Sketching Wonders: Inktober 2017

Topics: creativity
Image of ink


My mother has always been so good at visual art that I never thought I would be able to do it. My earliest memories are of her using oils to paint Mt. Rainier while we lived in Sequim. Many years of my childhood passed by in art supply stores where my sister and I not-so-patiently waited for her to finish looking at paints and pens that all looked the same to me.

But nothing I drew myself looked good enough. Not too surprising really, since I only tried a few times and quickly gave up before I left elementary school.

Still, I took it as a sign. Drawing was for my mom, and I stuck to music and writing.

After I grew up, she began sharing her work with me and asking for my feedback. A few years of looking at her sketches and noticing where she could improve later, I started to wonder if I couldn’t give it a go myself.

Now I can’t seem to stop myself and have decided to do Inktober, an online drawing deal where anyone who doesn’t mind putting up a sketch for potential embarrassment can post it with a hashtag and play along.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed:

      1. It’s plain fun to play with pens and to play along with other people. I’ve loved drawing with my friend Bille Jo and loved it even more when her little girl, an artist from the day she was born, liked one of my sketches.
      2. I enjoy it in part because I am not putting as much pressure on myself as I do for writing or even my band music. That’s a lesson that I am now applying to my other loves and letting myself relax an inch or twelve.
      3. There are so many wonderful artists in the world! The sketches I have seen from people I know and people I don’t remind me that humans are flat out amazing. Like this one from the artist Netsubou:

4. I love having a prompt and pushing myself to come up with a twist like an owl for screech the run on a stairs for #run.

5. It’s a lot easier to sketch while listening to a presentation than it is to write a story. (I knew this already but I’ve noticed it more this month.)

6. Results relate to time and effort. In the Facebook group, someone asked how long people took to draw their work. The most fantastic creations took days or weeks, not minutes or hours. (Except for Jessica Linn Evans who can doodle wonders in under an hour.)

7. Just like writing, it’s all about truly noticing the world around you. How does that owl’s beak line up with his eyes? Is there a reflection? A shadow? What is it about that girl’s face that tells you she is a girl and not yet a woman? I believe that my drawing efforts really began the first time my mom asked me if I could see what was off and I compared her work to the photo of the flower. (Thanks, mom!)


  1. I have a quote from Kate DiCamillo posted to the wall behind my computer screen. What she says also works for making a good sketch or at least one that brings me blessings like a talented little girl’s approval.


  1. Kate DiCamillo

    “And what I thought was this: I cannot control whether or not I am talented, but I can pay attention. I can make an effort to see.

    Because of Winn-Dixie is the result of that effort. It is a book populated with stray dogs and strange musicians, lonely children and lonelier adults. They are all the kind of people that, too often, get lost in the mainstream rush of life. Spending time with them was a revelation for me. What I discovered is that each time you look at the world and the people in it closely, imaginatively, the effort changes you. The world, under the microscope of your attention, opens up like a beautiful, strange flower and gives itself back to you in ways you could never imagine. What stories are hiding behind the faces of the people who you walk past everyday? What love? What hopes? What despair?

    Trey Greer did know what he was talking about. Writing is seeing. It is paying attention.

    I think of it this way: my characters sing songs and I stop to listen to them and when the song is done I give them my money and they say, “God bless you, baby.”

    And I feel that I have been blessed. Over and over again.”

    -Kate DiCamillo

    I think the author nailed that one for all sorts of art from raising children to the finest sculpture. Paying attention is divine in creativity.


    My own drawn favorites so far:

About the author: Karrie Zylstra Myton is a blogger, essayist, and aspiring author who writes for the wild joy it brings on the best days and the hard lessons she learns about life on the worst. After crafting stories in the ridiculously early morning hours, she chases her two sons, cuddles with cats, and laughs with her husband about how crazy life can get in middle age.

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  • Char October 12, 2017, 6:30 AM

    As usual, Karrie, interesting and provocative. I did a little drawing after college for like five minutes. But I liked it. Now you have me interested in dabbling in that! Our lives, my friend, are a journey. Your journey is taking you through your mother’s art store! And now it is YOUR store! Love your thoughtful writing…


    • Karrie Zylstra October 12, 2017, 3:35 PM

      Love the idea of the art store being mine now, too. And I’d sure love to see you dabble!

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