Well…I didn’t start the year with an intention to draw every day, it just kind of happened. It may or may not continue…we’ll see. My intent was to take some online courses and to draw a lot, so I guess it kind of fits.

At the beginning of the month I started an online course called “A Drawing a Day” through the Sketchbook Skool. At the same time the Sketchbook Skool started a year-long challenge of doing a drawing every day and provided prompts for the community to follow, so I decided to do both. Start the year as you really didn’t mean to continue …. :S hmmmm that’s not quite how the saying goes. Anyway, I haven’t created fabulous masterpieces everyday, but I have put drawing implement to paper every day…and little by little I have learned some things along the way.

I have to say I am a little disappointed with the actual course, which Is probably my fault for not reading the box properly. I had hoped that it would be a course that provided guidance about how to build a creative practice of creating daily, but has turned out to be an exploration of different drawing techniques. The teacher is lovely and a very good artist…it’s just not what I was expecting. I have struggled with the homework, but still have learned bits and pieces along the way. (I will be taking another course with the Skool next month, so I’m not writing them off)

There is a week to go yet, but my favourite piece of homework thus far was in the first week:

20170103 - fruity

Other homework has included mark making and using odd colours to draw things…which really doesn’t float my boat in an artistic sense, but was useful in seeing how off-kilter colour choices can make a piece feel different. Here are some examples:
20170115 - a day at the park

No lines…just marks.

20170118 - homework

Disparate colours and moody colours.

I have gained far more satisfaction, if you will, from the general drawing a day challenge. I love starting with a word and finding an odd personal twist to interpreting it on my page. Here are a couple of favourites.
20170112 - unruly hair

Prompt: hair

20170106 - final frontierPrompt: portrait

20170119 - gnomesPrompt: cover

And my lovely Insta followers have overwhelmingly liked my drawing of Francis the bearded dragon:

20170114 - Francis

Prompt: pet
I hope to keep drawing daily, but won’t make any promises, because as sure as I do, life will smack me across the head and make sure I cannot. 😀

You can see all of my sketchbook pics for the year so far HERE.

I realised a long time ago that having a long list of goals and resolutions for a particular year, with arbitrary timelines, was a good way to manufacture angst for no real reason, and make myself stressed.

Do I want to get things done in life? Yes of course. Do I have goals? For sure! What I don’t have are deadlines, because life has a way of having other ideas about what occurs in my day to day happenings. Why create artificial stress for myself? What I’d rather have is action, and for me to do that in a way that is adaptable, flexible, holistic and uplifting, I decided to choose a word or theme for each year. In years gone by I have had STRONG and CONFIDENCE as themes. I lost my way for a bit in the aftermath of my divorce and didn’t have a word or theme as such; I was too busy surviving and licking my wounds. Reacting. Consolidating.

This year I am ready to have an intentional year. My theme for 2017 is Nourish.

What does nourish mean? The dictionary says:

It has the feel of strengthening – both mentally and physically. It also speaks to me of caring, compassion and nurturing. It feels like healing.

I want to build healthy, sustainable, life-long habits to look after myself, and make space to allow others to look after me if I need it or if they want to. It appears to be an awfully long list, but comprises the little parts that make up my life. All of the parts that will be nourished in tiny little incremental ways each day. Nourishment needs to be balanced, and it must be a gentle, loose approach or I will dig my heels in and buck against even my own expectations. Will I get it right all the time? No, but that’s ok too. Being kind to myself is part of nourishment too. If I can build the habits and the correct thinking, these things will roll on over the course of years.

So…what areas can benefit from a little nourishment this year, what will it look like?

