I don’t know about you, but I’ve thrown out my artwork before. Not a whole lot, but just enough to regret it. Perhaps this post will save you from the same fate…
I used to sketch a lot. I don’t know if there is truly a difference between the words “sketch” and “drawing”—I use the terms somewhat loosely myself. But people tend to think of sketches as leading to something else, and (until recently) I never did. When I finished a sketch in pencil, to me it was something final. This might have been because pencil was the only medium I knew how to use when I started out, or just because I didn’t know any better. Whatever the reason, I did not see my sketches as practice for something bigger and better. In that sense, each sketch was a complete piece (except for ones that I literally didn’t finish). There are not hundreds of these sketches/drawings, but definitely tens of them—maybe 50 or so. I remember spending hours, days even, drawing random things that weren’t all that significant to me, but reproducing them in pencil was so exciting. I didn’t really care what my subject was, and the whole process was just really thrilling, from putting pencil to paper to admiring the success of the final product.
When I look at my old art now, I remember not just the rush of joy and excitement I felt while drawing, but sometimes even things that were going on in my life. I believe that the very act of drawing actually solidified memories of various times in my life, and not just what music I preferred to listen to (most likely an Avril Lavigne CD on repeat—don’t judge), what things I owned (when I wasn’t plundering Google Images for drawing ideas, I was usually doing a still life of random things in my room), or how much fun I had drawing. My sketches bring back memories for me of times, places, people, feelings—good and bad—in addition to my love for drawing and my improvement over the years.
What is saved art, if not a collection of memories? What I’ve come to realize is this: It doesn’t matter if all of your artwork turns out well; it just matters that it is there. Who cares if you didn’t even finish a certain sketch/drawing/painting? You chose to do it, and there are inevitably memories attached to that. Ultimately, I have this compilation of random sketches and other artwork, which I can flip through from year to year, looking back on my life. No matter my reason for drawing them, those sketches ran alongside my “real life,” and when I open an old sketchbook I am met with memories of all kinds.
So, when you’re looking at your drawing and thinking it’s not that good, or when you’re focusing on how much better your newer work is, or when you kind of don’t want anyone else to see it: don’t throw it out. Just DON’T. You’ll thank me later.
A sampling from my high school sketchbooks