World travel…sort of

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.

20210921 - santa maria del rosario

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.

20210923 - moulin de fresquet

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!

20210925 - opera houses

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.

20210930 - amsterdam houses

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!

20211001 - indian market

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.

20211013 - Makedonium

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.

20211020 - 1 chartres spread

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.

20211021 - 20 min il redentor

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.

20211024 - villa foscari

Playing with different framing on another Italian classical building.

20211027 - mow cop

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 🙂

20211029 - fishing village norway

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?

20211031 - hong king street

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!

20211103 - corfe castle

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?

Process not Product

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.

So I decided to just play with layers of paint. Something mindless to occupy my hands to allow my brain to tick over and process.

20210713 -process
Click for a larger view

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.

My muses! I am now a cat guardian!

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.

20210328 - baby kiska 2

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.

20210419 - krasnyy

This big boy was a surprise addition to our family, but he is just adorable and has adapted well to his new home.

20210507 - kiska comes home

The first night with a new kitten is always….interesting.

20210521 - krasnyy adjusts

Krasnyy was a little suspicious of the fur-ball at first, but welcomed her quickly.

20210510 - afternoon nap

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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Micro versus Macro

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.

20210314 - blue

When all is said and done, whether it be art or life, remember to take a step back and look at the big picture!

Collages were a thing in February!

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!

Marie Kondo is the natural enemy of creatives!

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.

20210218 - drama
As always, click to see a larger version of any the images in this post.

This slice-and-dice poem was created from Mark Knopfler’s beautiful song Wherever I Go. You can listen here on YouTube. And you can see more of my process here on my writing blog.

20210221 - slice and dice poetry - wander with you

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!

20210224 - it's all in the detail

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.

20210226 - introverted service

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.

20210227 - going blind - slice and dice poetry

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.

Rebooting creativity in 2021

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.

Art therapy in the time of COVID-19

Get to know all about it
life etc
don’t disconnect,
reconnect
Explore what lies beneath
curiouser and curiouser
Find love

The world is an odd place at this moment in history.

I don’t like going to the shops for groceries at the best of times, but yesterday I found myself feeling incredibly anxious about leaving the house and possibly exposing myself to the virus. By the time I got home I was feeling exhausted and wanting to hide. I was annoyed because the feelings were not logical, I know the science and how to protect myself as much as possible, but they were there. And feelings are for feeling. All of them.

So I scrawled it all out onto a page in my sketchbook to get them out of my head. To see them, identify them and to acknowledge them. Reams of messy, scrawly writing tumbled out. Fears, insecurities, anger, frustration.

Now that all that was out of my head (for the moment) I could focus on adapting, responding and overcoming. One step at a time.

I like to do collage style pages when I feel unsettled, as a way to reframe the stories I tell myself. To remind me to be gentle with myself. I cover the chaotic feelings with smears of paint and scribbles and new words and images and focus on that instead. It is a technique that lends itself to layers upon layers as I swim towards the surface. I tell myself a new story about the things that are happening around me. This time the words that formed themselves into verse as I sifted through my stash of magazine clippings steered me towards connection and love. A good reminder at a time like this.

Art can be a great way to process life at times like this. It is one of the many things in my coping toolbox. How are you dealing with our new normal?

Hong Kong trip sketching

Mr Collier and I just returned from an 8-night trip to Hong Kong, and whilst it wasn’t a trip for sight-seeing and sketching per se, I did manage to fit in a few sketches to capture some of the interesting things from our trip. As always, click the image for a larger view.

20200213 - HK titleI always start with a cover page of sorts…this time I drew a map of Hong Kong and showed the location of our hotel on the northern coast of Hong Kong Island facing onto Victoria Harbour.

20200213 - HK trip map
I like to capture flight details as well … though looking at the scan now I can see that I didn’t complete the final leg … I was a bit stressed out by that point since I booked for the wrong day and had to rebook a new flight when I got to Sydney, so I’m not surprised I forgot to write it up! Also, the actual flight path was direct and passed over the Australian landmass rather than taking a loop out to the east first. Just as well this is not a text book!

20200216 - HK apartments

We saw this short building on our way to the supermarket. It amused me how it was dwarfed by the skyscrapers surrounding it.

20200219 - HK boats
Our hotel room had a balcony overlooking Victoria Harbour and many hours were spent chatting and watching the boats and ships as they came and went. The slow progress of the vessels bobbing along was hypnotic and we had a lot of fun trying to figure out what they might be doing. This page captures a very small selection of the hundreds of boats that came and went below us.

20200219 - HK room plan
Our visit coincided with the COVID-19 outbreak in China, and at the time there were a couple of dozen cases in Hong Kong, but 99% of people were wearing masks and we had heard reports of people panic-buying toilet paper and rice. Our first supermarket visit (one of our favourite things to do in a foreign city) coincided with a recent delivery of loo roll and we saw many people with shopping trolley-loads of of it! The clipping above was in the local paper the next day. It’s probably not funny, but it amused us, and in chatting to the driver that took us to the airport at the end of our trip, he thought it was pretty funny too, so I didn’t feel so bad. He was cracking jokes about a friend who bought a Porsche to stay in to avoid being infected rather than masks because it was cheaper! hehe

20200219 - HK skyline at breakfast
The main restaurant still open in our hotel (some were closed due to COVID-19 risk mitigation activities) was located on the 41st floor and had a stunning view of the city on several sides. I sketched this section of the skyline after breakfast one morning, and is the one and only on-location urban sketch of the trip. While I sketched, Mr Collier lamented the demise of the Kai Tak Airport, apparently we could have been watching hairy jumbo landings in the harbour below as we enjoyed our meal. Check out this video to see what I mean! Yikes!

20200226 - HK garage
And the final sketch for the trip, I actually finished when I got back to capture a little garage that we passed each time we ventured out of the hotel. The city was grey and busy, but the lighting in the garage was very warm and yellow and it made for a nice contrast.

We had a great time in this vibrant and energetic city. We’ll be going back!