Sunday, May 15, 2011


Savory Cafe & Bakery, Ventura California

I still remember the first time I took a sketchbook into a restaurant AND used it. I was attending a workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1998 and a group of us went to dinner together. We all took our sketchbooks and drew while we waited for dinner to be served. I found it to be such a liberating feeling! I now think nothing of it but still try to be sensitive to my companions. I don't want to appear disinterested in the chatter even though when I look at the sketch later I can perfectly recall the conversation as well as the speaker's voice. My family is indulgent and don't mind my idiosyncrasies.

In the sketch above, I drew part of the ample bakery counter and on the right, I drew my lunch. I ordered those french fries because they came in the stiff paper cone which was wonderful to draw. (OK, they were lovely to eat, too.) Last March I visited the cafe again and sat in just about the same spot. It was immediately apparent that the place had changed hands. Most of that sense was fueled by the change in the set up and feeling of the place. I wouldn't have been so aware had I not drawn it two years earlier.

High Sierra Cafe, Lone Pine CA         

At the Savory Cafe I was with a painter friend while at the High Sierra Cafe, I was alone. In this case, my sketchbook became a companion of sorts. I drew the flowers on my table as I waited for my breakfast. I was in Lone Pine for the Annual Manzanar Workshop begun my Henry Fukuhara. I'm glad I did this sketch instead of reading the paper. I have a tangible memory of that morning.

So, why sketch other than to hone your skills?
• It makes time scamper! I am a much more patient person if I can draw while I wait. When my children were in school, I drew on the backs of PTA agendas and  paper menus as well as sketchbooks. I did dozens and dozens of drawings of coffee carafes, stryfoam cups, spoons, napkins etc. In airports, I sketch fellow travelers but always keep my dark glasses on...that way my staring at people is not so obvious.
• Your memories will be greatly enhanced. Drawings can evoke smells, conversations, and even emotions. In my sketch of he cafe, I know not only what my sandwich looked like but also what was in it.
Hotel Colonial Dining Room, Puebla, Mexico
• Authencity. When I taught my first journal-keeping class, my students used authentic as word to describe the results of their combination of drawings, narratives and photographs. I can open any one of my numerous sketchbooks and remember exactly where I was, who was with me and what we were doing. Photographs alone have no such punch. The multiple drawings on one page above were done over several days while I stayed with two other artists at the Hotel Colonial in Puebla. Different interesting features were apparent as we were seated at different tables. Often food interests find their way into my sketchbooks. We were trying to figure out the ingredients for mole for which our dining room was famous...when we showed the list to our waiter, he made some corrections and signed my book!

For all of these reasons and more, artists prize their sketchbooks above their paintings. Because they are not meant for public view and sale, they are more personal. I am often asked if I sell my sketchbooks...the answer is always the same...nope.


  1. Great post...I couldn't of said it better!

  2. Hi Judy, I love this post. I remember my first journal keeping class with you. We sketched little things that were manageable (a tile on the sidewalk on Glassell Street, a corner of a window, a pattern, a map of the town). It helped me to not only capture a moment in time and also to just draw and experience what was happening around us. I am in NJ right now and am going to an art store to get some supplies and have some destressing moments while painting! Thanks for being a great inspiration! I am doing some research on south Jersey and Cape May. Monica PS contests on the new grand baby. Love the picture of you and him on your Facebook page!

  3. I meant congratulations. Spell check took over!