Keep staring at the centre of the spiral. Round and round and round. Are you sleepy yet? Or just confused?
It’s an interesting thought … nature knows what it’s doing … it’s us that get things all twisted up when we try to untangle it. Collage is a great way to create and unravel my mind when it becomes over-stimulated.
I thought I’d share a few of my favourite sketch book pages from 2021 as a way to close the book on what has been (for everyone) another stressful one. I am so grateful to have this creative outlet to help me focus on beauty or to process that which I don’t quite know how to deal with!
I catalogued various things around the house, including my view from the rowing machine in the garage
I played a lot with repetitive patterns as a way to soothe and think.
Our new cats started to feature a lot.
I travelled the world via the internet and my sketchbooks and visited a diverse range of cities around the globe.
I drew things that I treated myself with from time to time!
And I squeezed in a little urban sketching toward the end of the year when I was able to venture out more.
You can view all of my sketches for 2021 in an album on my Flickr account HERE – you can watch it as a slideshow if you choose the “slideshow” button in the top right.
I also got around to filming a flipthrough of the sketchbook that I finished mid-September, so you can see how the feel as a set of sketches within the physical book. I didn’t record a commentary on this one … perhaps next time!
Here’s to a creative year ahead both for me and for you, in whatever form the muse takes for you!
We are not long out of lockdown here in Canberra, Australia, and as yet I think the international borders are still closed. Even if they are open I don’t think I’ll feel safe travelling for a while yet, so I have been tripping around the planet in my sketchbook, finding interesting places and honing my skills for when I can get out.
First stop was a Venetian church. I don’t have the opportunity to draw too many ornate buildings, so this was a bit of a challenge straight out of the gate.
This is a little auberge that I stayed at about 10 years ago. I would dearly love to stay there again sometime. It was part of a watermill and home. I remember there were lots of ducks and geese in the grounds!
I didn’t realise how wonderfully bizarre and diverse opera houses around the world are until I started digging around for reference photos for this spread. I love the modern buildings! They present their own kind of challenge just as the ornate ones do.
These funny houses all stacked side by side amuse me. I’d love to see inside one day. I have never been to that part of the world! By this stage I was getting itchy feet!
This lady in an Indian market in her wonderfully bright sari and surrounded by vivid coloured fruit and vegetables made my heart sing. I could almost hear the sounds and smell the spices in the air as I sketched.
This bizaare monument in North Macedonia made me laugh and I really couldn’t go past it for a fun challenge to draw. It made me think of sea mines and the virus that is knobbling me.
Chartres is a place I have visited in the past. I had a deeply reflective experience wandering around in the cathedral and placing my hands on the pillars polished smooth by centuries of pilgrims. I think I could have spend days wandering around that little town.
Venezia! For this one I sketched as though I was in a rush and needing to capture a scene between sight seeing stops with my love. My speed sketching needs work, but I am happy that I captured the story in this one.
Playing with different framing on another Italian classical building.
Ahh back to the UK. This “summer house” stands on a hill between the north of the country and the midlands. I suspect it was scene by my forebears that lived in the area. Also… the name made me giggle 🙂
I chose this photo to draw from because it looked peaceful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to settle in a place like this and hear the water bubbling past?
This complex scene was an attempt to capture the feel of the place with minimal pencil set up. For me I drew a couple of perspective lines and then launched into it. It was fun!
Another run down old UK castle. This is a fascinating one in that it was used to imprison Eleanor of Brittany so that she could no ascent the English throne. She was the daughter of Alinor of Acquitane who was a wonderfully sassy and brave queen for both the French and the English. Well worth reading about her if you like strong women.
The question is … what to draw next? I am double vaxxed and our local area is up to 95% vaxxed for eligible people, so I think it might be safe to venture out to my local Urban Sketchers meet ups again … though it means getting out of bed early on the weekend which doesn’t thrill me. But it will be good for me to get out I think. I shall keep up with the virtual travel until i can travel further a field though. I have been enjoying seeking out colourful and interesting places to visit in the pages of my sketchbook.
