Saturday Sketch

This past Thursday I visited a middle school art class. The teacher is a friend of mine and she will soon be starting a unit on linoleum relief printmaking, so she thought her students might like to meet a "real" artist. She asked me to talk about my life as an artist, how I approach a new piece of work, and to present a carving demonstration. Middle school hasn't changed much in the many decades since it was my turn. The cool kids still sit in the back of the room; the eager, geeky types sit in the front, ask questions and make often times, silly observations; the outcasts, definitely-not-cool and those who don't really fit into a 'group' sit quietly on the sides. (I'll tell you here I fell somewhere between the eager, geeky and the definitely-not-cool types. ) On this day I stood at the front of the room talking and demonstrating and in a very strange way, felt very much like my definitely-not-cool younger self. In other words, it was a tough crowd. But I got through the afternoon and was once again thankful that I decided not to be a middle school art teacher, (yes, I did once seriously consider it). Not just because middle school is sort of like the wasteland of the school years (is there anything more difficult, more mortifying than being between the ages of 11 and 14?!) but also because i just get so tired of talking!
When I entered her classroom, I was happy to see that my friend has a daily sketch exercise for her students. At the front of the room, on a large drawing pad is a sketch the kids are asked to recreate in their sketch journals. Usually the sketch they are asked to copy illustrates something like, shading, overlapping, or perspective. While I try to pack a lot of information into these talk/demonstrations I am occasionally asked to do, the one thing I always emphasize to these often less than interested young minds is the importance of keeping a daily sketch journal. I usually bring a few of mine along and show them how ideas from weeks and months ago can make their way into a current piece of work. I show them now an image can develop with repeated sketching. I encourage them to cut and paste, copy, doodle and write, every day! Now, how many actually hear me and start a daily sketch practice I may never know. But, (cue the violins) if I can reach just one, then the humiliation of speaking to a room of stony faced adolescents has been worth it.
Since I have a daily sketch practice I thought I might start a new feature here on my blog: the Saturday sketch. It goes something like this, each Saturday I will post one of my sketches from the previous week. I am hoping to kill two birds with one stone by establishing some accountability to both my daily sketch practice and to regular blog posting. With that I present my first Saturday sketch.


  1. Yeah! I look forward to seeing them! Thanks Betsy! My sister -- a high school art teacher who previously taught art to middle schoolers-- and I just had a conversation earlier this afternoon about both subjects: the challenging middle school years and how we love to view other artists' sketchbooks! (Ha! We're you eavesdropping? :))

  2. Betsy, you're inspiring me! What a great post--and a great idea. I'm going to post a poem every Saturday in honor of your plan. Middle School--what hell.