It’s hard to say when I first began keeping a journal, but it was probably in high school,” recalls Samantha Dion Baker. “I remember spending nights avoiding my homework, writing and doodling in my diary.”
That preoccupation continued during her years at New York City’s prestigious Cooper Union. “In college I had sketchbooks filled with random writings of patterned words alongside small drawings,” she says. “I would photocopy these to use in collage work.”
Though she enjoyed great success as a designer for the Whitney Museum of American Art, Christian Dior, the Frick Collection, and other iconic brands — while raising two children — Dion Baker found herself spending less and less time journaling and sketching.
After years of sitting in front of a computer every day, she found that graphic design began to feel automatic and boring. “It definitely wasn’t relieving my creative itch anymore,” she says.
To fill the void, Dion Baker began pondering new artistic outlets. “One day my husband reminded me that I used to draw more often,” she says. “He told me, ‘Your talent is there, you just have to find it again.’
“I’m a little OCD and really like having a routine, so once I started sketching again, I just couldn’t stop,” she explains. “To keep growing and develop a style, I began challenging myself by asking, Can I draw buildings, an animal, a bicycle, or the tea I’m drinking?”
Sharing her work with others via a popular Instagram account evolved into a book — Draw Your Day: An Inspiring Guide to Keeping a Sketch Journal — for aspiring and seasoned artists alike.
Experience Life | What have been the benefits of having a daily creative practice, and how do you find the time for it?
Samantha Dion Baker | I have two kids and an unpredictable freelance work situation, so drawing has given me a routine. Interestingly, while drawing helped me get into a routine that I really like, other people have told me that their daily drawing practice helps break up the monotony of their day.
Another benefit is that my sketchbook is sort of like my sacred personal space. I can always count on drawing to calm my nerves, and it makes me happy.
Therefore, I don’t even think about it; I just make the time to do it. Sometimes, I’ll even draw while waiting in line at the grocery store.
EL | What if I’m not naturally talented at drawing? What could I get from having a daily drawing practice?
SDB | Well, I think most people feel that way, because we have this habit of comparing ourselves to others — I know I do! That’s why I went into design and decided I didn’t really want to paint or draw, because I was comparing myself too much. I went to a school with incredible artists, and design felt safe to me.
Even now when one of my sons celebrates a birthday, I draw him. But the whole time I just think I’d rather have my sister do it, because she’s so good at it.
But here’s the thing: People think of drawing very literally, rather than a skill where some people can just see something in the world and naturally have the ability to translate it onto paper — just like some people come into the world with perfect pitch and they can just sing.
To have a daily practice, you can take a pen or marker and draw a big scribble and fill in the little spaces with color. Or you can get some glue sticks and cut out random pieces of paper or magazines to make collages. Just have fun!
EL | What made you decide to share your illustrations on Instagram, and how has that community affected your life?
SDB | Now that I’m in my 40s, I realize that I’ve always liked teaching and mentorship. I like helping people find a creative outlet, so sharing my illustrations on Instagram was a way to do that. It’s also a way to get people to sign up for my workshops and to create a community for people to inspire and mentor one another.
The Instagram community is amazing! It’s the reason I’m having this conversation with you about my book. I’m super thankful for it, but at the same time, it is this constant thing that I need to update. It can be challenging at times to put my phone down and draw.
I’ve only recently gotten to the point where I don’t update my feed every day, and no one has seemed to notice — or at least I don’t think they have! So finding that balance is key.