  • Movement – I need to move more in a general sense. I have a sedentary job and then like to come home and create art, so I’m on my butt a lot. I also want to continue to develop a consistent training regime to get strong.
  • Nutrition – choose food that does me good and supports health as I get older without getting all dogmatic and extreme about it, because that will suck my soul dry and ultimately not be sustainable.
  • Brain food – get rid of ‘junk food’ such as mindless television and most social media, 99% of news sites and broadcasts, advertising, reality tv, toxic people, avoid click-bait. I want to practice more critical thinking. I have to ask myself…Is this fake news? Is this sensationalism? Is this ideological propaganda? Instead I want to feed my brain with proper nutrition; choose reliable sources of information from a wide variety of viewpoints so that I am not in an echo chamber. I want to keep learning. Replace the ugliness with beauty, practice gratitude to counteract the whingers and passive aggressive rants, and surround myself with the right people.
  • Sleep – work at improving the quality of my sleep.
  • Self-care  – facials, rest, bubble baths and massages (mind you…all of the things on this list are self-care in one way or another, but these are the indulgences!).
  • Play time – encourage my inner child to come out more often. Life is too short not to have fun and to explore and have a sense of wonder about everything.
  • Down time versus social time balance – social interaction exhausts me (including work), so I need to make sure I balance that with appropriate periods of down time to recharge my batteries.
  • Relationships – pour time into the ones that matter and release, with kindness, the ones that are toxic and emotionally draining. I want to spend time with the ones that want to gaze at the stars and dive deep into conversations about life and the universe – the ones that can build me up to be a better person.
  • Art and Writing – eventually I would love to be writing and creating art full-time, in the short term I will continue to give them time and courses to let them grow and develop. I will explore options and perhaps arrive at my own recognisable style.
  • Soul food – get out in nature more, travel, go to galleries, surround myself with beauty …and much of this will tie in with the brain food that I choose to indulge in.

If I am nourishing myself in these ways I believe it will flow through into my art and writing. Each of them are intertwined and interdependent and add up to a happy and content Michelle. And that’s who I want to be. Happy, relaxed, content, at peace. The old thing about artists needing to be in perpetual anguish, I think, is rubbish; an outdated stereotype. I can create from a happy place. The unending guilt and fear of a life lived under a controlling paradigm is gone. I am free to fly, and nourishing myself will help me grow in my feathers so that I can soar.

So as I wander barefoot into 2017, these are the things I will be asking myself

  • Does this feed my soul?
  • Does this feel good?
  • Does this feel nourishing?
  • What would “nourish” look/feel like in this situation?

What works for you? Do you plan tightly or loosely? Do you have a word?

Phew it was hot today! The predicted top was 35 deg C and overcast, but didn’t quite get there while we were out. Not entirely pleasant weather for sketching, but the breeze was pleasant and I managed to find a shady spot to get set up for today’s Canberra Urban Sketchers meet up at Mount Stromlo Observatory. There are lots of interesting buildings to draw at the facility, but I chose the ruins of the Yale Columbia Telescope building. I sat outside this burned out building for the first hour and a half and then moved inside to capture the detail of the remnants of the telescope pedestal that survived. The telescope and dome in this building were destroyed 14 years ago in the 2003 Canberra bushfires, and in recent years the whole site has been redeveloped for tourism and to allow the ANU to continue their research work. THIS is what the building looked like immediately after the fires went through (and in all it’s glory before the fires), the photo below shows what it looks like now. I have wanted to draw this building for a long time, so I was very excited for today’s opportunity.

inside-building

I wanted to take a different approach to my sketch this time so that I could slow down and focus on the line work without having to rush to draw the picture and then paint it. I am not a fast worker by any means. So I prepared a spread in my sketchbook earlier in the week. I splashed a couple of washes around and added some narrative to the page.

prepared-spread

I played around with a stencil to get some interesting texture as well. It came up rather blotchy where the watercolour leeched in under the plastic of the stencil, but the overall effect works for me.

stencil-detail

I have returned to adding more “story” to my sketchbooks to help capture some of the information that is not immediately apparent in the sketches. And besides, my memories is going the way of the dinosaurs at present!

Here are my two completed pages followed by a photo of the spread.
20170108 - mt stromlo part 1

(More about the Magellan telescope HERE)

I used my usual Uni-ball eye pen, a fine-liner and white gel pen for the line work and then added shadow and tone with a water brush filled with diluted India ink. I am pleased with the effect of the wash in the background…I think it gives a little bit of an apocalyptic feel to it, which is apt.
20170108 - mt stromlo part 2

(Difficult to get a good clean scan in this particular sketchbook…I won’t be buying it again, even though I love the paper.)

file_000

Our next outing is in a couple of weeks to check out the Lunar New Year celebrations in town. Hoping for lots of colour and maybe a dragon!

thank you

December 30, 2016 — Leave a comment

Where has 2016 gone? It seems that this year has flown by in a blur!

It’s that time in between Christmas and New Year where I have a week off work and I take time to relax and get ready for the year ahead. Before I charge into the new year though, I want to pause and say thank you to you, my readers and followers here and on Facebook and Instagram, for your support this year.

201611228 - thank you

Thank you for:

  • Commissioning fun paintings that stretched me and helped me grow as an artist (bumblebee, hedgehog and duckling);
  • Buying goodies from my shop;
  • Interacting and chatting and sharing tips and tricks with me on social media; and
  • Supporting and encouraging my exploration of art and creativity.

