This morning I was looking at the sketch I did in the ambulance and began wondering how realistic or accurate a sketch has to be to capture a moment or describe an event.
The lines are shakey. My foot is barely recognizable. Most people would judge it a “bad” sketch. Yet, for me, it takes me there and I remember everything. The EMT who was riding with me was named Patrick. I remember what we talked about during the ride, how long it took, what the route was, that the siren was not on…everything, and I realized that the amount of realism in the sketch was irrelevant. A sketch is a diagram of an experience. There is a crossover to other senses and memory neurons when you draw and it works much like a certain smell or melody does to trigger feelings or memories.
So, today, instead of doing a carefully layed out drawing of my surroundings, I’m doing a quick pen sketch. The proportions are all wrong, the objects look wonky, and the lines look scratchy, but that’s the place and situation all right. There is my bag of pens and pencils, my medications, my sketchbook, my foot in a cast, my crutches, and all the surrounding mess that is our family room and a bit of the kitchen. When I look at it, I know that the lines look that way partially because my wrist and arms hurt so much from using those crutches and I know that the pain in that foot has kept me awake for two nights. That is the magic of sketching. It’s a process of observing through movement of the hand and arm. The extra time and effort it takes makes it much more potent than a photograph. At least for the artist.