Today I'm excited to welcome Amanda Etches to the blog. Amanda is a librarian, UX designer, tea drinker, reader, doodler, traveler, runner, writer, and maker from Ontario. I've been following her for awhile now and I love seeing her "all the people I met today" posts every day. Welcome Amanda!
I’ve always been creative, i just didn’t really draw much until recently (other than the doodling, I’m an incurable doodler). For many years, my creative outlet was probably web design, but my day job (I’m a librarian) is so technology-heavy that I think I got to a point where I just got tired of staring at a screen, so I shifted my creative focus to totally offline, tactile stuff like knitting and sewing. As my day job got busier, that kind of dropped off, too, and I haven’t really had a creative focus for about the last four-ish years, apart from photography and some writing. Then earlier this year I took a line drawing class with Lisa Congdon (one of my many art/illustration heroes) and it was a bit of an awakening. It made me remember how much I loved drawing when I was younger and it also reconnected me with this notion of having something creative and totally offline to focus on. It relaxes and recharges me like nothing else (OK, maybe wine does that, too). So, while I’m rediscovering my love of drawing, I’m also finding this amazing creative community on Instagram (which I love and have for a while), where people like you and Elle Luna are doing daily art challenges, and it felt like exactly the thing I needed to really commit to a daily art practice. So that’s that!
Last month was the first month I picked a theme (#averbaday, where I drew a verb everyday, an idea I got from Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit) and this month I decided to draw all the people I meet everyday. Now that I think about it, I think the idea really came to me on June 1st, a regular Sunday when we were out and about, getting errands done, and the whole time I’m thinking about what this month’s art theme should be, and we’re at the nursery buying some flowers and the cashier is this really distinct-looking redhead who is totally bored and doesn’t want to be there, and I remember thinking, I should draw her.
OK so that was a really roundabout way to answer a pretty simple question, but I’m glad I finally got there.
C: How do you get it done each day? What's your routine?
A: I wish I had a routine! That feels like the last thing I need to conquer to really nail the habit part of a daily art practice. Truth is, I draw when I can. Usually it’s at the end of the day, after dinner, and before bed. It’s probably the perfect time, since that’s when the relaxation part of it comes in handy, but sometimes I wish I could find the time first thing in the morning because it seems to me that starting your day with a creative habit would kickstart the day perfectly, like exercise does for your body or warm water + lemon does for your digestive system or whatever. But for now, before bed is about the only time I can manage.
So as I go through my day, I tend to make notes about the people I meet or things I’m doing — could be a distinguishing feature on someone (like a tattoo), an interesting interaction (like the guy in a boom lift who wished me a nice day), or an unusual event (like the work party that had a cupcake table and resulted in cupcake-based interactions with multiple new people). As the day progresses and I’m jotting down notes, themes often start occurring to me, so that’s usually what brings it all together. Sometimes I’ll take a pictue or two to help me remember details, so I have something visual to reference later when I sit down to draw (although I haven’t yet been bold enough to take a picture of a person!). So when it comes time to actually draw (I so look forward to and relish that time!), I usually know exactly what I’m going to draw and how. At first it took me about 30-45 minutes to finish a spread, but lately it’s been taking more like an hour or more as I’m starting to work in more detail everyday.
C: How do you capture the likeness of the people? Is it ever awkward?
A: Oh, hell yeah, it’s awkward. True story: on day two of this project, I had one of those moments we all have (we all have these moments, right? Please say yes) when I thought, what makes you think you can do this? You don’t know the first thing about drawing people! So on that day I didn’t draw a person, I just drew fingers doing different things that represented the interactions I had with the people I met that day. That was sort of liberating because it made me realize, hey, this is my art project, I can choose to interpret “the rules” any way I like, and by the way, there’s actually no rule that says I have to draw a person! So that helps a lot. And in the beginning, I actually didn’t try to capture likeness at all, except for something specific, like a pair of glasses, or hair colour, or something like that. In the last week or so, I actually have been trying to capture some, dare I say it, anatomical details, and yes, that’s been more challenging. But, again, I’m trying to give myself a lot of latitude, telling myself that I can capture as many or as few details as I want to (again, my art project, my rules — see how that works? So handy). Of course, I’ll fully admit, the first time someone commented on one of my drawings saying they recognized a person I’d drawn, I may have looked around for someone to high five. That felt pretty cool.
C: You've mentioned that you think you'll continue this project for a long time. What do you like about it?
A: It's true, at first I did think that #allthepeopleimettoday would just be the theme for June, but as the end of June looms (whoa, end of June, how did that happen?), I feel like I'm not quite done with it yet. And when I really think about it, I think I could sustain this for quite a while. There are a bunch of reasons for that, like the fact that, like I said earlier, once I realized that I could interpret the theme pretty broadly, it felt like the possibilities were endless. I also really like that it's giving me a lot of practice drawing faces, which, as you can see, I can totally use. One of the things I told myself when I hopped on the daily art practice train was that I had to challenge myself to improve my skills, and I feel like this theme allows me to do that, it allows me to push myself outside my comfort zone (which is still a very small zone when it comes to drawing) while still staying within the parameters of the theme. So, for example, I could see sticking with the "all the people I met today" theme but trying different types of things, like maybe one month I’ll try more contour drawing. Or one month I’ll devote to crosshatching (I adore crosshatching but I’m thoroughly terrified of it).
The other thing about drawing all the people I meet everyday is that it makes me more observant of the people around me in general. It forces me to notice details about people and there's something quite lovely about that. It makes me more mindful about how I interact with people and maybe even a bit friendlier. Really the only rule I've given myself with this challenge is that I have to have some sort of interaction with a person for it to qualify as “meeting” them. So I can’t just see someone and include him/her, there has to be some sort of verbal or visual exchange. It could be as simple as a head-nod or smile of acknowledgement. But what I've found since I started doing this is that I'm now more apt to say good morning to someone rather than just walk by without making eye-contact, which is how we mostly go about our days, isn’t it?. So, really, it’s making me a better community member. So I can’t possibly stop now, can I?
P.S. My post for today is here.