Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.

—Pablo Picasso, Spanish Cubist painter (1881-1973)

I never thought of the importance of sketching or keeping an artist journal until after I had completed the first sketch of my dad's lunch pail, a rather crooked drawing of it anyway.

Dad's lunchpail in watercolourNot long after Dad retired from working at the local paper mill in 1995, he offered the lunch pail to me. I was happy to have it and thought of the various ways I might use it. Dad had suggested that I use it for my own lunches but that would not have been practical. Besides, I associated the lunch pail with him and could not see myself using it.

I thought I might place little pots of flowers or herbs in the lunch pail and use it as a decorative piece somewhere outdoors. Then came the idea of using it to store old family pictures. As the years went by, the lunch pail was relegated to my craft room, where it stayed unnoticed.

When I retired and started sketching and painting, I thought of all the family treasures I had in the house and the lunch pail came to mind. The online watercolour course I was following specified that it was important to paint an object to which I had an emotional connection.

Flashbacks while painting

As I drew the lunchbox, memories came flooding back. I could clearly see the lunchbox on the kitchen counter in our old family home. I remembered the smell of the interior of the lunchbox...wood chips from the paper mill plant. I thought of the sandwiches made each day for Dad and the treats he might sometimes bring back for us in his lunch pail. Mostly, I thought of the house payments, the family trips across Canada and the USA, and the myriad other life experiences the lunch pail represented in a symbolic sense. I wondered if the lunch pail would be treasured by one of my children the way I value it.

My second attempt above is better than the first one. I relaxed and didn't worry too much about what I considered to be errors in the drawing. I learned that in drawing the lunchbox, the satisfaction came from the memories that flooded my mind rather than creating the perfect reproduction.

Those memories brought me back to another place and time where life was lived, moment by moment. That is the true value of sketches in an art journal.

One of many family trips we took to various parts of Canada and the USA.

Here we are in front of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Canada.

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