Layers

September 1, 2018 — Leave a comment

The past couple of months have been way too busy; I have lost my way with my normal routines and have ended up feeling overwhelmed. I haven’t felt like creating much at all, and my sketchbook entries have felt forced and not at all organic or joyous. My creative practice even took a detour into knitting for a change of scenery, which did not please me. It felt like I was copping out. Who ever said that doing an alternate creative activity was a failure of any kind? I was putting artificial constraints on my artistic expression. Not clever.

Everything was just too much. I felt as though I was getting more information flowing into my head than I could deal with. I realised that quite aside from the overload from work with a complex project in full swing, I had been numbing the stress so that I didn’t have to think about it. I decided to try to art it out, and let it take me where it willed.

The page below developed over a long weekend where I shut things down completely, isolated myself, and started throwing random blobs of paint down on a blank page with a vague idea that I would draw something over the top. As it evolved I felt I needed to keep adding layers. The first one was quite a cheerful watercolour wash that I really wasn’t feeling, so I added a patchy layer of white acrylic, still intending to draw over it with flowers or something similarly happy. That also felt too bright. I was feeling dark and moody, so the next layer was a covering of purples and blues followed by a crankier application of black acrylic. Then came a layer of song lyrics that were speaking to me, followed by a layer of brain dump with all manner of pain, anxiety and frustration verbalised. All of it illegible. It felt almost resolved at that point but not quite. I decided to sift through my collection of random words and phrases cut from magazine pages to see what resonated. I ended up with a positive reminder to breathe and reset rather than continue to be cranky with myself. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but the soul speaks when I take the time to listen. Reboot and breathe.

20180820 - overwhelmed

The experience was very much like an archeological dig in reverse. Working up through the layers of the overwhelm I was feeling. As I kept asking myself why I felt things, and getting the feelings out onto the page, I started to feel lighter. I was exploring and processing the layers as I came to them.

Then I had another prompt to dig through more layers as I listened to Austin Kleon’s latest keynote talk a couple of weeks after the first expedition into my psyche. One word jumped out at me as I listened. Subtraction. He spoke about the need to cut some things out in order to focus — to place limitations on oneself in order to stoke creativity.

20180828 - subtraction

 

I started this page while I was sitting in the car waiting to go into an off-site meeting for work. I poured out my thoughts on the things I was allowing to distract and numb me and eat away my time — news outlets, social media, other people’s art, other people’s carefully curated public lives, the echo chambers reinforcing heinous attitudes. Writing always clarifies and crystallises the maelstrom of disjointed thoughts and ideas wizzing around in my head, and shows me the way forward.

I added the circles as the morning’s meeting progressed, pulling focus so that I could no longer see the distractions, just the word subtraction. I used the layers of circles to bring myself back on point. Ironically, I always listen better in meetings if I can doodle or sketchnote. Focus. I tune out all else, and my mind doesn’t wonder to what I should cook for dinner, or the people running past the window behind the speaker, or the person in my peripheral vision who is tapping pen on book like a madman. Subtraction.

I’ve got some work to do to reestablish my routines and creative practice, and to decide what is important and what is not. To set boundaries, so that someone else’s urgent and important does not become my own. To shed that which is superfluous. What I choose to take in, and on, must add to my experience of this life.

People matter. Meaning matters. A good life is not a place at which you arrive, it’s a lens through which you see and create your world – Jonathan Fields

It is remarkable how easily the unimportant creeps in and takes over if I am not paying attention. It is an ongoing task to be kind to oneself and to ensure that I am looking through the correct lens to properly appreciate my good life. Negative will swallow positive in a heartbeat if I am not vigilant. It is part of my melancholy nature I suppose.

Up until these two pages I had not used my sketchbook for this type of personal exploration at all. To have two in rapid succession tells me that I will likely use it again to correct or clean the lens I am looking through to see my life.

Alternate title : an update on the Canberra Churches Calendar.

