I don’t get out as often as I would like to sketch on location, so when New Year’s Eve was forecast to have some lovely moderate temperatures – as opposed to the crazy hot we normally get at this time of year – I put out the call to our Urban Sketchers group for an ad hoc get together and we headed in to the High Court. I had been wanting to draw the brutalist building for a long time. The facade is imposing, but the water feature that runs down the side of the ramp softens it somehow. I positioned myself down at the base of the ramp and listened to the water burble away as I sketched.

20171231 - high court

I had a little time to spare after the first sketch, so I turned my stool 90 degrees to look at the National Portrait Gallery and did a quick 15 minute sketch of the front entryway.

20171231 - portrait gallery

This Sunday just passed was a similarly cool day for our regular Urban Sketchers meet up. This time we were at Parliament House. I opted for an outside perch to see if I could capture the curved forecourt entry properly. It came up a little wonky…curves in perspective are tricky! I included the imposing flag pole as a collage element since it’s the most recognisable feature of the building, but couldn’t be seen from where I was sitting.

20180114 - New Parliament HouseI really enjoy getting together with my sketching buddies to take a closer look at parts of the city that I normally wouldn’t visit in the course of going about my days. It’s fun sharing a common interest wiht a bunch of equally crazy people 🙂

Friday Feedbag

January 12, 2018 — Leave a comment

I am sitting here this week suffering from the inevitable Summer sniffles and bundled up in a blanket even though it is 33 degrees C outside. I am so annoyed that I made it through my Christmas break without getting sick like I normally do on holidays, and then the first week back at work I get sucker punched. Ugh.

Here’s some of what grabbed my attention this fortnight as I fed my creativity, perhaps some of them will inspire you too as we head into the weekend.

Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.

– Victor Pinchuk

 

How beautiful are these fairy sculptures? I’d love one in my garden!

 

Struggling to get to sleep? Watch this for a while.

Everyone needs to hear these seven things.

Start your weekend off with a smile – I loved the field mouse!

This song relaxes me, I love listening to these guys when I paint.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if these were available at the office?

Happiest puppy!

 

“Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an an enormous reward. You will have created something.” – Kurt Vonnegut

 

And last but not least .. who would not want a giant purple squid to keep them inspired?

 

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“In a world where you can be anything, be kind”  – Unknown

That is the mantra that I will use to set my intention for the year ahead, and I have chosen KINDNESS to be my guiding word.

Why did I choose kindness? It’s one of those serendipity things really. I started thinking about my hopes for this year in early December, collected a list of words that I felt fit the bill, and let it all percolate for a bit. I started seeing articles and art works relating to a couple of them consistently, and by far the one that waved its arms the most was ‘kindness’. Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at its best! Just like when you buy a new car, all of a sudden you see that make and model everywhere, I saw references to kindness all over the place! Even as I edit this post and procrastinate on Facebook, a friend posted a profile frame that said, “I believe in the power of kindness”. Thank you universe!

It may sound a bit Pollyanna-ish I suppose, having “kindness” as my word for the year … being kind to myself…being kind to others as a first reaction. Sounds naive doesn’t it? A bit like I’ve fallen headlong into the positivity movement’s blackhole?  Like I am setting myself up to be lazy about the things I need to do in my life and a doormat for everyone else? Perhaps inviting people to take advantage of me? No. That’s not it at all. Whilst it is true that I need to cut myself some slack (I have a tendency to run myself into the ground), I think I can be kind and yet maintain boundaries both for myself and for when it comes to interacting with other people. Consistent kindness doesn’t imply that I will tolerate appalling behaviour from others. Nor is it a cure-all for dealing with the political rubbish that threatens to drown us. Kind does not necessarily equate with “nice”, and I have no intention of returning to doormat status, nor do I intend to put myself in danger. Telling people no can be done with kindness. Makes me think of Churchill’s quote: “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” Could easily substitute my word in there instead of tact!

