Sketchbook flipthrough

I have been putting off filming this sketchbook tour for months now. I wanted to do one with commentary so that I could explain to you what I was thinking when I was creating particular spreads. This week I bit the bullet and did it anyway. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

I hope you enjoy taking a stroll through my sketchbook and listening to me prattle on about it! Let me know what you think on the post here or on YouTube!

Look into my eyes……

20220119 - thinking spiral
Pentel ink brush and watercolour in Stillman and Birn Alpha sketchbook

Keep staring at the centre of the spiral. Round and round and round. Are you sleepy yet? Or just confused?

20220119 - confusion
Lifted-type collage

It’s an interesting thought … nature knows what it’s doing … it’s us that get things all twisted up when we try to untangle it. Collage is a great way to create and unravel my mind when it becomes over-stimulated.

2021 in a nutshell plus a sketchbook flipthrough!

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite sketch book pages from 2021 as a way to close the book on what has been (for everyone) another stressful one. I am so grateful to have this creative outlet to help me focus on beauty or to process that which I don’t quite know how to deal with!

20210301 - rower view

I catalogued various things around the house, including my view from the rowing machine in the garage

20210302 - calm ease

I played a lot with repetitive patterns as a way to soothe and think.

20210419 - krasnyy

Our new cats started to feature a lot.

20210914 - tuscany

I travelled the world via the internet and my sketchbooks and visited a diverse range of cities around the globe.

20211018 - rest

I drew things that I treated myself with from time to time!

20211204 - errands

And I squeezed in a little urban sketching toward the end of the year when I was able to venture out more.

You can view all of my sketches for 2021 in an album on my Flickr account HERE – you can watch it as a slideshow if you choose the “slideshow” button in the top right.

I also got around to filming a flipthrough of the sketchbook that I finished mid-September, so you can see how the feel as a set of sketches within the physical book. I didn’t record a commentary on this one … perhaps next time!

Here’s to a creative year ahead both for me and for you, in whatever form the muse takes for you!

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!

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!

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?

Old Mr Bear and an ode to woodwork

20181113 - pine bear

Click to see larger image

I have no idea how old I was when dad and I made this funny looking wooden bear — I must have been in primary school I think. Eleven… twelve? I have no idea if I helped cut it out, but I do remember using a file to help dad round the edges and encourage the creature to emerge from the block in my childish, clumsy way. I am sure he corrected my over-zealous attempts after I went to bed. When it looked basically bear-like we switched to sandpaper of varying grades to bring the timber to a satiny smooth finish, and burnished with some kind of oil. The timber isn’t anything fancy, just a couple of pine boards glued together and shaped, but it provided such a fabulous tactile experience that I still take it off the top of my roll-top art desk to touch the timber. It soothes me.

Dad had always made elaborate wooden trucks and cars with my brother, but his odd little bear was a straight-up father and daughter project. Mr Bear is certainly not very pretty or flashy and he’s not from a foreign country. He’s worn and the timber has darkened, and the grain muted with age. He’s dinged from rough handling — I think I probably belted my brother with it more than once — but as simple and naive as Mr Bear is, he is a special remnant from my childhood and has been a constant feature in my creative space over the years regardless of what stage of life I’ve been in. The feel of the timber soothes me and reminds me of time spent with dad and a far less complicated time of life. Simple pleasures. Thanks dad for sharing your creative spark with me, I love you!

It’s dad’s birthday this week. Wish him happy birthday with me!