Friday, March 20, 2020

The Importance of Sketching in Challenging Times...

It occurs to me that our sketchbooks are an amazing tool for entertainment, practice and even mental health and more, especially if we are in lockdown, or self-isolating, or quarantined during the COVID19 response.

A friend of mine, art teacher Mark Alan Anderson, is using his sketchbook to keep his spirits up--and ours!  The cartoons are funny, poignant, and all too honest...and he's given me permission to share (thanks, Mark!) A light in dark times.

I look forward to his sketches every can find him online in our Artist's Journal Workshop Facebook group and other places...

You can see more of Mark's ongoing and delightful coping mechanism on Artist's Journal Workshop on Facebook, or on his always-inspiring blog, here.


Once during a particularly difficult period in my own life, I kept my sanity and my sense of humor by creating what I called my Fantasy Journal--or maybe I should have called it a Sanity Journal!  My mother-in-law was suffering from dementia of a particularly angry and paranoid sort, and we would get several phone calls a day from her, from her caregiver, from Joseph's got so I couldn't bear the sound of the phone!

Enter the Fantasy Journal...I kept it right near the phone, with my art supplies, and when I could tell it was One Of THOSE Calls, I'd sit near my poor husband and draw another page!  It made us both feel better.

You may have seen it before, but the current situation reminds me--maybe it's a good time for another one!

You can find the whole journal here on YouTube.

Our journals really can help us find our way through stressful old sanity map helped me to see I had a lot more choices than I thought I did!  Maybe we could map our way through the days, now...


Think about it.  Someday our journals from this time may just be historically important, too.

Think of how many journals and sketchbooks artists and writers and everyday folk have kept during wartime that give us an inside view of what life was like for them--how they lived, how they coped. Some cartoonist/soldiers that were incarcerated in WWII let us see their lives and times--and their indomitable courage--in a way that newsreels never could.

Think of the Diary of Anne Frank.  

Think of the Native Americans' winter count images...

Think of Medieval monks toiling away on their illuminated manuscripts, sneaking in drawings of cats or or rabbits attacking mounted horsemen.

There are literally dozens of sketch journals kept by farmers, housewives, schoolgirls, travelers and explorers, as well.  They're treasures!

Why not record your own life and coping mechanisms during difficult times?  Fantasize, draw where you'd like to be or what you'd like to be doing.  Draw what you ARE doing.  Draw your toilet paper, if you like!

If nothing else, you will have a record of courage and survival your children and grandchildren will treasure, and that you can look back on and think "Yes.  We survived.  We are strong."

Don't feel up to making a big deal of it?  Feels too overwhelming?  Try quick sketches, or tiny ones to fill a page, in a grid.  


And of course there are also any number of groups and individuals stepping up to this challenge, offering prompts or sketchalongs if you're stuck, and those too are valuable.

But think of this as your opportunity to win a moment in history.


  1. Spot on! You are a voice of sanity in a shaky world.

  2. Brilliant, Cathy! We sure do need positive outlets...well, or just outlets--LOL! :)

  3. Oh I loved your fantasy journal so much! I miss it!It was so clear it helped you when you needed it. What a brilliant self-care (to use a phrase that wasn’t even thought of back then) solution you came up with!

    1. Thanks love! It was the only way I could think of to respond to such a difficult situation. It helped Joseph, too.

      I AM doing a pandemic journal, this time around, but it's mostly words...


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