Seth Godin said, when he spoke of kindness: “It scales better than competitiveness, frustration, pettiness, regret, revenge, merit (whatever that means) or apathy. Kindness ratchets up. It leads to more kindness. It can create trust and openness and truth and enthusiasm and patience and possibility. Kindness, in one word, is a business model, an approach to strangers and a platform for growth.It might take more effort than you were hoping it would, but it’s worth it.”

Interesting!

In fact, I think perhaps that kindness might just be fabulously subversive – a theory I intend to explore this year. What can being kind achieve? What does it mean to be kind? What does it look like when I am being kind? Can I be consistently kind and not be annoying as hell? Can I be kind when I feel like death warmed up or hard done by?

The big question is…in the context of creativity… how might it affect the way I develop ideas and execute them in my artwork? What does it mean for my little business? I have no idea! We shall see as the year progresses.

Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.

— J.M. BARRIE

Do you select a word or guiding intention for the year? Share it in the comments below, and link to your blog if you have one, I’d love to read about your thoughts for the year ahead!

 

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Sketchbook flip-through

January 3, 2018 — 1 Comment

So satisfying finishing a sketchbook! This is the second one I filled last year.

2017 in review

December 31, 2017 — Leave a comment

I am so glad 2017 is over.

I finished work a couple of days before Christmas and put myself into a fortnight of self-induced hermitry, which is exactly what I need to recover from what has turned out to be a somewhat prickly year.

20171231 - safe to come out yet?

Nourish was my word for 2017 and at the beginning of the year I wrote out a great long list of intentions for how I wanted to nourish myself and my creativity during the year. The crazy took over mid-way through the year and I found it difficult to stay focussed on the word itself in a conscious fashion, but still, I developed some new habits and made caring choices for myself when I was feeling most overwhelmed.

Possibly the best thing I did for myself this year was to make a conscious effort to curate my inputs. I rarely watch the news on TV these days, and only skim reputable newspapers each day to keep up with the basics of what is happening in the world. I have also learned the fine art of scrolling past material that irritates me – for the most part. When I wrote about being careful about what I read and watch in January, I was reeling from the election of Trump even though I live on the opposite side of the planet. The hyperbole and levels of stupid in the news and on social media had me so stressed out that it threatened to consume me. I am so glad that I chose to eliminate that from my brain food menu! As the stoics of old said … focus on what you can control, and leave the rest.

It has turned out to be an extremely challenging year from a health perspective, which in turn has curtailed my ability to get out and about as much as I would have liked. I cannot walk in the forest like I yearn to do. Heck, I cannot even walk around the block at this point. It is frustrating, but more troubling is that I think it has impacted my creativity. It is almost as though the ideas pool has stagnated because I am not moving. That’s not to say that I had a bad year from an art perspective; I have drawn more this year than last and created some watercolour pieces that I am very proud of,  but it has felt like I’ve had to push harder than normal to develop interesting ideas – they are not flowing like I would like them to. Sitting on my bum in front of a computer and scrolling for inspiration is one thing –  the ideas are going in – but they are filed away and not swirling around, mixing, and making something new.  What I have lacked is the freeing up of the mind to make connections that comes when you are walking and letting the mind wander. This article made me think more deeply about how my whole body is involved in the creative process, rather than just my brain and my hands, and something I will explore more next year. If I can move.

Here is a collage of my nine most popular sketches and paintings as voted by my Instagram followers:

It is always fun to see which of my sketches resonate with other people, and it is so encouraging and surprising to me that people are interested in what I put out there. It gives me a boost and the impetus to keep creating when I am feeling sluggish.

Here is a slide show of all of my sketchbook bits and pieces this year. (If the slide show doesn’t load click here to watch it on the Flickr site) It’s fun to look back at the year from a slightly different perspective. To see where my emotions were and how I progressed through the year.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that no-one has it all figured out. I thought, when I was a child, that by the time I got to the very old age of 40 that I would have everything under control, and know which way was up. Well … I don’t. I turned 47 a couple of weeks ago and am still none the wiser, but it seems I am not the only one. Earlier this year Anne Lamott gave a fabulous TED talk called “12 truths I learned from life and writing” many of her points resonated. This most of all: We are all much the same and everyone is screwed up in one way or another whether we want to admit it or not. 🙂  No-one has it all together or even sort of figured out. Good to know! So I will relax and continue to nourish myself with the habits that stuck, and look forward to a new year and a new set of habits to develop. (I’ll post next week about my word for 2018.)