What about you? Are you ready to get out and travel again yet?
You know those times when you have too much going on and you really want to do some sketching because you know it will make you feel better, but at the same time you cannot be bothered…and cannot think of anything to draw anyway?
In the past I have turned to collage and multimedia, but I also knew that I was unable to set up and lose myself that process at the moment, because my art desk has been taken over by cats.
Here are some of the things I noticed and enjoyed as I zoned out:
How the paint felt as it slipped from brush to paper.
How a watery wash and well-loaded brush felt smoother than a juicier mix.
Watching the paint dry and observing the patterns of wet and dry on the page.
Watching the paper buckle and paint pool and then start to flow back into the dry parts and create shapes.
Seeing how the colour changed as it dried.
The sensuousness of feeling something come from your hands and the feedback of the touch.
The whole exercise took place over the course of a couple of days sandwiched between other tasks. It was like meditative punctuation. An interstitial refocussing of my attention.
The end results were butt-ugly, and in years gone by I would have fretted and frothed about wasting paint and pages in my sketchbook. Art supplies are expensive! But as one friend reminded me, it’s like saving the good china for a special dinner. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow, let alone a special dinner, nor a masterpiece on the next page of our sketchbooks. Use the good stuff! NOW!
So I reminded myself that not everything I create has to end up as something I’d hang on my wall. There is value in the process whether it be exploring how your materials work with your sketchbook or the space it allows you for thought and reflection. These pages were definitely a case of process over product for me.
I have been owned by cats now for a grand total of two months. They are teaching me to be a good cat guardian, and a lot about myself. You can read about that process over on my other blog.
They have also been showing up in my sketchbook. They don’t sit still for long for the most part – one of them is a hyper kitten – so I work from photos or I turn them into comics. It’s fun having two new muses to provide creative inspiration! They are always doing something silly or lovely that is worth recording. I thought I’d share a couple of pages with you.
I drew this one from a photo I took when I visited my little fur-ball at the breeder’s home. She was checking me out from high up on her climbing tree.
This big boy was a surprise addition to our family, but he is just adorable and has adapted well to his new home.
The first night with a new kitten is always….interesting.
Krasnyy was a little suspicious of the fur-ball at first, but welcomed her quickly.
Occassionally Krasnyy sits still long enough for me to do a sketch from life. I grabbed my sketchbook and coloured pencils and captured him snoozing on his tree beside my desk while I dialled into a work meeting.
I have no doubt they’ll provide continue to provide many opportunities and creative inspiration in the years ahead. Perhaps Kiska will even sit still long enough for me to sketch her while she rests!
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I was feeling a little stressed last week and really didn’t know what to do for my creative practice. I umm-ed and ahh-ed and could not find anything around the house that grabbed my fancy that day, so I defaulted to one of my rituals and decided to draw repeating patterns. I started with a grid of one inch squares and then started the pattern, which is a spiral comprised of straight lines that move incrementally inwards.
It feels like you’re never going to get to the end when you start, but you get into a rhythm and do bits and pieces as you want to… be it for a couple of minutes or a couple of hours. Whatever you feel like.
As I was drawing I was super focused in on the micro, on individual lines and squares and saw wobbles and got cranky with myself for not being more careful and precise. You can see the wobbles below. There are lines like that all through the page.
The thing is though, that then when I stepped back I saw the squares accumulating I didn’t see the wobbles, but the hypnotic feel of the whole. There was no way I was able to see individual lines when I was hovering up at the macro level. I reminded myself of the purpose of the exercise — I was not there to be a draftsperson, I was there for a relaxing process, and truth be told, I was watching Star Trek episodes at the same time!
