Sketchbook Thursday: “What Making Art Does for Me”

I’m so lucky to have such a plethora of interesting and talented people in my life. The talent and abilities of others surround me at all times, and serve to inspire, instruct, amaze, and help me out when I need a guest post written. 🙂

So this week, while I’m traveling and spending time nuzzling the backs of my grandbabies’ necks, I’m going to let my baby sister fill in again, in this space. She is one of the few people I know who keeps a sketchbook, and I love to look at her sketches. Her work is filled with a sense of fun that I love.

So happy Thanksgiving to you, Gentle Reader, and when you wake up from your too-much-turkey-and-pie induced nap, you can enjoy what my sister has to share with us. Take it away, Mollie!

What Making Art Does for Me

by Mollie Young Spieker

I’ve always been a doodler. As a kid, I filled notebooks with drawings, covered our sidewalks with chalk sketches and created supplemental illustrations in many of the books in our library (read: I drew in books. But that’s not all I did. I also signed my name to my drawings. *sigh*). I believed that–rightly so, I’m certain even now–my doodles improved everything. That included even the area of my parents’ bedroom wall, above their headboard, where I drew a small picture of myself, with a rather sour look on my face.

When I went to college, I started out as an art major, and saw, almost immediately, that I could doodle all the livelong day and it would not prepare me to enter the workforce side by side with some of my art and design classmates. I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself then; I just was able to look around and see, clearly, that I was outmatched. I recall one such classmate who created a gorgeous charcoal rendering of a water fountain that remains one of the most beautiful drawings I’ve ever seen. I took one look at his work and thought, “Bah. I’m switching majors.”

That said, my two semesters as an art major taught me something important: I can do at least one thing well, and that’s make slightly insulting caricature drawings of people–you know, those drawings people pay $20 for at the state fair to get a sketch of their features either unfairly fabricated or grossly exaggerated. This is what I got hooked on. I loved caricaturing my professors.

For example, here is a vintage drawing of one of my twitchy, super-talented art profs. I recall his strolling by and seeing this picture of himself.

He made a wry comment, along the lines that perhaps I had found my niche. Whatever.

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And if you think that’s bad, just imagine what it was like to be my boyfriend. Poor guy. (We broke up, eventually.)

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I found myself in the education field at last, and landed where I belonged, in theatre, where I still use my doodling background to design shows. But more often than not, the sketching I do now is done during my idle moments; that is to say, my bored moments, of which there are some, because I have children in lots of different activities that require me to sit. And sit. And sit.

Between swim meets and baseball games this summer, I put in quite a bit of bleacher time. I started bringing a sketchbook because I don’t have a cool electronic device to play with, and I don’t want to get so engrossed in a book that I can’t stand up and chew out an ump at the drop of a hat. Or at least give judgmental glances to the parents who DO chew out the umps at the drop of a hat. Instead I look around and draw the people I see.

I especially love to draw–gosh, how do I say it?–people of substance. People who have flesh. Fleshy folk. They are fun to draw. The gal in the picture below was ahead of me at a swim meet, and I enjoyed the way her shirt revealed the folds of her form. You can also see that I added my written ramblings to my summer sketching–because drawing isn’t enough. I need to jabber, as well.

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Here’s another example of a baseball tourney watcher, who looks like he had dined on several suppers of hot dogs and concession stand nachos that summer (I was right behind him in the food line, I assure you). His shirt was covered with various fish graphics, but he got up before I could add them in.

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When summer is over, I find myself sitting at a lot of meetings. Boring—yet absolutely important!—meetings. It’s not uncommon for me to find a winsome little bunch of carrots sprouting off my copy of the agenda, or perhaps an eye staring at me dolefully from the minutes.

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But the lion’s share of my meeting-doodles are this sort of puzzling drawing–designs involving tiny ornaments upon ornaments, curlicues and swirls. I like to think that if I could see a picture of what my mind looks like–not my brain, but the thoughts inside–it would look something like this, but even more crazy and labyrinthian.

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The above doodle was from a meeting last week. As we were packing up, a fellow board member beside me gestured toward my decorated copy of the minutes and said, “You’re quite an artist.” I shrugged it off and said, “Aw, it’s just a nervous habit.”

Aw, shucks. Ain’t nothing. Sure ain’t a water fountain! *blushing*

I don’t consider myself a professional artist, but I do slip art into my life, wherever I can. My work is not elaborate or lofty, but it’s present, and it keeps my mind nimble and my eyes searching. Art is not just for the lovely, cream-colored pages of those expensive sketch diaries out there; it works wonders on pages of text destined for the recycling bin.

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I like to think that my humble little drawings elevate and beautify whatever dry chart they decorate, even if it is just for a short time.

That’s what making art does for me.

Mollie is a teacher of college theatre classes and a director of shows, a mama of four preternaturally beautiful young-uns, wife of Dwaine, summer farmer’s market bread baker savant, and self-proclaimed twitchy doodler and sketchbook-keeper. She lives in Wayne, Nebraska.

(Thanks, Mollie!)

4 thoughts on “Sketchbook Thursday: “What Making Art Does for Me”

  1. Chef William

    Some pretty good pictures for someone that only does it for fun. It is very enjoyable to find time in a time filled day to do something we like. I’ve always be interested of faces of older people. Not the happy go lucky people you would find in a Norman Rockwell drawing but the well tanned faces filled with lines, that tells you this person has walked a million long hard miles in their lives. I have started taking pictures of these people………….there are so many stories that we will never hear………….Keep on sketching, those of us that have perhaps a pound or two or three that we don’t need, are happy that someone finds us interesting enough to draw a picture of.

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