Thank you for being part of my creative energy this year. I hope your 2018 will be fabulous and far better than 2017.

 

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Friday Feedbag

December 29, 2017 — Leave a comment

The creative life is all about feeding one’s imagination with a wide variety of inputs – gathering inspiration, provoking thought, tickling one’s fancy – and then making connections between all these disparate little bites. Here’s a selection of what grabbed my attention this week, perhaps some of them will inspire you too.

20171222 - bumble bee

  • I found these bumble bee earrings via a random link on Instagram that I now cannot find….they make me happy when I wear them.
  • This two year old draws awesome skeletons!
  • I cannot begin to imagine how long this puzzle would take to do, but it is just gorgeous.

 

“Let us temper our criticism with kindness. None of us comes fully equipped.”

– Carl Sagan

 

This looks equal parts terrifying and fun!

I found this song via Susannah Conway’s blog…it’s a lovely cover of this one

 

  • I am in the midst of my yearly self-imposed hermitry as I recover from 2017 and prepare to launch into 2018. I found this post especially helpful as I try to refocus.
  • I really wish I was not allergic to cats.. they are funny!

 

Remember to sign up for email updates on my blog because Facebook severely restricts who sees my posts, and not everyone has Instagram. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the madness! There’s a link over on the side bar. I promise not to spam you, and I will never on-sell your details to anyone.

Friday Feedbag

December 22, 2017 — Leave a comment

The creative life is all about feeding one’s imagination with a wide variety of inputs – gathering inspiration, provoking thought, tickling one’s fancy – and then making connections between all these disparate little bites. Here’s a selection of links and bits and pieces that grabbed my attention this week, perhaps some of them will inspire you too.

This song feels like a hug…

 

“My mother had two messages for me in my growing up years: to be a lady — don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment, these things just sap energy and waste time — and the other was to be independent.”

— Ruth Bader Ginsburg

 

Remember to sign up for email updates on my blog because Facebook severely restricts who sees my posts, and not everyone has Instagram. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the madness! There’s a link over on the side bar. I promise not to spam you, and I will never on-sell your details to anyone.

Learning to float

December 10, 2017 — Leave a comment

20171206 - december

I was musing to a friend this week that December always feels overwhelming to me. Much to do and much pressure to be sociable. I always feel tired, I almost always catch whatever summer cold is going around, and my patience is stretched about as tight as Madonna’s face. Which is odd right now, because I know that I am not nearly as busy as I used to be. I look back at old me and wonder how on earth I got everything done. But yet, right now in this moment, it still feels as though I have the weight of the year upon me. Perhaps my load is less visible than in previous years; I don’t know. And I know I am not the only one.

20171206 - float

When I remember, I tell myself to stop fighting against it all. Relax and float. I get rid of any debris that doesn’t have to be around me. Most stuff can wait until the new year. Some things you cannot avoid completely, but like the ball in this painting, I can push it away from me for a while at least.

If I am at work and feeling particularly overwhelmed, I treat myself to lunch at the local Japanese restaurant. They have a tea called “blooming tea” that I order and stare at and breathe in the floral scents.  This one was rose, camellia and lemon flavoured. Click HERE to watch this beautiful, hypnotic little dance…the bundle unfurls in the hot water and pops out to release the flowers. They serve it to you in these lovely delicate glass teapots so that you can see the flowers and bubbles as they come to life. So good. There is something special about tea and its rituals that creates space and quiets the mind.

