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the shape of "longing": sketchbooks and reflections on choosing art

I spent a few hours going through my most recent sketchbooks, organizing them, and writing down the dates I used them for:

In total, I have 15 sketchbooks I have been creating in since February of 2018. Of course, I have been making art, sketching, doodling, whatever, since I was a child. But I never kept at it so consistently for so long. They have been sitting in a cubby in my studio, tucked in however they would fit, so I knew there was a lot. It wasn't until I stacked them all up like this until I realized what a feat this was.


I always wanted to be an artist. I remember making when I was little and feeling so excited by it. I remember the day I spent drawing a lily at an art camp at the PMA, and I remember the moment I looked down at my paper, and back up at the orange lily, and saw that I drew something that actually looked like what was in front of me. It was such a magical moment for me. And when I make something realistic, or not, I still feel that. When I make something I am proud of, something I didn't think I could, I still feel that.

I've been thinking a lot about what I make and why I make it. To be honest, I'm still not 100% sure, but what I do know is that making art has always been something that made me happy, been a source of personal determination only I could judge myself by, and a form of expression that helped me question, express, process, and understand myself.

I wouldn't say I was always "good at art" but I liked it more than other things and it showed, and I had people in my life that encouraged me to keep trying it.

Admittedly, I gave up on it a little bit as it slowly dawned at me that maybe this wouldn't make me money to survive.

Thankfully, I had to take a drawing class in college and unlike everyone else who had to take it, I was really excited for it. Until then, I truly gave up on it. Maybe I made things here and there, but never intentionally. And never believing in myself. In that time, I realized that I was too good to not pursue it in some capacity. More than that, I realized that it made me so happy. It also made me so proud of myself. In everything that I could do, this was one thing that made me see I could believe in myself.

(#cheesy but I literally do not care!)

Obviously, school doesn't always lead to the things you started out at. I was an English Major with minors in Spanish and Studio Art. My English major made me stop reading books for fun, and over analyze for better or for worse. (I have since found my love for reading again). My grammar is still so-so and I probably haven't read nearly as many "classics" as you would think. Spanish is still so personal to me and such an emotional obstacle, and harder to learn than I wanted it to be. I felt embarrassed it didn't come naturally as it did to some of my white classmates.

But art stuck because I chose it to.

So here I am.

It stuck because I chose it to. And I'm seeing that now and reminded of that as I look at these sketchbooks, and the contents of them. There are images in here that I have been revisiting since I was a child through high school.

I see that in my self-portraits I have made since I was a small child. I see it in the pursuit of small still lives like I made in my bedroom at sixteen--the ones I brought in to show my mom and who always gasped like I made the most incredible thing in the world. I see it in my color choices that I have been pursuing since I learned you literally can make anything whatever color you want at my art camp at the PMA. Of course, the power of the lily and drawing it in the moment that summer day. And, I see it in the single eyes that cried flower petals--something I first drew when my friend Hannah dragged me to art club in high school even though I wasn't a member. I went once and that was the only thing I made.

And even more than that, I see that making art can heal me. It allows me the space to revisit images, moments, feelings from the past and present; divulge my fears and pains and sorrows as well as my hopes, dreams and imaginings, into a place where I feel safe. And in it, I can take up space for myself and that process of healing and making.

I hope everyone can have that.

This is a 10" x 7" Leuchtturm 1917 orange, soft cover, blank journal that I used from roughly May to August of 2019. It works great for pen, pencil, colored pencil. It's even kinda nice for pastel. I was mainly using Prismacolor Pencils as I like their waxiness and how blend-able they are.

This shape became my personal representation for longing--and for what? Change mostly, for moments of the past, dreams and hopes for my future. It became longing because I didn't want to succumb to the fear in not trying at all. I want success, and failure, stagnancy, and growth to all count for something, and what if we want it all and feel like we have nothing? I think that's maybe where it came from---wanting to lure myself out of feeling like I had nothing when that wasn't true, lure myself out of unhappiness and realize what I had.

In the beginning I wrote that I had never kept up with my sketchbooks so consistently and for so long. Admittedly, I still feel scared and like I'm not changing, not progressing, not growing. And yet, I look at that fat stack of sketchbooks, full of ideas, writings, literal scribbles, and also beautiful sketches, and I see pursuit, I see determination, and find my self wondering why was I scared at all? I have so much to feel proud of, and my art will always remind me that i'm "here" and the more I make the more I will see where I've been and where I want to go.

The notes on the page read:

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