Life’s like that isn’t it? It is so easy to get stuck in the weeds and looking at individual failures, without looking at the big picture of how our repeated habits are stacking up to let us make a fabulous overall picture or to make progress at something we are chipping away at. Somehow things become greater than the sum of their parts when they all work together in concert.
After I had finished the line work – it took h o u r s – I decided to layer on ultramarine blue, working in a square at a time from the outside in. That’s the picture at the top of this post… but then I decided it needed more and ended up adding a layer to part of the pattern. I am not sure if I like the result, but sketchbooks are for experimenting in are they not? Click the pic below to see a larger version on Flickr.
When all is said and done, whether it be art or life, remember to take a step back and look at the big picture!
I gave myself permission at the beginning of the month to create bad art, to explore processes and to play, regardless of the results. I managed to create a page or two most days this month, for which I am grateful, and I can feel the creative spark starting to rekindle after it had pretty much gone out last year (read more about that here).
Some days my energy ran low and ennui ran high, I didn’t want to write and I didn’t know what to create. So I pilfered other people’s words and bent them to my purposes. I played with scissors and glue and tape and images until something formed that grabbed my imagination. It made a delightful mess of my art desk!
This piece is taking a leaf out of Austin Kleon’s book and choosing words in situ. I used a black marker to kill off the words that don’t fit the story, and in this case I embellished with some collage. A couple of hours of being lost in the process was just what I needed.
I stopped buying magazines awhile ago because it was a lot of money to be spending on something that would ultimately end up in the recycling bin, but I picked up a couple on a whim a little while ago so that I could practice image transfers with gel plates and paint, however I ended up chopping up a couple of pages and fiddling with sticky tape to see what I could come up with. I have not yet succeeded with gel plate image transfers but will keep trying!
Even the junk mail that somehow ended up in my mailbox (even though I have a “No Junk Mail” sticker) was not safe…the results are less than inspiring, I will admit, but it’s a fun, low pressure way to play with words when I cannot think of anything else to fill my page.
This final poem was made with the left over words from the Knopfler song slice-and-dice exercise above, and pasted over a mono print experiment.
I am not sure what March will hold, but I intend to keep up the practice and explore new ways of capturing my life and imagination on the pages of my sketchbook.
If you would like to flip through all of my visual diary pages for this year so far, you can see them on my Flickr.
It’s time for a change. I haven’t been nurturing my creative practice nearly as much as I should have been over the past 12 months, and I have a theory as to why.
I had the words sensory deprivation come to me when I was on the rowing machine one day when I was thinking about what 2020 was like. I have struggled to be creative at all in an arty sense. I don’t leave the house if I can help it, so I am not seeing new things, I am not hearing snippets of peoples’ conversations, I am not seeing, hearing, feeling or smelling new things. The inputs that usually spark a thought or inspire creation are missing. I have seen many people in the same situation that have been super creative and sketching and documenting what is happening within their homes etc. I haven’t done that. I have been working from home, so haven’t really had a lot of time for sitting and sketching. I wasn’t furloughed, for which I am grateful, but that also meant that I didn’t have the extra free time that these super creative people did that I was comparing myself to. I was drawn to knitting when the weather was cool…but that is more a meditation than an art at times I think. Note to self: Stop comparing yourself to others!
As you can see from the top two images, I have started forcing the issue, taking a leaf out of Austin Kleon’s book and fiddling with collage when I have nothing to say/draw/paint. It takes the pressure off needing to create something in a particular way. Create for the sake of the process of creating rather than wanting to make something beautiful or polished.
I have also started to take Koosje Koone’s lead and draw the little bits and pieces around the house as a project.
I need to get my mojo back. I need to be proactive in my creative practice so that when I am free to leave the house for any length of time again, I don’t have to start from scratch! Being creative brings me joy, which is something we can all do with a little more of, and something we can share with each other even if we cannot do it in person yet.
Here’s to a more colourful, creative and joy-filled year ahead!
If you’d like to check out last year’s sketches, you can see them HERE.