 

It was Hemingway that said of writing:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

I think it is the same with art. Some of the work I do in my sketchbook feels forced, I am drawing to occupy time, or to learn something or to keep up with a challenge or class. The pieces lack depth. But then there are times when I hit a vein and my heart and soul bleeds out onto the page. The page below is a painting of my stretch marks the flowed out earlier this week. Some consider them ugly, unsightly, a taboo of some sort. They are of course entitled to their opinions. I know that these stripes were earned growing my children and thus intrinsically valuable. My belly provided a safe place for them to grow. My stripes are beautiful and I will no longer apologise to those who seek the belly of a prepubescent child on their woman. I am proud of my stripes, which is why I have painted them in glorious rainbow colours.

20171207 - tiger stripes

 

I hope that over time I bleed more frequently onto my pages, both with art and with words, for it is in these moments that I feel the weight lifted – even in December.

Do you feel overwhelmed in December too? How do you cope?

It really is no secret that I love art supplies and stationery. I suspect anyone with more than a vague interest in art is much the same! I could spend endless hours and dollars if left alone in an art supply store…and I can guarantee you that it takes real self control to resist the urge to buy every coloured tube of water colour I see when I am browsing online. But since I have to restrain myself and behave like an adult, I content myself with playing with my existing supplies, and there are few things I enjoy more than setting up a new watercolour palette. This past weekend was rainy and wet and not at all conducive to spending time anywhere other than at home, so I decided it was time for a change.

I set up the old one just before I went to London in May, and it served me well through that trip and various urban sketching adventures and general sketchbook play since. But it was looking grubby and worn, and I wasn’t really enjoying the colours so much any more.

This is the setup I used for most of 2017

I have been itching to use some of my new tube watercolours in my sketching kit, and had seen another artist’s setup in the same box that allowed for more pans and was super excited to put together something a little different. Now was the time to get watercolour smeared all over my fingers and fret about how many cents worth of pigment I just wasted!

The new palette filled and sat out to dry

The colours are a mix of Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton tube paints. The new palette looks so juicy! I wanted more “neutrals” in the mix, and so I have a selection of “coloured neutrals” like Prussian Blue and Vandyke Brown and Perylene Maroon alongside the properly named Neutral Tint. There are a few convenience greens to test out since I always struggle with foliage in my urban sketches. And then some lovely yellows and reds. It looks like a jewel box doesn’t it?

This is the setup I used for most of 2017

My current sketchbook was also at an end, so I figured a fitting way to round it up was to swatch the two palette’s side by side. The names of the paints are all there if you can decipher my hurried scrawl. I am psyching myself up to do a mixing chart with a 24×24 grid ….yikes! Perhaps if next weekend is rainy! Meantime looking at the swatches makes me so happy!

Sketchbook pile on a temporarily clean desk

Speaking of piles of supplies… I didn’t think I had *that* many sketchbooks on the go at the moment…but then I cleaned up my desk and sketching bag. I have six books on the go. What you can see peeking out of the left-hand side of the photo there is a pile of fresh notebooks and sketchbooks ready to be sent into battle. I am well and truly addicted!

How many sketchbooks do you have on the go right now?

Remember to sign up for email updates on my blog because Facebook severely restricts who sees my posts, and not everyone has Instagram. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the madness! There’s a link over on the side bar. I promise not to spam you, and I will never on-sell your details to anyone.

sketching with martians

November 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

Wooo! First properly hot day of the season and the Canberra Urban sketchers were out sketching! I found a lovely shady spot to set up in and got completely lost in my sketchbook. The location this time was the Shine Dome which is part of the Academy of Science. Affectionately known around town as the Martian Embassy. I had fun with this drawing, but I’m not entirely happy with the sketch as a whole. I think it lacks interest due to insufficient contrast – it’s all very same same. The dome should have been much lighter and with enough variation to show the curve of the dome with more than the outline against the sky. I did have fun, however, imagining that the agapanthus plant in the bed right in front of me was some manner of alien life form out on an exploratory mission. 🙂

20171125 - shine dome

This painting is one that I did as an experiment in exploring composition creation using a number of photos as well as having a go at portraiture in watercolour. Needs more practice, but I am happy for a first attempt 🙂 I used Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton tube colours on Arches 330gsm hot press paper.


xx