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  • Writer's picturemarti mcginnis

Exploring the Uncharted Territory of Creativity: A Year of Going with Sketchbook Whims

Filling A Sketchbook

Being an artist comes with its own set of challenges. People often try to compartmentalize us, putting us in specific categories to help them understand our art. While this can be helpful, it can also be limiting. If people are only familiar with one of our art series, they may feel uncomfortable with anything else we create that deviates from that style.




Now, I'm not saying I've been struggling with this for decades, but I do encounter this problem frequently. I am visually pulled in different directions and need to explore alternative ways of expressing myself. I don't want to get stagnant in my pursuits; I like to be challenged!


Whims Win

This year, I've decided to go with my whims. I'm not offering anything for sale, so I'm free to follow my muse wherever she takes me. I'm not burdened by those familiar questions like, "Will someone buy this?" or "Does this have value to others?" or "If it's not commercially viable, am I wasting my time?"


As an American, I've been raised to consider the commercial viability of just about everything in my life. "Time is money" and "Don't waste time" are baked into our DNA. We're taught to be industrious little accomplishers from the ground up. When I was growing up, it was lemonade stands and newspaper routes. Nowadays, kids set up stores on Etsy or eBay or monetize content on their YouTube or TikTok channel. All this to say, it takes real dedication to break out of these old habits and just explore for the sake of exploring.



Big Idea


The last time I really dedicated myself to a project without commercial aspects was during a lull in my career. We had just moved to Kentucky, and I was tasked with figuring out the next big step in my creative career. I landed on a project of creating a painting every day with the constraint that each painting had to relate directly somehow to the painting immediately before it, literally matching up borders, content, or colors. I ended up with a 3-dimensional gigantic piece that led me directly to a project I pursued for the next several years. "Marti's Big Idea" led to my documentation of a dream land, like the explorers did in the 1700s.


The book dimensions are about 11" x 11". There are over 200 pages - or 400 sides.

These 'down times' of pure creative exploration can lead to amazing self-discoveries and skill enhancement. That's what I'm after with my new project I'm calling "The Painted Sketchbook." I'm literally painting the pages of a sketchbook I purchased from a bookbinder who sells his work locally (here's Leonard's Facebook Page). It's nice to have an inspirational book with blank pages to work with. The paper isn't high quality cotton rag - but that's kind of the point - I don't want the work itself to be precious or commercially viable. I love having these visual explorations already bound together as a set.



I'm simply finding images I like and recreating them in my own way in this collection. I don't know where I'm headed doing this, but even after just a couple of weeks, I'm already starting to see a couple of new paths opening up. I've begun adding text to accompany images I post on social media. I'm saying I'm tapping into my crone-dom, pulling from years of experience and consideration.


Where Am I Headed?

Will all of this lead to a new book? A workshop? A collection of large-scale paintings? I dunno! And it doesn't matter because right now, I'm just excited to get into the studio every morning and get back to work.


She flies on not because she has wings but because she is allowed, some would even say encouraged, to borrow the wings of others.

They reached goals important only to them and skirted the distracting judgement of those tuned to other energies.

We comfort each other with our beingness

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