Archives For Visual Journal

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?

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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This month’s sketch meet was at the Canberra Glassworks beside the Old Bus Depot markets in Kingston. It was cold, but mercifully, not windy. I took up position out the front of the building and set about testing out my new Strathmore soft cover watercolour journal .. and learned a few things in the process!

  • Bigger journals are heavier (d’uh!) and my hand tired quickly trying to hold it up. It was rather awkward to balance the book, paints, water and brushes all at once. I will need to find a way to handle that better.
  • Bigger pages take more paint and really would benefit from a larger paintbrush..though I think next time I will opt for a single page rather than a spread and try to get more detail in.
  • The paper in this journal is very different to what I am accustomed to in my usual Stillman and Birn books, and will take some adjusting! I was pleased to discover that I can lift pigment quite easily on this one…which conversely means that I need to be careful with layering colour and making sure things dry completely to avoid picking up what’s below when I add the next lot of colour.
  • Little people love to watch you paint 🙂 There was quite a lot of foot traffic coming past on the way to the market next door, and I ended up chatting to several little people about painting and what they liked to draw and create. It was quite lovely!

20160807 - Canberra Glassworks

Many of the sketchers chose to go inside and sketch the artisans blowing glass in the hotroom.. I am thinking I will have to check that out next time! I caught a few minutes at the end and watched in fascination as they manipulated the molten glass to make beautiful things.

I completed this sketch from a photo when I got home, it shows the rear of the building. (these following two were done in my new Stillman and Birn Alpha series sketchbook that I use for my everyday drawing)

20160807 - back of the glassworks
We had lunch over the road on the Kingston Foreshore where there are any number of places to buy a fancy burger and a drink. I am not a huge fan of receiving a juicy burger on a chopping board that does nothing to collect the drips and juices :S

We chatted and ate and passed our sketchbooks around as we do…It was such fun to look at everyone else’s sketches both form today, and since we last met. Such a talented bunch! Also.. how fancy is the new Urban Sketchers Canberra stamp? So official!
20160807 - lunch at walt and burley

It has been a while since I posted here, but I have been drawing! You can see what I have been up to by looking at my Flickr gallery.

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Indoor sketching was the order of the day here due to there being a lot of wet stuff falling from the sky. Only dry media (pencils) allowed in the galleries, so I took myself down into the section with a series of marble busts, and found that drawing those things is far harder than it would appear. I wound up with a picture of Sir George Turner that looked somewhat odd and skeletal. I tried twice without getting a likeness that I was at all happy with. The second one is just below.  I pretty much gave up at that point…. rage-quit as my son would say.

To fill the last half an hour of the session I pulled out my mechanical pencils with the coloured leads and did some quick captures of the other four busts in the area. I just worked right over the top of my first failed attempt at Sir George rather than waste another page. I have to say I actually enjoyed doing those four far more than the first two graphite ones. I think I was trying too hard… and when I let myself be loose and free flowing with my strokes, I ended up with far more pleasing drawings.

IMG_2175

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