I have drawn and painted so much more this year than in any previous year that I really feel as though I am beginning to find my way as an artist. I have played with all manner of different styles and materials, joined my local Urban Sketchers group , taken part in an EveryDay in May drawing challenge [here and here], created gifts that I hope have brought smiles to faces on special occasions, and taken classes to help hone my craft as I try to find a style that is peculiarly my own. Thank you for coming along for the ride!

Click HERE to take a look at my sketchbooks for the whole year. I didn’t quite crack 200 drawings…but there’s a couple of days left yet, I think I might just squeak in a couple more drawings! It’s interesting to see the progression in certain types of drawings (buildings in particular) and the different styles I experimented with. I can easily see which drawings were done on location and which were completed in the studio and which ones I rushed through. I think my favourite drawing for the year is this ladybug or perhaps this dandelion. Do you have a favourite?

In 2017 I am looking forward to splashing the paint around again and working at improving my drawing skills, thinking about what new products I can add to the store, but also writing more again. Many moons ago I used to have a blog that focussed on my life and what was happening at the time, and I miss the writing aspect of it. I won’t be re-opening that blog, but I will be writing and posting here more regularly; sharing more about what I am learning, adventures that I take, what inspires me and hopefully more. Please pop in a bookmark or subscribe so that you don’t miss any updates! I would love to hear about your adventures in art and creativity. Please tell me what you think about my posts, interact, share with your friends, and tell your stories too.

What do you like to do in the time off between Christmas and New Year? Do you get time off? Do you take a family holiday? Are you ready for next year? I’m not sure I am, but it’s coming ready or not!

messy desk

December 12, 2016 — Leave a comment

My art desk is currently piled with the detritus of my day to day life. It is a flat surface and thus collects the bits and pieces that need somewhere to reside for a short time before moving on, like the box filled with goodies for a friend that I really need to finish filling and tape it up to put in the post. It also has the drawing bag I took to the concert I went to last weekend that I haven’t yet unpacked. There are other bits and pieces there….scissors and tape left over from the christmas gift wrapping event….brushes lying around drying before I can put them back in their containers…balls of wool that I wound off the skein over the weekend for a project to keep my hands busy (like I need anything else!)

img_3096

My sacred creative space is piled with junk. I am prevented from creating at my desk because there is crap all over it. Well…perhaps that’s a bit harsh; it’s not exactly crap. It’s just stuff that shouldn’t be there. But it is there nonetheless, and it is blocking my creativity. It needs to go.

Art is one of the things that makes me happy and feel satisfied with life and helps me process the not so wonderful things in life too … so why is it the one thing that gets covered – literally and figuratively – with other stuff? It consistently gets pushed to the bottom of the list in favour of sometimes legitimate tasks, but many times, mindless procrastination and time-wasting on things like Facebook and inane websites about things that don’t matter? I replace something that makes me feel good with meaningless time-wasting that more often than not leaves me feeling dissatisfied and cranky. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense does it? Something to consider for the new year. I have long since given up making new years resolutions, but I think it’s about time I found a word to guide my year ahead and figure out which direction I want to steer this life of mine (yes, it’s the time of year for the existential crisis to occur). To remove the junk that’s blocking my creativity and to start paddling a bit … the boat has been drifting long enough.

I haven’t posted much here of late, Instagram and the RS Facebook page is where I post more regularly, and I had considered closing the blog down altogether, but I am feeling the need to write again…so perhaps this will remain! Stay tuned. Meantime, while I get my head together….

  • Follow me on Instagram to see regular art updates and the things that inspire me (this is where you will be notified of sales in my store.)
  • Follow my Facebook page for a more interactive experience as well as giveaways and competitions in the new year
  • Take a look at my Flickr account if you would like to take a look through my sketchbooks and art back through the years

Finally before I toddle off and clean my desk…I went to see Keith Urban on Saturday night! There was plenty of waiting around to get in, so I sketched while I waited. Here’s the fruit of my scribbling. I had hoped to sketch during the gig, but there was a problem … you cannot dance and draw at the same time :O I had a blast! Such a great night out. (ok… enough procrastinating.. going now!)

img_3097

I have been pushing myself to include more portraits in my sketchbooks this year…everything from five minute sketches to more considered pieces. I have enjoyed exploring different styles and learning new techniques. SktchyApp has been a fabulous resource for interesting faces to draw!

