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Studio Updates

Studio Update: Damn. I just did that.

Studio Update: Damn. I just did that.

by Callie Garp

October 20, 2023

I started my newest sketchbook in September. I actually wrote about that day in a studio update, which you can find here. I’d started my previous sketchbook much, much earlier, and honestly had not made all that much progress. This is kind of a running theme for me. I can get precious about sketchbooks, feel like I need to create amazing, technically skilled drawings, or inspired loose doodles – and none of that ends up being productive for me at all. In undergrad, and I suppose when I really think about it, long before I ever enrolled in a serious art class, drawing was a pastime and something I did for my own joy and personal growth. It was a working space, a surface on which to make marks and to learn. I really want to get back to that.

A couple studio updates ago, I was writing about my collage art practice. And, I was worried that just in writing about it, the passion would cease and my art making would grind to a sudden halt. Well, I will be honest and admit that I am certainly not collaging with the same kind of fervor and attention I had a couple (a few??) months ago. What I have also noticed, however, is that although I am dedicating less daily time to collaging, I am still very much making art every single day. Right now that is manifesting in a lot more sketchbooking. These drawings are not often planned, are not intense; they’re usually pretty quick, and there really are no rules. I’m just playing in my sketchbook, often in the evening at the end of a long day while the kids are taking baths or we are watching a family movie together. (Last weekend we put on Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind and I snuggled on the couch with a kiddo and my sketchbook. What could be better?)

Writing this now, I think it might be pretty obvious why my attention has shifted from collage to sketch. The collage pieces I have been working on, and this is no criticism just an observation, have been pretty intense. Pretty dark. They’re dealing with broad themes of trauma and childhood and … sometimes, you just don’t want to be in that particular headspace. Sometimes you just want to sip some tea and doodle a silly yelling bird. And that makes sense. I am trying to work on making more space in my life for silly and joyful things. Things that I do just because they make me happy, they’re good for my brain and for my body. 

Bike riding has been one of those things. Just last night my partner and I biked all the way from our house in Tonawanda, New York to Buffalo and back. This is the second time we’ve made this ride together, but the first time I have ever done it in one shot without taking a break to rest. The feeling is, in all unabashed honesty, euphoric. 

I suppose I am chasing a bit of that sense of euphoria in my sketchbook. I’m not exactly sure what that means or where that leads. But, I do remember having this sense, when I was in undergrad and I had a certain level of skill under my belt… I’d be painting in the studio, and I would step back, look at the canvas and say, Damn. I just did that.

Last night, as we pedaled to our stopping point, a cobalt blue metal bench along the Niagara River, I had that same feeling. Damn. I just did that.

Flipping through this sketchbook gives me little shivers of that feeling. Somewhere along the way, through years of struggle building a business and fighting a growing loss of self worth in an abusive relationship, I lost touch with my own strengths, including my ability to draw. This sketchbook is a little 6x9” strathmore unlined hardcover notebook actually intended for writing. I picked it up last year at the Hyatts (our local art supply store) warehouse clearance sale. It turns out that the thin, unassuming paper is the perfect surface for allowing myself to play with marks. The drawings I have made in this sketchbook are not particularly remarkable, but they do demonstrate a skill that once upon a time I had worked very hard to acquire and refine and most importantly, had lost a relationship with. 

The connection between drawing and biking seems more and more clear to me now. As a result of trauma and PTSD, I struggle with dissociation. Biking has significantly helped me reconnect with my physical self, and locate important parts of my personhood with embodiment. Since I started biking in the spring, I don’t think I’ve dissociated. That’s not to say that it won’t happen, but it feels like an incredible change. 

Likewise, I think I dissociated from art. My love of and passion for the art of others and for art made by my own hands that speaks to and from my soul. 

So, here I am on this chilly, drizzly gray October day, about to spend some more time with this sketchbook. And letting myself experience the joy of Damn. I just did that.

What I’ve Been Reading: A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold 

What I’ve Been Listening To: I Feel It, Avid Dancer

What I’ve Been Watching: Orla Stevens, abstract artist on youtube


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