Archives For Visual Journal

Today has been one of those exceedingly rare perfect Winter’s days in Canberra. Bright blue skies, not *too* cold, and zero wind! The past couple of days have been unpleasantly windy, so I was very pleased to have a change in the weather for today’s Canberra Urban Sketchers sketch walk. We met at the National Arboretum and chattered for a bit, as we do, before scattering do our own thing for a couple of hours. I came prepared with a page in my large sketchbook already painted to give me a background for some more detailed line drawings. I like the way my little collage turned out, but should perhaps have chosen a more muted palette with some earthy colours.

20170813 - Arboretum collage

I finished the first drawing more quickly than I thought, so I pulled out my small sketchbook and turned my little stool 180 degrees to draw the main building.

20170813 - village centre

There were lots of kids blowing bubbles and flying kites and rolling down the steep embankments. The happy laughs and astonished exclamations as kit’s took flight was a lovely backdrop to my sketching in the sun.

Yesterday I filmed a flip through of my last sketchbook. I’m experimenting with my son’s GoPro camera and learning how to use iMovie. Nothing flash 🙂 I find it really fun looking through sketchbooks as a body of work. I can easily tell if I was enjoying a picture or if I was rushing, or was struggling with it for whatever reason. The ebb and flow between the covers is really interesting. I hope you enjoy watching too!

When I was a kid “turning on the waterworks” meant ‘crying for effect’. Today it meant a visit to the Goulburn Historical Waterworks with the Canberra Urban Sketchers. The big old beam-type engine is only fired up a handful of times each year, and today was one of those times where they fired up the more than 200 year old behemoth. There was a team of men stoking the fires outside, and another team inside the pump house ensuring that everything was well oiled and running smoothly.

For my first sketch I propped myself in a corner to draw the part of the engine that is above ground. The smell of hot oil and gentle hum of the giant machine was just divine, and drawing her was a meditative experience. This is my first urban sketch done whilst standing, and I took the opportunity to test out the kit I intend to take with me when I visit London in a few weeks. It was a little awkward without a board of some sort to clip my palette to etc (my current one is too big to fit in the bag I intend to use), so I may have to play with creating a board that will fit in my bag so that I don’t need to juggle so much.

I was pleased with the looser style sketch… I wasn’t too fussed about having perfectly straight lines or capturing every minute detail, rather, capturing the feel of the machine so that I can remember how it felt to be there when I look back at the sketch in the future. I believe this is the only running engine of its type in the world. The engineers are understandably very proud of their Appleby.

This sketch took me about an hour all up and I had some time to spare before meeting up with he rest of the group to share sketches, so I headed outside to grab a quick sketch of the outside of the building.
20170423 - Goulburn Historic Waterworks

I was a little rushed and ended up with some pretty messy bleeds where colours flowed together. I spent half an hour drawing and about 15 minutes splashing paint around..it would be fun to go back with a little more time on my hands to sit and do the lovely old building justice. I need to figure out how to paint quickly without ending up with colours running everywhere. Less water is one solution (I used water brushes today … notify favourite, but they are convenient for travelling), another would be to get comfortable with leaving white space, or slim margins of untouched paper, between the blocks of colour….or I could embrace the blotches as part of capturing something quickly.

We have a hugely talented bunch of people in our sketching group. At the end of each gathering we get together to share our sketches and experiences. I am so grateful to have such a supportive and fun group to be able to meet up with!

 

20170406 - hand
I finished my first sketchbook of the year last weekend. Three months it took! Outside of travel journals, that’s the fastest I have ever filled a sketchbook. I’m pretty pleased with that effort, even if I do say so myself! (I’ll record a flip through at some stage. It is fun looking at the whole thing as a complete entity and not just disjointed snaps!)

Three months….the first quarter of the year has disappeared already and I find myself getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of work and life and not taking the time to draw as much as I feel I need to (ironic, I know, given I was just rabbiting on about how quickly I filled the book). It has been bothering me. I knew my energies were being expended elsewhere, but I didn’t make the connection, and then I found this quote in Austin Kleon’s fabulous book, Steal like an Artist:

Establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time. Inertia is the death of creativity. You have to stay in the groove. When you get out of the groove, you start to dread the work, because you know it’s going to suck for a while – it’s going to suck until you get back into the flow….The trick is to find a day job that pays decently, doesn’t make you want to vomit, and leaves you with enough energy to make things in your spare time.

I let myself get out of the groove a bit in the last couple of weeks as my day job has become busier, and I can feel it in my diminished general satisfaction-with-life levels. So tired when I get home from work at the end of the day, thinking about what to draw takes too much effort! Funny how not creating things can lead to me feeling a bit rubbish. Suffice it to say I am working at putting pen to paper each day again…even if the output is not stellar.

The purple hand above is my favourite out of this week’s pages. Hands are such hard workers – from intricate little nuanced movements to grand gestures and manual labour. They are fun to draw … lots of wrinkles and folds – an ever changing landscape of hills and valleys as you wiggle them about.

If you want to take a look at what else I’ve drawn this week you can take a look HERE or HERE.

How do you manage your energy across your day/week? I know it’s swings and roundabouts, but I wonder if I can get more control over it all? If I figure it out I will let you know.

A delicious little package arrived for me this week from Sweden. I’m sad to say it was not this lovely little robot, but rather a book that he features in … Mattias Adolfsson’s “All in Line”. I raved about Matttias’ work a couple of weeks ago in THIS post where I showed you a couple of sketchbook pages I had produced as a result of his class at Sketchbook Skool.

