a thank-you letter to the adventure sketchbook.

I didn’t know it then, but I was trying to force my art to be better, to make money, to get more likes, crisis-mode. Jaded, confused, negative - those were just some of the words I was beginning to not like about myself. I was putting these stresses on my life and then crumbling, in mental and creative loops. There was a lot of worry about if people liked me and not enough self confidence underlying the words and lines found on my pages. I was in a rut, a big ‘ol creative rut.

It’s your standard large, plain notebook moleskine. This one’s navy blue, and when I ordered it online there was free personalization, so I took full advantage and got the cheesy, gold 2017 on the front cover. A week later I opened it up, eager to begin, thinking - it’g going to happen, this is going to be the one where I “make it”. In that thought, looking back, I couldn’t have been more wrong: this sketchbook had different plans. 

So we took off for the desert. May 2017.

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This brand new book first went out to the Colorado National Monument to kick off the summer and find some much needed outside time. The end of the school year was getting close and I felt the burn-out from teaching real hard. Worse than ever before. So much so, that eventually, that voice in your head full of doubt, really began to speak up. I was questioning my teaching, my day job, my place. Am I not giving enough to my art? Is teaching really where I should be? Am I better off just giving up on these art dreams? Wait, what do I even want? I was stuck. 

This sketchbook was there to hear me out though. It was ready to prep me for my next adventure, one that I was so anxiously excited to take. 

Legendeer Zion. June 2017.

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Before we headed to Zion National Park for the Legendeer Zion Creative Summit, I filled that sketchbook with pages answering our pre-Zion creative assignments. I was focused in on my technique, worrying about others’ opinions, frustrated with teaching and thinking my art was supposed to fix that - basically my self-confidence was having a hay-day. This sketchbook stuck by me here too. 

That week I spent every moment surrounded by the red waves of the rocks, a house-full of inspiring creatives, and a purpose again. There’s something about the desert. Feeling the heat of the sun mixed with the cool of the shade while watching colors come to life all around you in what should be barren - there’s something magical there. I’ve always dreamt of going to Zion National Park, and here I was. The Legendeer week is almost too difficult to put into words, I can only come back to my drawings to remind me of that time and place. I learned so many lessons during and post that week that have not only shaped my work, but also my heart. So for that I am thankful, but I don’t want to romanticize it too much, that week also left me even more confused. None of my questions were answered. I was still hearing that voice of doubt, again I was putting too much pressure on my art. In that confusion, however, was my answer - I had to figure me out. 

What that week gave me, was the courage to look inward. To create, to reflect, to experience for myself. It was time to switch this sketchbook around. 


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After Zion, I went on my first solo-backpacking trip nestled in between Mt. Elbert and Mount Massive in the Colorado backcountry. After embracing the quiet and realizing that dusk is sort of frightening, I found myself confronting my hardest questions. I couldn’t put those on anyone else sitting in my backcountry tent in silence with my thoughts. So I drew, I wrote, and I began to realize that I needed to re-discover the heart in my artwork. 


Washington. July 2017.

Then Keenan and I left for Seattle to spend an amazing week adventuring and relaxing with his family. We camped at Olympic National Park, hiked to Camp Muir in Mount Rainier National Park, relaxed in the house with family - I painted every day. I was overjoyed and my moleskine pages were showing it. I rounded that trip out seeing an old friend, then headed back to Colorado with an excited sketchbook.

Utah (again). July 2017. 

In fact, I immediately got in the car and headed back to the wilderness for a ladies road trip westward. We camped in the Colorado high country, hiked to the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, and treated ourselves to all the nice things in Palisade. Nice things are nice. 

Nebraska. August 2017. 

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We saw Totality during the solar eclipse surround by family and friends on the family ranch in Nebraska. I wrote about how important taking the time to be in the moment with nature and our people was to being excited and inspiring to create. 

Colorado. September 2017.

Since those summer adventures, I’ve been drawing, writing and reflecting a ton in this sketchbook. It’s traveled to six national parks and monuments, four states, road trips & weekend adventures, flew on a private plane, climbed three fourteeners, and slept under countless stars.

Though, most importantly, it encouraged me to explore my art without boundaries. It helped me break through my loops and discover the creative process much deeper into the places and stories with my work. It lessened my intimidation from my fears of failure and likes. It reminded me that the process and the people along the journey will always be better than the end product. It connected me back. This worn, stuffed notebook sure had a life.

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This new sketchbook has been patiently waiting to be opened since I got it back in June at Legendeer Zion. 

Being a sketchbook purist of sorts, I have a hard time leaving a notebook behind when I haven’t seen them to completion. I couldn’t be so rude to my sketchbook! This moleskine notebook, blue, personalized and stuffed full of my questions, adventures, and discoveries has reached its final page. As I nostalgically close this Summer 2017 chapter, I will eagerly open my new sketchbook. Now I begin with eager anticipation: what will this new book have to show me?

Andrea Slusarski