For the past six weeks or so I have been joining with a couple of hundred other students from around the world to work through Liz Steel’s SketchingNow Buildings course.

This sketch of the St John the Baptist Cathedral (Canberra)was drawn about six weeks ago during the first week of the course. We had looked at various types of sketches from painting the negative shapes, painting the abstract shapes and then finding the edges of the building and attempting to see the volumes that made up the complex buildings we selected. It is easy to see that this sketch has perspective issues and lacks any depth to the edges of the roof lines and the windows. It is a very flat representation of the cathedral.

Constructing Volumes exercise
The sketch below drawn today (from a slightly different angle) and I am very pleased with the change in detail and approach, and I can feel that this building has some solidity to it, and the overall proportions are far better (though the onion dome thing is still a little big). I spent about 45 minutes on this one… I think I could probably have slowed down and paid a bit more attention to the lifework, but it was blowing a gale and a little unpleasant. I am also slowly refining my urban sketching kit so that it is less juggling and more art-ing :). I am most pleased with the reduced stress levels that Liz’s method has allowed. Over all I found this drawing far more relaxing and meditative than it’s predecessor.

20161018 - st john the baptist

For the sake of comparison I had a bit of a dig back though my old sketchbooks and found this one… I think this is the very first building that i attempted to capture back in 2010…it really has no body to it at all and looks like cardboard cutout of a house.
26-2010 // coast trip

This vignette was drawn in 2012 on location in Sydney. The elements of the building seem pasted on and I did have a go at adding at light and shade.

17-2012 // Marcus Clarke TAFE Sydney

By comparison, this building at the ANU was captured last week on location, and whilst a little wonky in the verticals, I can feel it as a solid object occupying space, and it presents me with a recognisable facsimile of the building.

20161009 - john yenken building

This one was done the weekend before, but this time from a photo I took in France a few years ago. I am especially pleased with the details in this one. My goal is to try to bring the relative precision of studio work to my onsite sketches. I have tendency to rush and it shows in the lifework in particular of my urban sketches.

20161003 - normandy

i have loved every moment of the SketchingNow Buildings course and look forward to practising and capturing my local area and the places that I travel to.

sketching at Floriade

October 6, 2016 — Leave a comment

Last weekend we were treated to a very rare sunny Spring day here in Canberra. I say rare because we have been subjected to a particularly wet winter this year. The fabulous thing was that this miracle blue-sky day landed on the day of our monthly sketchcrawl, at the local flower show, Floriade.

I have been thinking a bit lately about how I have progressed (or not) in particular areas and had a bit of a trawl back through my Flickr albums to see what I had done in the past. I am pleased that over all I have improved and have kept up the habit of recording life in a sketchbook. I found in one of my earliest books, a capture of a Floriade scene.

This was how I captured the show six years ago when I was just starting out on the sketchbook journey.

35-2010 // Flowers and fresh air

The following three images are what I managed to complete this past weekend. I am pleased with the general progression and that I am choosing to tackle more difficult scenes. I am still struggling with drawing on location in terms of getting accurate representations of the things I see (as opposed to controlled indoor sketches). I think the ‘rush’ factor also plays a part in the quality of the sketches, so slowing down is something to tackle. The only thing for it, really, is practice…lots of it! 🙂 Not an onerous task at all.

20161002 Florade Stage 88

Stage 88 – where there were school children and local bands entertaining the crowd that grew as it got closer to lunchtime. The HUGE crowds precluded taking up a seat close to the garden beds to draw blooms unfortunately, so I settled for this structure. I chatted to a couple of little girls who came up to check out what I was doing. I love that kids are so curious!

20161002 floriade entrance

I arrived early in order to get parking and sat and sketched the entry point while I waited for my fellow sketchers.  My aim with this one was to have a go at capturing the movement through the gates….but they moved too fast! 🙂

20161002 floriade people watching

My next big practice push and learning point is adding people into my scenes….these ones I caught as they stood waiting to meet friends and family at the entrance. Most moved on too quickly, and I need to work on making them actually look like people 🙂  I am currently doing a course about drawing buildings….next people!

Stay tuned for my wrap up of the drawing buildings course and some more before and after fun 🙂

 

Top drawing: Moleskine sketchbook, W&N waterfolours, Uniball eye pen. Remaining drawings: Stillman & Birn Alpha series  sketchbook, Uniball eye pen, W&N and Daniel Smith watercoolours

Our Canberra Urban Sketchers meet up today was at Bungendore, a small village  half an hour or so east of Canberra. The weather was crisp and sunny, so I took advantage of the sun after a very wet week and hopped on my scooter to ride out to meet the rest of the crew.  My day was fun as always, but was mostly characterised by a long line of mishaps. (the fun is always in the raucous company …who knew artists could be so nutty?)