Why is it that when I get close to a milestone in a project that I choke and do everything in my power to sabotage myself? I don’t think I am alone in this dilemma. There are any number of memes around the interwebs that show writers and artists cleaning out fridges and answering ancient correspondence and the like in an effort to avoid the fact that there is a deadline looming.

procrastinate-productively-work-hacks-02

I’d like to present the following two photos as evidence of my extremely well developed ability to put off starting what will likely be the last painting for my Canberra Churches Calendar project. In the past three weeks I have finished a scarf I started two winters ago (bottom grey, chevron pattern), finished off the last of that grey yarn with a bias knit cowl in a honeycomb sort of pattern (right side middle), used up an odd ball of pink 8 ply from my stash for a super warm cowl (middle left), tried my hand at lace knitting with a shawlette in a cream 2 ply merino yarn, and then started a brightly coloured patterned scarf in 2 ply yarn (that is not working as well as I had hoped). I have knitted approximately a billion stitches in order to avoid putting paint to paper. Sigh. At least it is crafty… and I have justified this obsession as a change of scenery that will help me paint when I get back to it.

*ahem* *cough*

Right.

They’re pretty though… and we are forecast to get snow again next week… so totally useful…………. ok…stop talking now Michelle…….

This is a particularly good piece of procrastination if I do say so myself. Blocking knitwear is stupidly satisfying.

So.

Here’s where the Canberra Churches Calendar is up to. I have painted eleven of the twelve buildings, and whilst I appear to be procrastinating by writing a blog post about procrastination, I have actually finally started the last painting. I am still enjoying the project … but speed bumps are normal and inevitable. It has been a busy couple of months at work, and concentrating on painting just wasn’t happening, so I wasn’t going to push it and make a mess of it. But I am back in the saddle again now – no I have not run out of wool – and may even do a thirteenth painting so that there is something different on the cover of the calendar. I love the way they all look together and am excited about doing the scanning and pre-press work to get it all ready to upload.

I will be doing a series of blog posts with a little history for each of the churches over the next few weeks in the lead up to release day. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter so that you have access to the pre-release special pricing that will be available only to newsletter subscribers. There’s a link over on the right-hand side of the page there.

It was a lovely crispy winter morning at the Ainslie shops with the Canberra Urban Sketchers mob today. Had the wind stayed away it would have been very pleasant, as it was the cold bit hard and I was grateful that I had had the forethought to include some handwarmers in my kit. It was particularly rough on our new members from Malaysia and those of our number who have recently returned from Europe’s heatwave conditions. Nonetheless we persisted and enjoyed warm company and had fun sketching.

The Ainslie shopping precinct is one of the few around the place that hasn’t had a large-scale facelift. It has retained it’s original facade and has been perked up with a whole zoo of public art. The snails in the photo below made me smile! Whilst we normally visit the larger “tourist” and institution type buildings to sketch, we decided that it would be nice to capture some of the older parts of town before they get swallowed up in the Lego-like modernisation program that seems to be sweeping the city.

I focussed in on the bright yellow signage of the laundrette, all the while being entertained by a couple of older fellows who started out chatting about the lottery, but then moved on to talk about animated movies featuring ants… in the end I heard snippets of Ant Bully, Antz and a Bugs Life. At one stage there where character voices and a scene being acted out. It was all highly amusing! The highlight of my morning however was a young kiddo walking though where a bunch of us were spread out sketching and he was quite amazed… “Mum! There are sketchers eeeeeeverywheeerrreee! Can I go look?” Love the wonder of little people.

20180812 - Ainslie shops

As always, click on the sketch to see a larger version.

What a difference two and a half years makes! The top sketch was done this morning in about 45 minutes flat. Mostly because I misread my watch and thought that I had been sitting there for an hour longer than I had been. This was not a big leap for my poor brain to make since it was 9 degrees C with an apparent temperature of about 2 degrees with the wind taken into account. The next sketch was done in the opposite conditions – a midsummer scorcher. I remember sitting there for almost the full two hours labouring over the proportions and perspective. It was, I think, my second ever Urban Sketchers meet up.

