“What are you going to do with that?”
“Look at it occasionally.”
“Can I buy that?”
“Uh, no. It’s in my sketchbook.”
“You should sell those.”
During dinner after the first day of urban sketching workshops at MISA (Madeline Island School of Arts) on Madeline Island, Wisconsin, my fellow sketchers and I commiserated about how nice it was to not hear “What are you going to do with that?” or “You should sell that” the entire time we were sketching.
Don’t get me wrong, I proselytize the benefits of sketching at every opportunity, so I will talk with ANYONE who comes up to me while I’m doing it. Sometimes, probably, against their will.
Sketching is only second to Harry Styles in the list of avocations for which I am an esteemed ambassador.
And here is where most of those sketches live:
On a messy, over-filled bookshelf. Within easy reach so I can look through them, but not on display anywhere.
I sketch because I like the way I feel when I am doing it.
On Tuesday morning I planted bulbs.
I grabbed my Original Root Slayer Shovel and went to town. Dig. Drop. Dig. Drop. Dig. Drop.
My garden is hellscape of roots from inappropriately sited trees and runaway liriope. (I swear I didn’t plant it. It came with the house. I was just dumb enough to not dig it up 16 years ago.)
While I gardened, chopping and slinging and ripping out roots and FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE WHY WON’T THE CROCOSMIA STOP GROWING FOR A MINUTE? I started having feelings.
“This is nice.”
“Wow, the sky is so clear and blue and pretty. I love our skies. They make me so happy.”
“Gosh, it feels good to just hack through something.”
“Dirt smells good.”
“This is going to look sooooooooooooooooo awesome in the spring.”
“Future Katie is going to be so happy you did this.”
An old dog learns a new trick
I’ve been gardening since I could walk.
Once it became my job, around, eh, 1998, it became less about fun and more about effect.
Less about the process and more about the result.
Less about leisure and more about efficiency.
As a marketer of gardening the act of gardening became entirely about effect.
1. What I needed for photos to use in marketing.
2. What I looked at out my front window every day while sitting at my computer.
Gardening turned into two days a year when I would do the seasonal chop & switch. Hacking my shrubs into relative submission (gardening in the South is a WHOLE different ballgame), yanking out annuals, ripping handfuls of passalong plants that ate my perennials, pulling vines out of the camellias and off my house and planting fresh. Six hours of back breaking, don’t sit down, gatorade for lunch frenzy.
Followed by 6 months of “that’s pretty.”
The thing about planting bulbs is that you don’t see anything for three or four months. Once you’re done chopping and hacking and digging and dropping and covering, you see. . . dirt.
“Future Katie is going to be so happy you did this.”
I hadn’t planted bulbs in about 5 years. I never took the time.
Too much waiting for the effect.
During 2023 (And 2022 and 2021 and 2020) I have become so cynical about the future, generally, that I’m practically a nihilist.
“My retirement plan is the Apocalypse,” I say to most anyone who asks.
And I’m only 1/8 joking.
But, as “in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day,” so did mine.
I felt–while digging and dropping and digging and dropping bulbs–hope.
Fierce, bright, shining, energetic hope.
Hope that the bulbs would chill enough and come up. Hope the squirrels wouldn’t eat them. Anticipation for the beauty I’d get to enjoy.
Gardening had an effect, alright.
Just not the one I expected.
Sometimes, sketching has an effect.
A few months ago I realized that I was having trouble capturing the essence of some of my favorite sketches ever.
So I looked back at one I really loved and tweaked a few things about. my approach.
I made a second attempt.
Here they are: first on the left, second on the right.
It was the same bouquet, but two different approaches.
On the left: trying to cram everything in.
On the right: space.
Looking at all of the illustrators I follow on Instagram and what I like most about their work, I see plenty of white, especially around the outlines of shapes.
I took that concept for a test drive a few weeks ago.
Look at the sparkle!
The trees and leaves just pop off the page.
A little breathing room made all the difference.
Sketching had an effect, alright. Just not the one I expected.
What are you going to do with that?
I’m going to try harder to touch grass.
I’m going to try to pick my head up and remember that what I do helps people have hope and feel good about themselves.
I’m going to try to keep holding space – not for anyone else but myself.
I wrote this newsletter because the effect of planting those bulbs was so unexpected and magical for me, someone who works day in and day out in gardening, that I thought it might be helpful for you, too.
Helpful for you to remember that you are sowing hope in this world.
Having an effect.
Even if it’s not the one you expected.
Each newsletter always has a mix of fun and functional links. Here they are! Have a link to share? Send it to me!
Typeface Scaler (How big should your headers be compared to body text? Stop guessing!)
DMARC Changes Regarding Email Deliverability
If you do ANY email marketing please read this.
Do you like lighthouses or sparkling water? This is nifty!
The Garden of Words is closed for all U.S. federal holidays. Various team members are in and out between December 14-January 1.
I will be out December 15-January 1.
If you have a request or need, please email email@example.com. Tracy and Tami are monitoring my email.
If you have an emergency over a weekend or December 24/25 or Dec 31/Jan1 please text me or call me and leave a message. 317-313-8366.
Need help? We’re booking discovery calls in January for work to start February 1, 2024. Grab a call slot here.
Finally, thank you for helping this year be the one that made me hopeful. I’m concluding it in a much different place than I started it and, dear reader, if you can see this, then some of that is definitely due to you.
Art P.S.: This and That