Practicing Presence: Starting the Day with a Sketch



Growing up, I would sketch for hours. I loved drawing animals, dragons, rooms, and dinosaurs. I adored art class, and always looked forward to the next new creative project. My mom is also very creative, and I can recall many a crafty project with her as a kid: creating an elaborate Valentines Day card for my Grandma, making puffy paint sweaters, painting pumpkins, bead animals, and more, and we always had a supply of paper, markers, scissors, and glue on hand.


That love of art carried into high school, and I took classes like drawing, painting, photography, and even AP Art my senior year. I never felt like a "real" artist, (just like sometimes I don't feel like a "real" designer), but if I could go back and talk to high school me, I'd tell her she was the real deal.


College was creative in other ways. I majored in vocal music, so I spent a lot of time developing the craft of singing and performing. I don't know that singing has ever felt as creative to me as drawing, painting, or photography, maybe because for me, it held a lot more pressure. Visual art is also a quieter, typically solo craft, allowing the creator to focus, study an object or composition, and spend hours in silence simply creating.


Anyway, as I moved more and more in the direction of pursuing a career in music (funny how things change!), I let the other creative outlets slip away. I did take one painting class senior year, and OH MY GOSH it was hands-down the hardest class I took in college. My props to all the art majors out there. It wasn't until earlier this year that I got back into creating in this way.


For Christmas, Larry bought me the Austin Kleon book, Keep Going, which inspired me to revisit his first book, Steal Like an Artist. There's a section in this wonderful little book called "Don't Throw Any of Yourself Away". He talks about the importance of having multiple passions and how, rather than taking from each other, they actually inform one another. As a professional writer, music did this for his writing:


"...the crazy thing is, rather than the music taking away from my writing, I find it interacting with my writing and making it better—I can tell that new synapses in my brain are firing, and new connections are being made." - Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist


Prior to the coronavirus breakout, I had slowly been starting to get into sketching on my iPad (I use Adobe Sketch, which recently updated to Adobe Fresco). I started by doing simple contour drawings over the top of photos I'd taken on my iphone. This was fun for me, and very meditative. I'm a person who tends toward workaholism, so while it's very difficult for me, it's important to have something outside of work to allow me to relax and get into a state of calm.


In the last week, since the COVID19 crisis finally reached Michigan, I've transitioned from the contour sketching into more non-objective, colorful images using shape, line, and color. This was a little scary at first since there's not the comfort of starting from a real-life image, but it's a good challenge, and I'm actually finding my current interior design projects interacting with the sketches, with many of the color palettes and themes showing up in my sketches.


All that said, I'm finding it enjoyable and helpful in a time that could be anxiety-producing. I'll be honest, I'm actually feeling less anxiety than I usually do, and I think it has to do with most of our social and work obligations falling away. We're luckier than most in that I already worked from home, and Larry's piano teaching has been able to mostly be transitioned to virtual lessons. We also don't have kids, so there isn't the added layer that so many are facing of figuring out how to do ALL THE THINGS.



I also tend to feel my feelings (if I feel them at all) significantly delayed...if you're into enneagram stuff, I'm a hardcore 3 (I actually don't think I have very developed wings either...like, straight up a 3), which—if you're asking, what the heck is the enneagram?—means my strongest motivation is to appear successful and perform at my highest, and my go-to tendency with emotions is to completely repress feelings entirely (because as a 3, I view them as inefficient). So where am I going with this...who knows. But I guess what I want to say is we're all feeling (or not feeling) different things right now, and something as simple as sketching (or writing, or taking photos, or baking, or doing a yoga video—whatever your outlet is) can be a real anchor right now.

So that's what I'm going to keep doing: starting the day—or pausing the day, or ending the day—with creating something simply to create; to practice presence.

Be well, friends.


Lauren Figueroa