The package came with a three Swedish stamps, however I failed to remember all of my childhood philatelic skills and only managed to remove two of them without tearing. Since I no longer collect stamps, I decided to use them in my sketchbook. I have no idea what kind of bird this is, but he’s rather striking with that fouffy (yes I made that word up) crest and stripy flight feathers!
20170326 - swedish birds

I’ll leave you with a couple of my favourite pages from Mattias’ book. The detail and whimsy is so wonderful! I can see I will be leafing through this book many many times.


I have been lucky enough to have a weekend  where I was free to get out and draw on location for a couple of hours each day. It’s such a lovely, relaxing way to pass the time and decompress after a busy week. Today’s outing was with my local Urban Sketchers group, and we ventured out to the Shannon’s Wheels car show. It was heaven! I was like a kid in a lolly shop…so many shiny things! I was hoping for an old Morgan to draw but couldn’t find one…so I set up shop by the Aston Martin club set up and drew this fabulous red Vantage. There was a DB9 there that I would have preferred to draw, but it was obscured by flags and such. I had an attack of nerves when I first sat down to draw. Being situated in the midst of a crowd was pretty confronting; I am almost always tucked away in a stairway or under a tree or something , but this time it was me and my stool in the middle of a carpark with people streaming past constantly. My hand shook ridiculously for the first half an hour or so. 😐 In the end I settled and even chatted to a couple of elderly gentlemen that stopped for a sticky beak. I am mostly pleased with how this turned out after two hours of faffing about…some of the proportions are a bit off, but not bad for a location sketch I think.
20170312- astonmarin vantage 1
Yesterday’s adventure included a solo brunch excursion to the Five Senses Gourmet Bar so that I could draw something lovely and edible for this week’s Sketchbook Skool assignment. I spent a couple of hours drawing and painting and it felt like five minutes… I love it when that happens! My food was of course cold by the time I got to eat it, but it was still delicious. The other patrons were particularly chatty and curious, as were the staff. At one stage the chef was sent out to have a look. Most were aghast that my eggs were getting cold. I would like it noted that whilst this yummy brunch presented something called “turkey bacon” I opted for the salmon variant since there is clearly no such thing as turkey bacon! Bacon can only come from piggies and this is the way it must remain!
20170311 - eggs benedict

Drawing in public is always an adventure. I hope my nerves settle as I do it more often. People are of course invariably lovely and say nice things, or tell me about how they used to draw, or how they can’t draw a straight line or a stick figure. And they aren’t there for more than a minute or two anyway. 🙂 As with anything…practice! It’s a long weekend here in Canberra, so I may yet get out for another adventure tomorrow. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend too.

I had the best time doing my Sketchbook Skool assignment this week! This week’s lecturer was Nelleke Verhoeff of The Red Cheeks Factory. She had us creating characters and odd faces, taking inspiration from magazines and creating a series of images from the characters that popped up on our pages. I ended up with a high fashion alien with a  penchant for handbags called Canopus, and her three-eyed cat. They had a bit of a misadventure whilst shopping, but it turns out well in the end.

20170228 - Canopus #1

20170301 - Canopus #2

20170302 - Canopus #3

20170303 - Canopus #4

20170304 - Canopus #5

I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this exercise, but it sort of took on a life of its own in the end and I had a blast just playing and seeing what came out 🙂  It’s a fun technique, and one I am sure I will play with more in the future.

A little something extra….this week I found this fabulous TED video that talks about how to practice effectively (HERE), speaking about how our brains work and are stimulated by repetition to develop skills. It’s only four and a half minutes long…take a look 🙂 It applies to more than just art, and explains why I like to daydream about doing specific things 😀

Also….my dad showed me these fabulous little short films called Minusule, they’re about various bugs doing silly and sweet things. Here are two of my favourites (HERE and HERE). I sat and giggled and giggled…fabulous for nourishing my mind and creative habits! Thanks dad <3

I finished a sketchbook at the end of last year, and I had a play at recording a flip through it with my old digital camera (hence the poor quality) … i think I’ll try recording it on my phone next time! Tell me what you think!

 

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This week has been a very playful one in my sketchbook. Perhaps because I have had a busy week at work, I’m not sure, but the sketchbook has been filled with fun things 🙂 I am not complaining! Anything that brightens my day is a good thing!

20170201 - hilarious

It was a big week for drawing critters … click on the collage to see the the full scans of these guys in my sketchbook album.

At the start of the year I bought myself a bottle of black de Atramentis ink after reading a review on Liz Steele’s blog (this post). I had been jumping between the Noodler’s Black ink in my Lamy Safari fountain pen (the pink one below) and the disposable Uniball Eye for the under drawings with watercolour in my sketchbooks. Both are waterproof once dry, but they both take an awfully long time to dry and more often than not I would smudge a line when I rested my hand in a little puddle of ink, or smear something when I added watercolour before it was completely dry. Also, the Noodler’s black wasn’t as dense as I would like, but the Uniball was nice and dark. The de Atramentis ink has been a wonderful change. It dries very quickly and gives a wonderfully lush, dense black line. It flows well and feels great in the pen. I think I am pretty well sold! I cannot wait to add some of the other colours to my inky stable! I’ll still need to use the Uniball for cold press paper, since the fountain pen nib doesn’t cope as well with the texture, but the de Atramentis inks will be my go-to for daily drawing fun!

February is looking like a continuation of the fun. I plan to keep going with the Sketchbook Skool daily drawing challenge, but I have also signed up for another class to keep developing my skills and perhaps learn some new techniques. So keen!

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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.

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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?