Sketchbook as Memory-Keeper: Sketchbook Thursdays

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!