As a teacher, I often receive gifts from students: Starbucks cards and chocolates and homemade cookies and tea (they know better than to buy me coffee!). I appreciate these thoughtful expressions of their appreciation. This year I received some book gifts — one was a novel a student enjoyed so much that she gave me her copy with all her favourite passages marked. What a treat! Another student gave me a book full of empty pages designed for me to fill. It is called The Daily Sketch Journal and I have been enjoying it immensely. So far I haven’t missed a day, which can be a challenge when school planning and marking duties lurk throughout each evening. Sketching slows my mind. Writing stimulates it. And that is why I incorporated the two of them together in my zine Jots & Doodles.
The Daily Sketch Journal has changed some things for me. One of them is having time to compile issues of Jots & Doodles. So I have decided to set that aside for this year. I’m hoping that a year of daily sketching will provide ample material for future issues, although I do need to find a more effective way to replicate the images so that they are better quality for printing. I’m working on a solution to that problem.
So, for this year I will be sketching every day and writing weekly here, usually in the form of Saturday Caesura musings but certainly not limited to that format. I’ll try to give a peek into the sketch book from time-to-time, just so you know I’m keeping up with it (and to hold myself accountable!) I am grateful for all who have wandered to this space and expressed appreciation for what you have found here.
The first story I remember writing was about a cougar. At the time, I was positive that it was the greatest story ever written. I have only vague memories of what I actually wrote, but I can guarantee it was everything you would expect from an elementary school student: sentimental imaginings, clichéd descriptions, and gaping plot holes. I remember this particular story because writing it made me realize for the first time that the ideas and pictures in my head could become words on a page, that writing wasn’t just about copying letters or spelling words correctly or answering study questions in full sentences. I’ve not given much attention to story-making in the years since that failed masterpiece, but I’ve developed a love for story-finding among the bits and pieces and images of daily life.
The first picture I clearly remember drawing was of a poster-sized blue garbage can with big eyes, an open lid for its mouth, and “Feed Me” (or something similar) written on its belly. It won an anti-littering-on-the-playground contest which was monumental to my little-girl-self, not because of the prize (which I don’t even remember), but because I realized that I could draw and that I enjoyed drawing. At first I mostly drew animals. Okay… horses. But eventually a charcoal cat and a moose and mountain goats and even a cougar. Later, I realized that drawing people was somewhat similar to drawing animals; I just had to change the shapes and features and lines and proportions and perspectives — in other words, everything but the actual drawing techniques. Even later, I learned that artists call pencil crayons coloured pencils, and now I have a glorious array of them. They are still my favourite art tool.
Over the years writing and drawing have been relegated to the When I Have Time portion of the calendar. I regret this. I realize now that what I lacked was not time, but a proper understanding of the gift they are to me. For the past several years I have tried to be more faithful in using these gifts. I write and draw nearly every day, even if it is only for a few minutes – a quick sketch, a sentence or two. From this habit, comes a new project: a zine I’ve entitled Jots & Doodles, which combines inked images from my sketchbook with poems and reflections from my writing notebook.
As a gift to anyone who happens to stumble across this blog, I am making each issue of Jots & Doodles available as a PDF download. They can be printed on a single sheet of paper and folded into a booklet (see instructions below). They are the perfect size to tuck into a card or a pocket or an envelope, attach to a gift or pin on a bulletin board. If they bring you (or someone you know) some encouragement, I’d love to hear about it!