20180707 - old parliament house

20160113 - king george monument

The two sketches are wildly different. I tried something different with today’s one, in that I focussed on a single part of the facade rather than trying to capture all of the rather long, low building. It is far looser and was completed quicker but the lines feel steadier even if the sketch is pretty wonky. I also left a lot of the page untouched with pigment.

The older sketch has far more tentative line work and I appear to have worked hard to cover the entire page with paint. It feels scratchy and wonky even though I was trying to be careful. The shadows are clumsy and I think I may have turned King George V into a little person. It is fascinating to be able to compare my growth as an urban sketcher using samples of my own work rather than looking at the giants in the field and winding up feeling defeated. I can see improvement in what I am producing, and that is encouraging.

At the end of the day I like both sketches, not just for the fact that I exited my hermitage to interact with other urban sketchers for a couple of hours, but for the life memories attached to them. Oddly I can remember what was happening in my life when I was trying to figure out how to render a bronze statue on a flat piece of paper. There’s something about drawing that sucks everything in and locks it into the image. I love it!

We’re in the midst of the coldest start to winter in 10 years here in Canberra, so I figured sketching inside at this week’s Canberra Urban Sketchers meet up was the thing to do. We met at the National Museum of Australia, and whilst there are LOTS fabulous things to draw, I have always wanted to draw a dinosaur skeleton, so I settled in the atrium and drew the muttaburrasaurus cast that was towering over everyone. The background ended up a bit of a smudgy mess because whilst I was aware that the ink was not waterproof, I failed to take into account that any moisture from my hands would also make it slide all over the place…or perhaps I was too impatient and didn’t let it dry long enough before resting my hand on the page. I will admit to rushing the background… it wasn’t nearly as interesting as the big pile of bones in front of me.

20180623 - NMA dinosaur

 

Friday Feedbag

May 18, 2018 — 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 lately, perhaps some of them will inspire you too.

The Danish National Symphony Orchestra are SO GOOD! (if you are reading this via email, see the video HERE)

If you have time they also do the Star Wars Suite (an hour long) ..i f you dont have an hour, watch from the 53-minute mark for the best rendition of the Cantina song I’ve seen... everyone is having so much fun it is guaranteed to make you smile!

Looking for something to do with your old books?

These organic mandalas are just mesmerising.

How to be happier.

Robots will not be taking jobs from artists any time soon.

This is my favourite Instagram account at the moment… I really want to pat her dog! He looks like such a character.

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.
– Edward de Bono

To finish off with a little more music… here’s a mashup for the ages. (if you are reading this via email, click HERE to see the video) If you have time … here they are in concert in Italy a couple of years ago. Astonishing talent!

If you would like to receive information about new projects and early notification of product releases, please take a moment to subscribe to my email newsletter so that you will be the first to know. This is a brand new list and I don’t intend to write to you terribly often and won’t spam you — I have painting to do — but this is the best way to ensure you get the most up to date information.

Why is it that I never see that my sketches are are on an angle and look like they are going to slide right off the page until I get home and scan them?  I thought I was being so careful to get by guidelines parallel to the bottom of the paper.  How frustrating!  Ugh! Perhaps I need to resort to using a ruler to set up the basics next time. Or just embrace the wonkiness of it all.

20180513 - National Dinosaur museumAfter a slow start in Canberra this year, the cold weather has hit with force in the past week, and for the first time this year I cracked out a beanie and my fingerless gloves to go drawing. I also had the presence of mind to bring plenty of bulldog clips to stop my bits and pieces from being blown away.

No matter the weather though, I always love getting out to sketch with like minded people, and it’s not every day you get to draw dinosaurs!

Funny comment of the day came from a young dad with a junior burger on his shoulders… “Look! This lady is painting! Watch how she looks up at the dinosaurs and then looks down and paints and remembers what she was looking at! Sometimes she even changes paint colours. Oooh … now she is washing her brush in the water jar. She is very good… daddy cannot draw stick figures” “Ok daddy. Can I go in the dinosaur mouth?”  Hehehe. Made me smile.

