve still got two kiddos at home . . .

My mom could draw, too, though I think we kids kept her too busy to do much of it. I do remember quite fondly watching her draw a hen and baby chicks from a children’s book that we were reading together, and how entranced I was by her recreation of such a beautiful image.

These two memories, I suppose, are what fueled my desire to make sure that learning to draw was at the top of the list of what I wanted my children to learn in our home school. We don’t spend a lot of time drawing together, but a few minutes a day is all that’s really necessary to keep those creative juices flowing. I described our drawing routine here.

But what I want to point out today is the memory-keeping aspect of drawing a bit every day.

This is what I do when I look through my old sketchbooks: I smile, remembering many things that–had I not drawn them–I never would have a memory of them.

This, for example: little Mack went through an intense car-interest phase, when he was just a toddler. He could identify most major makes of vehicles before he was two years old! And he’d lie down on the floor and go into kind of a trance when he played with certain cars. I drew just a quick sketch of it here.


I had always intended on doing a more detailed drawing, but I never did. But I’m glad I made this little sketch.

This is what I do not do: I don’t critique my drawings. I don’t find fault with my drawings, and you, Gentle Reader, should not find fault with yours. Your sketchbook is not a reflection of what a great artist you are, or not. It’s a visual record-keeper of your days, your moments. Things that you love. People that you adore. There you go. That’s my little encouragement for you today, if you are joining me and doing a bit of drawing every week. Every day is even better. ๐Ÿ™‚

A few more sketches for you that have jogged my memories:


Here we are in drawing class: Andrew always was too hard on himself (note the anguished expression), little Bethany was quiet and studious, Matthew always sprawled his long limbs out everywhere, and stuck his lower lip out when he was concentrating.


I made Timothy sit still for a few minutes so I could draw his beautiful little face. Here he was 8. (He’s 20 now.) And we used to keep our new chicks in the house for the first few weeks, and they were easier to draw that way.

amaliadollyHere’s a sketch of Amalia and a favorite dolly, when she was nearly 4.


And a watercolor sketch of some nasturtiums from my gardens–primarily interesting to me because of those lovely stems. . .


By the way . . . we have a new kitten at our house. She bears watching. That’s the gerbil cage she is clinging to.


Her name is “Lolo.”


Happy sketching today, Gentle Readers!


12 thoughts on “Sketchbook as Memory-Keeper: Sketchbook Thursdays

  1. Bethany M.

    I love, love, love this series, Mom. I cannot wait until you start your shop, and begin selling your scribbles! Your drawings are just incredibly beautiful, and very good. I miss those homeschooling days with Matthew, and Andrew. Sniff. Maybe you should even consider a Thursday link-up at some point for everyone to display their drawings? It would help people grow, do away with perfectionism, and be fun. Just a thought. Love you!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Aww, thank you, dear daught. I can’t tell you how much fun I have writing this series, and choosing drawings to include. I have three large sketchbooks full, and I lose myself in them. So many memories! I remember the day that I chastised myself for not drawing you kids–because, to me, you are all so perfectly beautiful–because I knew I wouldn’t be able to draw you perfectly. Then I realized if I didn’t get over the perfectionism, I wouldn’t have any drawings of you as little kids. So I just put it away, and started drawing. So glad I did. Imperfect drawings are much better than no drawings!! I’ve thought about doing the link-up . . . that would be fun!

  2. Chef William Chaney

    A great peek into the hidden artist in all of us. Some of us let it disappear and others have kept it alive all this time. Perhaps being a home schooler and teaching your children is the secret. My first foster home was in the country where we went to a one room school house, with one teacher, and a couple of children in each of the first 8 grades, that came from the nearby farms. I was very lucky because my teacher always let me stay later in the day on days she had her “art” class for the older kids (aka upperclassmen/women) I learned to love art in many different forms including making a rough sketch of ideas I had, so I could return to them later. It has served me well over the years. Did you know than many Chefs sketch the plate of food and color it in before making the actual plate. It helps us with plate design, aka eye appeal, which is so important when presenting food to others. I really enjoy this series and all that you are sharing with us.

  3. Tami Principe

    What a lovely blog! Thank you for your wonderful tips on how to keep young children encouraged. Children do criticize their work and it is so important that they don’t give up. Thank you for your stroll down memory lane, wonderful stories.

  4. elly stornebrink

    Amy, those are such lovely drawings and thanks for taking us down memory lane with them. I do, by the way, also remember “for a spell”… ๐Ÿ˜‰ I learned something very interesting from a book recommended to me by a classmate of mine – we were both studying Expressive Arts Therapy at the time. Essentially, in the book, the author(s) highly recommended that a child not be praised for their artwork….though, you could, however, ask them questions about the process and comment on that. The reason being: the child would feel that they would have to do that and better or more in order to excel, in order to feel good (enough), worthy, etc. You get my drift. What do you think of that?! ๐Ÿ˜‰ <3

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I don’t know, Elly. That SOUNDS good, but I know how I feel about my work, and I an absolutely encouraged when somebody compliments me on it: I think children are, too. Little Mack struggles with perfectionism, and when he is discouraged by a drawing, I don’t tell him that it’s good. I sit down and help him make it better. He can usually tell if it’s good or not. (We’re talking representative drawings here.) I remember my favorite art professor in college encouraging all of us this way: no matter how poor a painting might be, he’d always find a portion of it (usually very small!) that he liked. He’d say “I really like this area–” and then make suggestions on how we could improve the rest. We all knew what he was doing, but we were students and we knew we had room to improve. He basically sweetened the criticism by offering a nice observation, first.

  5. Alana(@RamblinGarden)

    Oh, Amy. This brings back so many memories and near memories. Of having a young son, of having young chicks in our house, of a couple of dear friends who have gotten into painting in their middle aged. I never progressed beyond Venus Paradise coloring sets. I wish I grew up with a drugstore like your Dad’s in my neighborhood in the Bronx, where I am from. You are a wonderful teacher. Your family is so fortunate.

  6. Dorit Sasson

    Beautiful beautiful post. We’ve forgotten the feeling of what it’s like to interact with all of our senses and try for art and creative expression sake. Instead we expect Google to be our best friend and make that up for us. Some things however, just can’t be replaced.
    Thank you!
    Dorit Sasson
    Author of Accidental Soldier: What My Service in the Israel Defense Forces Taught Me about Faith, Courage and Empowerment.

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