When I was a kid, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich was served as both lunch and, when I was really lucky, a little snack in between meals! It’s one of the first things I learned to make for myself, which always made me feel like I was “cooking” when it’s really just a bit of assemblage with no heat or fire involved. Though my mom’s version was rather neatly made, my own version was always a bit sloppy. I would put too much grape jelly on the bread and what didn’t squirt out the sides would ooze through the slices. This made the peanut butter, which normally acted as a “glue” for the sandwich, lose its effect. Those poor flimsy slices of white bread were a mess the moment I grabbed it and took my first bite. As then, I would soon find that my whole face was covered in jelly. Thankfully, the jelly came homemade from my grandmother so it was usually strawberry jam rather than grape jelly and very delicious, which is why I always wanted too much of it. What started as a lovely way to be a “big kid” ended in something that resembled a crime scene. But it was so much fun! I have such fond memories of making this sandwich, yet I almost can’t remember how it tasted. It’s been many years since I’ve had one. But after all of these years, I still like making a little mess every now and again!
I’m not sure that one’s approach to making peanut and jelly sandwiches has any real bearing on what they will become later in life, but in my case, it was rather telling. I was impatient, yet gleeful, and so excited for the result that I just couldn’t wait for it to happen. That’s certainly how I color my doodles today, since I can’t bear watching paint dry, but it’s equally how I approach most of what I do in life. I never plan anything out and just jump in and start DOing it! For me, the plan presents itself along the way. This has been referred to by those who know better than I as a “build to think” process. And it’s been employed by writers for years in the form of a “sh*tty first draft” I tend to live my whole life in the first draft mode since I never edit what I make each day. But I learn something wonderful each time. In this sketch, I realized that while I have certainly created an acumen for glass, I haven’t sketched white bread in quite some time. It’s rendered a bit more simply and sort of doodled into place. Yet, I rather like the juxtaposition, so that represents a cool idea to explore. I’m quite sure the little kid making these actual sandwiches felt very much the same way. No pressing need to accomplish anything more than the act itself. To simply make something.
Today, I just can’t shake that feeling. The one telling me that the urge to create something is somehow always superior to whatever ends up being created. Rather than attempt to constantly improve what I make, I try with all of my heart to merely cultivate the very urge to create it. When it gets tough to show up each day, and it totally does, all I need DO is remind myself that I’m showing up for me, first and foremost. That sounds so weirdly selfish, I know. But, if I don’t enjoy the process, then how on earth should I expect all of you to enjoy the outcome? No matter what type of art we make, we’re never sharing the art itself, but the very experience of creating it in the first place. That second story is written there in each word, or line, or brushstroke of color. And it’s this story that I personally enjoy most when I read or look at a piece of art. Dancing on the paper or canvas is also the story of the artist. A very personal story that adds a bit of magic to even the simplest of things. As a kid, this was nothing more than simply me making what I made that day. As an adult, we add many layers on top, but when you strip them away, it’s very much the same thing. Our soul is always visible in what we create. And, it always swirls and combines with what we hoped to convey in a beautiful and harmonious combination, like peanut butter and jelly.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Quinacridone Red, Opus (Vivid Pink), Terra Cotta,, and Indigo. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!