I finally got around to filming a flip through of my most recently finished sketchbook! I really enjoy seeing the things I’ve played with over the course of a couple of months. I hope you do to!

I also filmed a timelapse video of the latest church drawing for my upcoming Churches of Canberra calendar (available early November). This is the first process video I’ve made, and I am really pleased with how it came out. I love watching other peoples’ work in progress videos because they inspire me and give me tips and tricks for my own work. I plan to show more of this type of video in my Instagram stories.

 

Here’s how my calendar paintings are looking so far. I am so excited to see the project coming together! If you want to keep up with release dates for the calendar and special deals on originals and prints please sign up HERE.

The Auto Italia car (and motorbike) show was on in town this weekend and despite the crazy cold and drizzly weather, an intrepid few Canberra Urban Sketchers braved the weather and the crowds to see both the quirky and the flash cars on show. I love drawing cars! Had the weather been more pleasant I would probably have stayed on for a lot longer.

I fell in love with this little Fiat 600 Multipla from the moment I saw it. It almost looked like it was built backwards … funny shape it was! Definitely would not want to have a crash in one, there is absolutely nothing between driver and whatever one might hit. I had one gentleman tell me the story of his mother having one and driving from Belgium to Italy in it. It was apparently the perfect car for her and her twin babies since it was the only one that could fit a twin pram in the back at the time. There were lots of people interested in what I was doing and had several photos taken in action. I was also highly amused at the number of people that suggested that I should just take a photo, it would be far quicker. Ah yes, it would, but then I would not get to enjoy the details of the bug-eye headlights or the bumper that looks like warthog tusks as I drew them! One lady liked the sketch enough to want to buy it from me, so it won’t be staying in my sketchbook for long – it will be heading off to it’s new owner this week!

20180415 - fiat 600 mulitpla - autoitalia

I had 20 minutes left after I finished the Fiat and started on a modern Alpha Romeo Gtv, but didn’t quite get it finished before the rain sent me running for cover. I’ll splash some colour on it during the week when I get a moment.

I finished off another sketchbook yesterday – it’s the little back one in this picture. Flip through video coming soon! I have been getting a little frustrated with the size of it of late, and annoyed with painting spreads and fighting with the gutter, so I am going to try the next size up and see how I get on. Despite being larger it is lighter than the black one because it has a soft cover. (They are both made by Stillman and Birn.) I am interested to see if the extra size is a help or a hindrance for everyday sketching.

I have followed Austin Kleon’s lead and added a picture of one of my heroines in the front to watch over me and keep me on track.

Next step is to draw my palette on the page that faces and get over the “new sketchbook” boogie man.

 

Friday Feedbag

April 6, 2018 — Leave a comment

Short week’s always make me feel a little odd and out of sorts. Things feel like they are happening on the wrong days and I get myself all tangled up and confused.  Little pockets of creativity and feeding my addled brain kept me going to the end of this week!

 Here’s a selection of what grabbed my attention, perhaps some of them will inspire you too.

I love how music creates space and let’s me relax and breathe deeply. I have had Yo-Yo Ma on repeat this week. (see the video HERE if you are receiving this via email subscription)

This bumble bee story made me teary! Look at that fuzzy butt!

Feathery forests and twinkling skies. Sad but serene.

Bet you couldn’t do this!!! But it would be fun to try.

Today I escaped from he crush of circumstances, or better put, I threw them out, for the crush wasn’t from outside me but in my own assumptions.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Wanna check that ego mate? An easy guide for one and all.

Would you like to see progress shots of my church paintings for my upcoming calendar? You can see them on Instagram.

This flower looks like and ice cream and absolutley delicious.

Speaking of ice cream … who knew it had it’s own museum. So cool… Boom tsh !

Working back up to being able to play this properly again…so rusty! (see the video HERE if you are receiving this via email subscription)

 

If you would like to receive information about new projects and early notification of product releases, please take a moment to subscribe to my email newsletter so that you will be the first to know. This is a brand new list and I don’t intend to write to you terribly often and won’t spam you — I have painting to do — but this is the best way to ensure you get the most up to date information.