  1. I left my bulldog clips at home, so it was almost impossible to juggle the sketchbook, palette, water jar and paper towel all at once.
  2. My new little travel palette suffered from lack of grippiness and the pans ended up all over the shop inside the box instead of neatly clipped into their rows, and the hodge lodge of colours that I had assembled it from simply did not grab me. The whole setup will need some work to get it functional.
  3. My little water bottle leaked in my bag leaving a bit of a soggy mess.
  4. The selection of pens that i brought with me decided that today was a not a good day to flow well, and staged a revolt, so that everything I tried to do felt scratchy and difficult. 🙁

Nonetheless I ended up with a couple of sketches after much faffing about.

This 1957 Cadillac parked just long enough for me to get the drawing done and the first layer of colour down. The gentleman that owned the car came and had a chat and looked at my drawing and asked for a copy, which was nice 🙂 I am gradually becoming accustomed to talking to people I meet when I am sitting outside sketching. I finished the rest of it when I got home from memory. Capturing the reflections of the clouds in the boot lid, and the sky and surroundings in the chrome was a real challenge! Cars are hard!!

IMG_2547

This poor building suffered from perspective ailments…well the drawing did anyway. GAH! The real thing is lower and longer and had a much redder roof (one of the shortfalls of my palette, or perhaps my ability to mix … or both)  Thank goodness Liz Steel’s Sketching Architecture online drawing class starts this week…perhaps by the time if finish I will be able to do some of these lovely old buildings justice!

IMG_2538

The mishaps unfortunately didn’t finish with my sketching. I had a little oopsie on my scooter on the way home and ended up carrying the end of my brake lever home in my pocket. Wonder what that’s going to cost me to fix?

But wait !!!! There’s more!! When I got home I found that I had forgotten my house keys, and to make it more interesting my sons were out. *sigh*  Eventually they returned and they let me in. Now a hot bath is in order to soothe my aching muscles and frazzled mind.

(Puppy sightings and pats for the day: one tiny little French Bulldog puppy that was all about licking my hand, and one large lovely Sheppy with a very stern looking owner that wouldn’t let him have any fun at all .)

During my last late night online shopping excursion for a replacement sketchbook, I didn’t look closely enough at the version of the Stillman and Birn sketchbook that I popped into my cart. I normally buy the Beta series book that has lovely heavy paper that will take watercolour without buckling, but I managed to pick up the Alpha series one this time. I was distinctly unimpressed with myself when I realised what I had done, but as I have used it over the past couple of weeks I have come to think of my screw up as a happy accident. The sketchbook has more pages (so it will last me longer) and while the paper is lighter, and buckles a little if I get a little too excited with the watercolours, it takes ink really really nicely. I am also finding that because the per page price is cheaper than the previous book, I am more inclined to experiment and just “play” in the sketchbook, which I am really enjoying! I have also returned to using my Lamy Safari fountain pens since the paper is a little smoother and the ink flows nicely without the nib skipping. LOVE!
20160821 - beetle

 

If I keep the watercolour washes light, the paper doesn’t buckle too much. I couldn’t resist sketching this VW bug when I saw it parked next to me last weekend. The drawing below was done entirely with my Lami pen with Noodler’s Polar Brown ink (I was practicing seeing abstract shapes in the things I draw, so I mapped out Mr Bond’s shadows and went to town with cross hatching.)

20160824 - skyfall
Another thing I am trying at the moment, is carrying a cheap A6 sized sketchbook in my handbag and making a commitment to draw as often as I can, and without using pencil underdrawings and as quick as I can in an effort to improve my drawing skills though sheer volume. I’m only a couple of days in and have discovered that pages this small fill up quickly, which is satisfying.
20160822 - cherrybean

I have also found that pages this small seem to need a finer nib on my pen, so I’ve ordered a new fine nib for my Lamy Safari pen! In the meantime I ferreted around in my pen stash and found a Micron Pigma pen that I trialled today, and liked the way it felt.

 

20160825 - healthy afternoon tea

 

I have been drawing a lot more this year and I am enjoying the results. I hope the trend continues! If you want to see progress shots and on location pictures, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram or hit the LIKE button to join the fun on my Facebook page! If you would like to see the rest of the sketchbook fun for the year so far, you can see the sketches here.