Friday, November 7, 2014

An Introvert Slacker Artist Reviews Sketchbook Skool

Semester 3 of Sketchbook Skool is winding down.  I think it's high time for an honest evaluation, don't you?  Say yes.

I like it.  You will too.  It's neat.  Sign up.  The end.

Not enough?  Okay, because we all appreciate detail when considering life-changing commitments, (seriously, this can be life-changing) here's my long and riveting review.

colored pencil exercise - Beginnings
Sketchbook Skool is the brainchild of Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene.  Courses that encourage all folks to start an illustrated journal.  "Art for all."  Haven't drawn a line since childhood?  It's for you.  Graduated art school, then ignored art for decades?  Sign up.  Have your own studio/class/gallery?  You're invited too.  Sketchbook Skool is about keeping an illustrated journal.  It is every day "art."  It is not about creating "Art" to hang in a gallery.

Every one should be checking this out.  EH-VER-EE-WON.

Let me share right away the one issue that pops up as classes start every semester.  Hundreds sign up for each course - from total beginners to established professionals.  It can be daunting.  Professionals post lovely frame-ready pages and talk about commissions and galleries.  Or this appears: "I'm just beginning and I almost didn't post this because it's awful."  But, their "awful" is amazing and lovely and your brain goes all Jim Carey "Oh, COME ON!"  How can I now post my little cat sketch?  I struggled with this at times though I'm not a beginner.  Well, listen up 'cause here's the thing:  IT'S NOT ABOUT HOW WELL YOU CAN DRAW OR PAINT!  (Yes, I yell that at myself regularly.)  IT IS NOT A COMPETITION!  It's not even really about HOW to draw (though lessons are loaded with ideas and instruction).  The whole entire complete idea of SBS is TO draw.  This big illustrated idea is simply TO DRAW YOUR LIFE ... daily.  Little things, big things, people things, furry things, food things ... life things... daily.  (or almost daily)

museum sketching - Beginnings
Tommy Kane detailed style - Beginnings

collection in ballpoint pen - Seeing
So, what do you actually get for your 99 bucks?  Six artists flip through their sketchbooks, list their tools, and discuss styles and methods.  We look over their shoulder as each one shares a multitude of tips on fighting the inner critic and getting busy recording life.  Homework is assigned.  You are free to do or not do the homework.  You are free to post or not post your results.  Some instructors provide feedback.  Some do not.  SBS was not set up to critique student work.  This is made known in the FAQ section of the website, but always seems a bone of contention for some at the beginning of each course.  SBS is intended to let you hang out watching each instructor in the act - to learn from them by watching.  (Watching them is quite fabulous.)  Feedback on posted sketches is mainly from fellow students and, since many are professional artists, is actually a good thing.  Again, this is NOT about showing how well you can draw, but that you actually DID draw.

selfie week with Koosje - Seeing
There are three sessions, Beginnings, Seeing, and Storytelling, with a fourth in the works.  Head over to the SBS website to read about each one.  There is no specified order.  However, I liked the progression from getting started to how we see to telling the stories.  It seems a natural path.  If you truly are a beginner, I recommend Beginnings or Seeing first.  My opinion.  Others may disagree.

I was dealing with my pop-in-law's sudden awful illness through most of Beginnings. A few months later, I participated much more in Seeing.  I'm currently in Storytelling and happen to be in a funk - just don't feel like jumping in the water.   Humph.  I've watched the videos and done some homework.  Some Storytelling assignments involve drawing people in motion... in public.  At the moment, even though I'm excited to see what I can do, it grates on my introvert ways.  I'll get there.  This brings us to a great SBS bonus - LIFE-TIME ACCESS - to videos, comments, and Q&A.  The recent museum sketching came about entirely due to an April lesson in Beginnings.  I was able to review Roz Stendahl's videos ahead of the museum trip.  Knowing homework can be revisited eliminates unneeded stress.  In fact, I first discovered we have lifetime access shortly after my pop-in-law passed away and I'd missed a good portion of Beginnings.  I nearly cried.

watercolor sketching in the great outdoors - Seeing

So, why sign up?  Because it truly can be life-changing.  Honest - cross my heart.  Some classmates have gone from never drawing to daily meaningful sketching.  Notice I didn't say beautiful - not what this is about.  Sloppy and sketchy or neat and detailed, doesn't matter as long as you just DO it.  SBS definitely pushed me to sketch more loosely and more often.  Keeping a written journal is good for you.  Adding or substituting illustration is better.  Some people draw small and write a lot.  Others draw big and write almost nothing.  There is no right or wrong - whatever works for you, and that can change daily.  The more I sketch, the more I notice the stuff of life, even when not sketching.  Past drawings, great or awful, help me remember the moment better - sounds, sights, smells, emotion.  Keeping an illustrated journal is good for heart, mind, body & soul.  This is true especially as we age.  I'm not making that up.  Go read this.

illustrated recipe - Storytelling
Keeping this honest, there is one issue I wish could be addressed.  When I first heard of SBS, I thought - "How cool is this?!"  Perfect class for non-artsy people and a way slackers can get back to it.  I didn't imagine professionals would sign up.  I now understand why they need motivation like anybody else.  However, observing the people interacting in the class, it seems there are fewer "I never could draw" people.  That's the group I would like to see engaged more by the "art for all" theme.  Perhaps letting actual beginners choose an "I can't draw - beginners only" version or Facebook group?  Or, we can just keep hammering away that initial skill is not necessary.  That said, I continue to urge non-drawers to try Sketchbook Skool.  It is a highly encouraging group.  We are constantly reminded this is about developing a habit, not making "Art."  Sign up and, if you like, I'll be your sponsor or mentor or something.  I'll be your cheerleader!

The last feature that actually figures quite large in my appreciation of this class is the Facebook group for class members only.  The camaraderie and support within this group is uplifting.  I've learned plenty of new things from my classmates here, in addition to the SBS lessons.  It is a very active crew - during and between classes.  My SBS peeps totally get the need for yet another sketchbook.  Priceless.

fast reportage-style parade sketching - Storytelling

PS:  I viewed the  Storytelling week six videos after writing the words above.  Wowza!  They are jam-packed with travel journaling ideas from Danny Gregory - ideas that could be used for a cross-country vacation, cross town trip, or stroll to the kitchen.  My favorite week of this semester was Melanie Reim's reportage, but Danny just stuffed my brain with so much inspiration, I think he wins the Storytelling teacher trophy.


Nancy said...

Thank you soooo much for sharing your experiences... I have a couple years of on again off again nature journaling, and want to be more consistent and PLAYFUL! So read your review and will now sign up... it sounds wonderful :)

Aggie said...

Hi Nancy. It's great to know this post is helpful. I hope your experience is as good as mine. Good luck & let me know how it goes!

Unknown said...

Oh, wow, you can draw and write. Argh! I want to be you ;) Thanks for this thorough review. I started searching for an online sketch journal class yesterday (I'm a newbie), feeling the need for some creative outlet, and found Sketchbook Skool. Something about it resonated with me and your review helped solidify that feeling. I'm so excited to start on a new venture and tap into my (dormant) creativity.

Aggie said...

Thanks so much for the supportive comments Catie! I'm beyond thrilled to know my review helped a newbie take the plunge. You are a perfect example of who I think SBS is really for. Good luck on this new adventure & sketch, sketch, sketch!
(Let me know if you ever get those beginner blues & I'll whip up a pep talk!)

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