Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Work

Sometimes, when I stop to sketch, it just doesn’t work.  I don’t know why.  What I feel is that I just can’t see in the way an artist sees things.  Everything is a struggle and I can’t engage with the subject.  In particular I have this problem when I try quick-sketching but also, sometimes, when I’m trying to do a more normal sketch.  Anyways, in spite of my embarrassment to do so, I thought I’d share one of these failures with you.

Our main library is closed for renovations right now but there’s a small branch library not far from my house.  I was walking by the other day and decided to stop in for a few minutes of people sketching.  The views aren’t great in this library but, frankly, it didn’t matter because I couldn’t draw a person to save my life.  These were 30-60s sketches and all tentative and horrible.












I gave up in frustration and continued walking.  About 15 minutes later I saw this old guy waiting to cross the street so I tried again.  I was pretty happy with how this one turned out.  I suppose the moral of the story is not to give up but I’d sure like to know why my brain won’t engage with my inner artist on occasion.






8 thoughts on “Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Work

  1. I wouldn’t exactly call the other sketches “horrible”! But I know what you mean. Sometimes your brain just engages, and other times it feels forced. We all look back through our sketchbooks and find those ‘how did that happen?’ sketches – but, honestly, for most of us it’s the ones that came out RIGHT that we say that about, lol! It’ss encouraging to know that an artist of your caliber sometimes has “days like that.” Maybe theres hope for me yet.

    • I’m not a believer in muses. I’m a retired biologist so think of it more a matter of how and whether my brain engages with the task at hand. I wish it were more cooperative. Maybe I need a muse (grin).

  2. I just had a very similar conversation with someone I see regularly at Gage life drawing sessions. We both concurred that sometimes you can sit for 2.5 hours in the life drawing studio making sketch after sketch of garbage, then suddenly one turns out good. Then crap again. And it doesn’t seem to matter if we’ve been going to life drawing regularly or not. It’s very frustrating. We both came to the conclusion, though, that we wouldn’t even have gotten the one good sketch if we hadn’t gone through the 2.5 hours of garbage. 😉 It’s all a frustrating mystery.

    • Tina, don’t tell anyone else but I think the art world thinks of artist brain activity all wrong. All that left/right brain stuff is wrong. At its core, the problem is one of insufficient training of our subconcious and/or a lack of transference of tasks to it when we draw. I guess that’s too complex to talk about in art circles so we just say “I couldn’t engage my right brain.” From a biologist’s view, this makes absolutely no sense whatever.

  3. I agree wholly that sometimes my sketching works, and sometimes not. When it is working I feel as though I’m accessing something from within …. zen? There is something magical when it works.

    I’m surprised to hear you don’t look back at your sketches. I do … quite a lot, but maybe not with an eye to the art, but rather a reminder of wonderful parts of my life. The sketchbook doesn’t let me forget the joy of where I was, what I saw, …

    • I think the magic is in the brain, something artists don’t really think about much. But learning to see like an artist, the phrase that’s thrown around, is about training the subconscious mind to deal with the myriad of things required for us to be able to draw stuff accurately. Sometimes it’s easier to do than at other times I think.

      Ah…sketchbook scanning. Your sketchbooks are beautiful. I can understand why you go to them often. Mine are a documentation of a learning experience and pretty much anything older than a year looks horrible to me (grin). Besides, I’m more interested in looking at other people’s work than my own. I can learn more there.

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